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Brown-Forman sells Early Times and Canadian Mist to Sazerac

US drinks firm Brown-Forman has agreed to sell its Early Times, Canadian Mist and Collingwood whiskies to Sazerac for an undisclosed sum.

Canadian Mist is the third biggest-selling Canadian whisky brand in the world

The move will also see Buffalo Trace owner Sazerac acquire the Canadian Mist distillery in Collingwood, Canada.

Canadian Mist, the third biggest-selling Canadian whisky brand in the world, joined Brown-Forman’s portfolio in 1971. The Canadian Mist distillery was also the firm’s first production site outside of the US.

Kentucky whiskey Early Times was purchased by Brown-Forman in 1923 and was the group’s first acquired brand. The brand will celebrate its 160th anniversary this year.

The sale, which is expected to be completed this summer, is said to reflect Brown-Forman’s “continued evolution” of its strategy of focusing on premium brands.

The deal with Sazerac will see Brown-Forman exit the Canadian whisky category as it seeks to focus on brands such as Woodford Reserve Bourbon, which surpassed one million cases last year.

In June 2019, Brown-Forman also moved into the super-premium gin category with the purchase of Ford’s Gin maker The 86 Company.

“Early Times and Canadian Mist have been valued brands in our portfolio for many years, and they each have played significant roles in our company’s history,” said Lawson Whiting, president and CEO of Brown-Forman. “We are thankful to all the people who have distilled, bottled, shipped, marketed, and distributed these brands with care over the years.”

Mark Brown, president and CEO of Sazerac, added: “We are delighted to acquire such iconic brands as well as the Canadian Mist distillery.

“Brown-Forman has done an excellent job building these brands over the years and we expect to invest in the brands and grow their sales in the coming years.”

The deal is also Sazerac’s latest move to expand its presence in Canadian whisky.

In February 2018, the Louisiana-headquartered firm completed refurbishments of its Old Montreal Distillery, bringing production of Canadian whisky back to the city for the first time in decades.

The end of 2018 also saw Buffalo Trace owner Sazerac acquire Seagram’s Canadian whiskies – Seagram’s VO, VO Gold, Seagram’s 5 Star and Seagram’s 83 – from Diageo as part of the firm’s sale of 19 non-priority brands.

Earlier this month, Brown-Forman reported a 1% net sales increase for its 2020 fiscal year, however the Covid-19 pandemic “negatively affected” the company’s major markets during its fourth quarter.

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