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Brown-Forman splashes £285m on Scotch brands

Brown-Forman has reached a “definitive agreement” to acquire The BenRiach Distillery Company for £285 million (US$416m), marking the group’s re-entry into the single malt Scotch category.

Brown-Forman has agreed to buy the BenRiach, The GlenDronach and Glenglassaugh Scotch brands

Brown-Forman will assume ownership of BenRiach’s three single malt Scotch whisky brands – The GlenDronach, BenRiach, and Glenglassaugh – along with their trademarks, three malt distilleries, a bottling plant and the company’s headquarters in Edinburgh, Scotland.

The BenRiach Distillery Company, which has a workforce of 165 employees, will operate as a subsidiary of Brown-Forman, maker of the Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Whiskey brand.

Brown-Forman was previously a minority shareholder in single malt brand Glenmorangie and marketed the Scotch in the US and Canada from 1992 to 2005, and in Continental Europe and certain Asian markets from 2000 to 2005.

The firm sold its interest as part of Glenmorangie plc’s sale to Möet Hennessy in 2005 and has not owned a single malt Scotch brand since.

“The acquisition of these super premium brands will allow Brown-Forman to re-enter one of our industry’s most exciting and consistent growth segments, single malt Scotch whisky,” said Brown-Forman CEO Paul Varga. “The GlenDronach, BenRiach, and Glenglassaugh single malt brands are rich in history and we believe they will continue to prosper and grow in our hands.”

Rapid expansion

While predominantly known as an American whiskey producer, Brown-Forman has significantly expanded its footprint in other categories over recent years.

In June 2015, the group made its first move into the fast-growing Irish whiskey segment with the acquisition of Slane Castle Irish Whiskey for US$50m and took over work building the distillery on the historic Slane Castle Estate in County Meath, Ireland.

Following months of speculation, Brown-Forman confirmed the sale of its Southern Comfort and Tuaca liqueur brands to rival US producer Sazerac for US$544m.

The BenRiach distillery was first established in 1898 and then mothballed for more than 60 years after just two years of operation. The business was acquired by three entrepreneurs – Billy Walker, Wayne Kieswetter and Geoff Bell – in 2004, when The BenRiach Distillery Company was formed.

The company took over The GlenDronach Distillery in 2008 and acquired Glenglassaugh in 2013.

“We feel immensely privileged to have been custodians of this business for the last 12 years, and to be associated with these wonderful brands and great distilleries,” said Billy Walker, managing director of The BenRiach Distillery Company.

“Our team have energised these distilleries and engaged creatively and successfully with the premium end of the market. We are very confident that Brown-Forman will take The GlenDronach, BenRiach, and Glenglassaugh brands to the next level and fulfill their full potential, and prove to be worthy custodians of these historic distilleries.”

The acquisition is expected to be completed on 1 June 2016, subject to customary closing conditions.

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