BenRiachLouisville-based Brown-Forman Corp. is getting a little Scottish.

The distiller, known for its bourbon brands such as Jack Daniel’s and Woodford Reserve, has agreed to buy the award-winning Scotch whiskey maker BenRiach Distillery Co. for about $415 million.

The acquisition, which the company expects to close on June 1, would include three single malt Scotch brands — BenRiach, GlenDronach, Glenglassaugh — three distilleries, a bottling plant and company headquarters in Scotland’s capital, Edinburgh.

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,” Brown-Forman Chief Executive Officer Paul Varga said in a press release.

He said the three brands have a rich history, and the company believes they will “continue to prosper and grow.”

From 1992 to 2005, Brown-Forman marketed the Glenmorangie Single Malt Whisky brand in the United States, Canada, parts of Asia and Europe, but sold its minority stake to Moet Hennessey.

Brown-Forman could not be reached immediately to talk about how the Scotch brands would fit into the company’s portfolio and growth strategy, but the acquisition marks a further Brown-Forman foray into the British Isles. Last summer, the company said it would invest $50 million to build a new Irish whiskey distillery at the historic Slane Castle Estate in County Meath, Ireland.

Rich history — with long interruption

The BenRiach distillery was built in 1898, in the northeast region of Morayshire, during a whiskey boom, but closed two years later and would remain defunct until the next whiskey boom in the 1960s. Glenlivet Distillers reopened the BenRiach distillery in 1965. It remained operational under various owners until 2002, when it was closed again. Two years later, a consortium acquired the distillery, and began bottling 10-, 12-, 16- and 20-year-old Scotch.

BenRiach was named Whisky Distiller of the Year at the Icons of Whisky awards in London in 2009, and in 2011 the brand set a new milestone with 10,000 casks filled within one year.

In March of last year, the company was named Global Whisky Distiller of the Year by the Icons of Whisky Awards.

Brown-Forman said the distillery “is known for experimenting with wood finishes producing whisky from both non-peated and peated malted barley.”

The Glenglessaugh distillery, one of three Scotch whisky distilleries Brown-Forman has agreed to acquire. | Courtesy of Glenglassaugh Distillery.
The Glenglessaugh Distillery, one of three Scotch whisky distilleries Brown-Forman has agreed to acquire. | Courtesy of the distillery.

The BenRiach company in 2008 acquired the GlenDronach and Glenglassaugh distilleries.

The GlenDronach Distillery, founded in the hills of the Scottish Highlands in 1826, produces “ultra-premium” single malt whiskies and “is most noted for its richly sherried whiskies,” Brown-Forman said.

The Glenglassaugh Distillery, founded in 1875, overlooks the North Sea in the northern Scottish Highlands and makes a coastal Highland malt.

Billy Walker, managing director of the BenRiach Distillery Co., and part of the consortium that revived the operation in 2004, said the company believes that Brown-Forman “will … prove to be worthy custodians of these historic distilleries.”

The BenRiach Distillery Co., which employs 110 full-time, will operate as a Brown-Forman subsidiary.

Brown-Forman’s shares were up 1 percent in early afternoon trading. The S&P 500 was down slightly.

[dc_ad size="9"] [dc_ad size="10"]
Boris Ladwig
Boris Ladwig is a reporter with more than 20 years of experience and has won awards from multiple journalism organizations in Indiana and Kentucky for feature series, news, First Amendment/community affairs, nondeadline news, criminal justice, business and investigative reporting. As part of The (Columbus, Indiana) Republic’s staff, he also won the Kent Cooper award, the top honor given by the Associated Press Managing Editors for the best overall news writing in the state. A graduate of Indiana State University, he is a soccer aficionado (Borussia Dortmund and 1. FC Köln), singer and travel enthusiast who has visited countries on five continents. He speaks fluent German, rudimentary French and bits of Spanish, Italian, Khmer and Mandarin.