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Cramer finds a 'genius,' under-the-radar booze maker to buy on a pullback

Key Points
  • "Mad Money" host Jim Cramer tracked the wildfire rise of whiskey and gin producer MGP Ingredients.
  • Even though the company's trajectory has been undeniably strong, Cramer said it's run too much to recommend buying here.
Under-the-radar booze maker to buy on pullback

On a wild day for the markets, CNBC's Jim Cramer wanted to take a step back and focus on an under-the-radar name to help investors unwind.

"Of course, the trouble with under-the-radar [stocks] is that sometimes you're too late to the party and it's already been discovered, so you need to walk away," the "Mad Money" host said. "Still, I like to keep my eyes peeled for these stealth bull market stories, just in case we haven't missed the boat."

So Cramer turned to MGP Ingredients, a Kansas-based distillery that makes whiskey, bourbon, gin, vodka, food-grade industrial alcohol and specialty wheat proteins that go into packaged foods.

While the name might sound unfamiliar, MGP Ingredients is the largest supplier of rye whiskey and distilled gin in the United States and is the powerhouse behind smaller brands like Angel's Envy, Redemption Rye and Filibuster.

And the booze maker only recently caught fire. Founded in 1941, its stock's history was a "snoozefest" until the last several years, Cramer said.

But since December 2013 — when MGP Ingredients' former CEO was ousted and replaced by spirits industry veteran Gus Griffin — the company's stock has climbed from $5 to nearly $75, with shares up 52 percent just for 2017.

Part of this monster move was simply good luck, Cramer said. The last few years have proved bountiful for the distilled spirits industry, with premium craft whiskeys and bourbons surging in popularity.

"Now, MGPI was already moving in this direction when the new management team took over. They announced 14 new select blend Whiskeys a couple of months before Griffin was hired," Cramer said. "But he deserves credit for recognizing the changing alcohol market and doubling down on what's been working, like offering non-genetically-modified starches in their food additive business, along with non-GMO grain neutral spirits."

Griffins' five-year plan vowed to boost the company's operating income four-fold by 2019 by capitalizing on high-end liquor via new brands and acquisitions.

Under Griffin's leadership, MGP Ingredients managed to reach his target three years early, and the numbers have been improving since as the company remains laser-focused on premium booze.

"The real irony here is that MGPI sells craft liquors," Cramer said. "People think they're getting some sort of artisanal product made by bearded hipsters in their basement when really a lot of these brands come from this one distiller."

"It's kind of genius when you think about it," he continued. "They realize there's more value in having no real brand name, at least when it comes to this particular subset of expensive alcohol buyers."

But to Cramer's chagrin, shares of MGP Ingredients are already very pricey, trading at 38 times next year's earnings estimates.

"We were too late," Cramer said. "At these levels, I feel like it's run too much for me to recommend. I sure wish I had found it earlier. That's my bad. At $65, down $10 from here, I'd be all over MGPI and telling you to buy it. ... For now, though, if you want a liquor play, you've got to stick with Cramer-fave Constellation Brands."

WATCH: Cramer finds a strong — albeit expensive — winner

Cramer finds a 'genius,' under-the-radar booze maker to buy on a pullback

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