A screenshot that shows a close-up of the label on a Fords Gin bottle. Brown-Forman plans to buy the gin's maker.
Brown-Forman plans to buy gin maker The 86 Co. | Screenshot

Brown-Forman plans to buy a New York City-based gin maker to add the fast-growing juniper berry distillate to its growing lineup.

The Jack Daniel’s owner said Monday that it has reached an agreement to acquire The 86 Company, which was co-founded in 2013 by former bartender Simon Ford.

The Louisville-based distiller said in a news release that upon the acquisition, it planned to add Fords Gin to its portfolio.

Brown-Forman CEO Lawson Whiting said the gin “is a unique brand with terrific momentum in one of the fastest-growing categories in spirits.”

Sales of super premium gin rose 15.6%  in the U.S. last year, according to the Distilled Spirits Council. Sales of American whiskey, which includes bourbon, rose 6.6%. However, gin’s market share is much smaller: In the U.S. last year, gin generated revenue of nearly $900 million, while American whiskey produced sales of about $3.6 billion.

Globally, the gin category last year grew at 8.3%, faster than any other, according to alcoholic beverage database IWSR.

Brown-Forman said Fords Gin “starts with a traditional base of juniper and coriander seed, balanced by citrus, florals and spices.” The mixture of botanicals is steeped for 15 hours before distillation and delivers “an aromatic, fresh and floral spirit with elegant notes of jasmine and grapefruit.”

The gin is distilled in London, in collaboration between Ford and eight-generation Master Distiller Charles Maxwell, of Thames Distillers.

The 86 Co., which employs 20, also creates a rum, vodka and tequila. Brown-Forman told Insider via email that The 86 Co. has been phasing out those products in the last year, and that Brown-Forman supports those actions. Brown-Forman already owns Finlandia vodka and Herradura and El Jimador tequilas.

Ford, who will remain with the company, said in the release that, “Brown-Forman is a great partner to bring Fords Gin to more bartenders and consumers in the U.S. and around the world while keeping our commitment to producing a unique, high quality, mixable gin.”

The companies did not disclose a purchase price. They expect the transaction to close within 30 days.

Brown-Forman’s shares on Monday closed at $57.24, up 1.3%, about three times as much as the S&P 500.

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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.