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The Expansion of Brown-Forman - Brands and News in 2022

Updated: Mar 5


Brown-Forman brands

Image by The Whisky Ardvark


Since the turn of the millennia, Brown-Forman has been on a mission to expand its portfolio. The company was formally known only for its American whiskies but has gradually widened its horizon by acquiring other whiskies from Europe, tequilas, and gins.


What inspired us to write this article was multiple big news announcements in late 2022. In September Brown-Forman announced it had purchased the Spanish Gin Mare Gin. The news was followed in October by two announcements: An upcoming first-ever release of Jack Daniel's Single Malt, and the purchase of the Venezuelan rum brand Diplomatico.


We would like to point out that Brown-Forman also has a few wines in its portfolio, but in this article, we have chosen not to include them.


Let's start digging.



 

First the history bit

Who Was Brown-Forman?


Not Who, but Whom. The company was established in 1870 in Louisville, Kentucky, by George Garvin Brown and his half-brother John Thompson Street Brown. George Brown was a pharmaceutical salesman who recruited John Brown to open his wholesale liqueur business called JTS Brown & Brother. At the time whisky was sold by the barrel, but the half-brothers decided to offer their customers an innovation - whiskey sold in a sealed glass bottle - and be the first ones in America to do so. The brand name Old Forester was adopted soon after, paying tribute to Brown's friend and supporter physician Dr William Forrester.

George Garvin Brown Brown-Forman

Image by Bourbon Veach - George Garvin Brown


In 1890, John Brown left the company and was replaced by George Brown's accountant George Forman (not to be confused with George Foreman). The name of the company was also changed to Brown-Forman to reflect the newly formed partnership. Unfortunately, George Forman only lived another 11 years. Brown purchased all of his stock becoming the company's sole owner before making it incorporated that same year. To this day, Brown's 40-or-so descendant control 70% of the company.


In 1917 George Brown passed away at the age of 70 leaving his son Owsley, who joined the company in 1904, in charge to face the challenges caused by the World Wars, and Prohibition. Adding the Early Times Distillery to its portfolio in 1923, Brown-Forman was allowed to continue distilling whiskey during the prohibition for medicinal purposes - among only 5 other distilleries. During the Second World War, they decided to switch to distilling industrial alcohol to help the war efforts.


In 1956 Brown-Forman managed to acquire its star-player-to-come Jack Daniel's Tennessee Whiskey Distillery, after an unsuccessful attempt some years earlier.


Brown-Forman distilleries, brands, spirits and brand portfolio timeline

Image by The Whisky Ardvark



Brands of Brown-Forman

1901 B. F. Mattingly Distillery

1923 Early Times Distillery (sold in Sazerac in 2020)

1940 Old Forester Distillery (formerly known as Old Kentucky Distillery. Rebuilt in 2014)

1941 Woodford Reserve Distillery (before 2003 known as Labrot & Graham)

1945 Cooper's Craft Cooperage (bourbon launched in 2016)

1956 Jack Daniel's Distillery

1971 Canadian Mist Distillery (Sold to Sazerac in 2020)

1979 Southern Comfort Liqueur (sold to Sazerac in 2016)

2002 Tuaca Liqueur (Sold to Sazerac in 2016)

2004 Finlandia Vodka (Sold to Coca-Cola in 2023)

2006 Chambord Liqueur

2007 Casa Herradura: Herradura, El Jimador, and Pepe Lopez Tequila

2015 Slane Irish Whiskey Distillery

2016 BenRiach Distillery Company: BenRiach, Glenglassaugh, & GlenDronach

2019 Fords Gin

2022 Gin Mare Gin

2022 Diplomatico Rum



 

Building the Portfolio in The New Millennia

Brown-Forman company brand portfolio of spirits 2022

Image by The Whisky Ardvark - Brown-Forman Brand Portfolio 2022 (including newly announced brands)


Over the years Brown-Forman has started to adventure outside its comfort zone of North America. After the turn of the millennia in 2004, it acquired the Altia-owned Finnish vodka brand Finlandia, followed by three tequila brands from Casa Herradura in 2007.


Brown-Forman dipped its toes into the Irish whiskey market in 2015, when it purchased the Slane Distillery less than an hour away from Dublin. The whisky tour continued in 2016 with the purchase of the Benriach Distillery Company and its 3 Scottish distilleries: Benriach, Glenglassaugh, and GlenDronach, which stirred up a conversation in the industry.


2022 seemed to be a huge year for the company. Brown-Forman acquired the Fords Gin back in 2019, but in 2022 introduced another gin to its portfolio: Gin Mare. Not only that but just a couple of months later announced their adventure into rum with the delicious Venezuelan Diplomatico.



 

Jack Daniel's American Single Malt - Details and Analysis

Jack Daniel's single malt American whiskey

Original Image by The Drinks Business


The biggest news of 2022 (from Brown-Forman) seemed to be the upcoming launch of the first-ever Jack Daniel's Single Malt. Labelled as American Single Malt it is said to follow in the footsteps of Scottish whisky traditions. The announcement came only 3 months after the TTB published their proposed guidelines for American-made single-malt whiskies - the first time the category was recognized even as a proposal of governing law. Please see here our article on the new rules (by clicking American Malt Whisky at the top of the article).


The new expression of Jack Daniel's is made from 100% malted barley (sourced from the Northern United States), aged 5 years in charred white oak barrels, finished in Oloroso sherry casks for an extra 2 years and 8 months, and bottled at 45% ABV. The "new Jack" was revealed at the Tax-Free World Association (TFWA) show in Cannes, France, in early October 2022. The product itself will not see daylight before June 2023, and will only be available at Travel Retail for around £90 - at least for now.


Travel Retail is a good place for companies to test their product. It allows them to get spirits launched in smaller amounts than if targeting the normal consumer market. And for sure Jack Daniel's has made a lot less of single malt than some of its other whiskies.


Jack Daniel's distillery visitor's centre

Image by SAH Archipedia - Jack Daniel's Visitors Center



But the release of an almost 8-year-old single malt does raise some questions. When did they get the idea? Companies tend to have at least a ten-year plan outlining their future moves. Brown-Forman must have started the distillation of 100% malted barley back in 2014-2015 to be able to release it soon. This was about the time it was negotiating and purchasing the Slane Distillery in Ireland. Acquiring three Scottish distilleries in 2016 must-have also served the purpose of learning how to make single malts with long-lasting traditions.


Under the new guidelines, American Single Malt Whisky has to be made (including mashing, distilling, and aging) in the United States, so this would rule out the possibility of the whisky coming from another country. Jack Daniel's mash recipe has always included 12% malted barley, so it is something that the distillery was already familiar with. Unlike in Scottish whisky, the rules in America don't require a pot still to be used for distilling single malts. Jack Daniel's distillery is home to 6 copper column stills, but how the process for making their single malt is not common knowledge.


No.2 still Jack Daniel's distillery

Image by Whiskey University


If Brown-Forman was ever to make an American single malt whisky, there is no better home for it than Jack Daniel's. Out-of-the-street whisky consumers tend to choose product names they are familiar with, and with the best marketing team already at play at Jack Daniel's, it's the logical choice. It also makes us think about Jack Daniel's collectors who hunt for every new release of Jack to add to their collection. We predict that the single malt will become highly sought after at the time of its release as the first even Jack Daniel's single malt.


We can also see some people getting mad about Jack Daniel's "selling out" to get their paws onto the highly competitive single malt market to get their share of the rising sales. Brand development and experimenting are part of managing a brand to meet the changing consumer needs. We can understand that, but can some Americans who are already so good at excepting change? *smirk* You know the type, who in a couple of years will be convinced that Americans invented single malts? Bless them.

 

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