Kieran Folliard and his 2 Gingers Irish whiskey are on a roll. Nielsen Syndicated Data just reported that the upstart brand was the fastest-growing U.S. Irish whiskey by volume for the 52-week period the ended in June. On top of that, 2 Ginger’s marketing territory just doubled from 10 states mainly in the Upper Midwest to 19 states across the country.

“We’re really excited,” Folliard said in an interview last week. “If I’d predicted this a year ago people would have said I was drinking too much of my own whiskey.”

Integral to 2 Gingers’ growth and expansion is the marketing muscle of Beam Inc., the spirits giant that acquired the 2 Gingers label in December and kept Folliard on as its brand ambassador.

“We couldn’t have done it without Beam because of their strong relationships with big distributors in other markets,” Folliard said. “We’d still be knocking on doors.”

The new markets for 2 Gingers are Texas, Washington, Indiana, Louisiana, Michigan, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Oregon and Pennsylvania.

One of the apparent secrets of the success of 2 Gingers is its appeal to women, especially the signature “Big Ginger” cocktail that includes 2 Gingers whiskey, ginger ale and a wedge of lemon and lime (aka Skinny Ginger if diet ginger ale is used).

“We’ve really identified a niche market that is genderless and seasonless,” Folliard said.

Day of reckoning nears for Petters associate Vennes

The day of reckoning is near for Frank Vennes Jr., the Tom Petters associate who raised hundreds of millions of dollars for the former Wayzata businessman’s Ponzi scheme but claimed to lack direct knowledge of the decadelong fraud. A sentencing date has yet to be set but the pre-sentence investigation is complete and federal sentencing guidelines indicate that Vennes faces up to 15 years in prison for crimes that involved misleading investors.

Federal prosecutors are satisfied with the 15-year maximum, which is the result of voluntary guilty pleas by Vennes to charges of securities fraud and money laundering.

In court documents, the U.S. attorney’s office asserts that Vennes’ money-raising efforts with hedge fund manager James Fry allowed Petters’ access to investor funds go “from the million-dollar range to the billion-dollar range.” Vennes had a similar arrangement with a hedge fund in Florida.

However, attorneys for Vennes contend that their client’s allegedly unwitting role in the Ponzi scheme should not negate his lifetime of good works that includes more than $100 million in contributions to charity. Moreover, Vennes’ failing health, including removal of most of a lung and lymph nodes, hypertension and psoriatic arthritis, make him a more appropriate candidate for home confinement and community service than a prison sentence.

“Mr. Vennes is very sorry for his offenses and accepts full responsibility for them,” his attorneys wrote last week. “But Mr. Vennes’ demonstrated commitment to helping others is nevertheless relevant.”

U.S. District Judge Richard Kyle ultimately will set the sentence.

Boulder takes another step toward municipalization

Boulder, Colo., officials took key steps last week toward replacing Xcel Energy with a municipal power company to serve the city’s nearly 100,000 residents.

In a 6-3 vote whose outcome had been expected, the City Council on Tuesday ordered an appraisal of Xcel’s poles, wires and other parts of its electrical system, and authorized negotiations and condemnation proceedings to acquire the assets. The takeover is expected to land in court, a process the city says could take up to 18 months.

Separately, the council agreed to put before voters in November a ballot question to set a limit of $214 million on city debt to purchase Xcel’s Boulder assets and to pay other costs. That measure aims to blunt a restrictive debt-related ballot initiative supported by Xcel that could block municipalization. If the city-sponsored question wins a bigger majority than the one backed by Xcel, the city’s prevails, and the project could move ahead.

David Shaffer

Short Takes

• Space150 has reshuffled its leadership structure to recognize a new equity partner in the person of Marc Jensen. Jensen, a 10-year member of the 13-year-old agency, will give up his title as president and become managing partner in the 100-employee agency whose clients include American Express, Buffalo Wild Wings and Cambria. David Denham, who joined Space150 in January, will assume the title of president and responsibility for day-to-day leadership. CEO and founder Billy Jurewicz will focus on expansion of offices in New York and Los Angeles as well as integration of creative, media and emerging technologies. Brian Ritchie, the current group creative director, is now the executive creative director and takes Jurewicz role overseeing the agency’s overall creative product.

• U.S. Bank has hired California-based Butler, Shine, Stern & Partners (BSSP) as its new creative agency of record. The Sausalito firm replaces Kaplan Thayer, which merged with Publicis Worldwide. According to the trade journal Advertising Age, that merger created a conflict with Publicis’ longtime representation of competitor Citigroup. U.S. Bank said BSSP will drive its brand advertising and digital communications with an integrated marketing campaign. BSSP’s client list includes Priceline, Mini Cooper and Columbia Sportswear.

• Minneapolis ad agency Solve has been given one of Advertising Age’s “small agency of the year” awards for those employing fewer than 150 people. Solve’s clients include True Value Hardware and Optum Pro Cycling. Solve, which employs 17, projects 2013 revenue of $3.9 million.