Diageo has acquired Belsazar GmbH, the first company to join the portfolio via the drinks giant’s Distill Ventures arm.

Belsazar, a premium aperitif from Germany’s Black Forest, was first launched in 2013 in Berlin by entrepreneurs Maximillian Wagner and Sebastian Brack.

The acquisition is an important milestone for Distill Ventures, the drinks industry accelerator for new and growing spirit brands. Since its launch in 2013, Distill Ventures has significantly grown the portfolio and expanded into North America. It is independently run and receives funding from Diageo.

Belsazar joined Distill Ventures in 2014 and has performed strongly in its key markets of Germany and the UK, according to the company.

The drink is made from selected grapes including Pinot Noir, among others, from South Baden at the edge of the Black Forest. It is infused with herbs and finished with a dash of fruit brandy. The liquid is then aged for up to three months, allowing it to develop its range of complex aromas. There are four varieties: white, red, dry and its signature rose. Belsazar was created to be enjoyed as an aperitif served with tonic and as part of classic and modern cocktails.

The two founders, Wagner and Brack, will remain actively involved, working with Diageo to ensure the brand’s future success. Belsazar will sit within Diageo’s Reserve portfolio and will benefit from this team’s marketing and distribution expertise to accelerate the brand’s European footprint.

Frank Lampen, ceo and Global Head of Distill Ventures, said: “Belsazar was one of the first Distill Ventures investments and we have worked closely with the founders over the past four years. This first acquisition is therefore a very exciting moment for us, Diageo and the Belsazar team. Diageo has a great new brand and Max and Sebastian can continue to realise their vision for Belsazar with the full resources and expertise of the world’s largest drinks company. This success story is proof that venturing adds value to both corporates and entrepreneurs and we look forward to welcoming more great founders to Distill Ventures.”