Kentucky-based Brown-Forman said the takeover would catapult it back into the single malt Scotch market, which chief executive Paul Varga described as “one of our industry’s most exciting and consistent growth segments”.
BenRiach, which also owns the GlenDronach and Glenglassaugh single malt whisky brands, is headed by managing director Billy Walker and employs 165 people, including 55 seasonal and casual workers.
Walker joined forces with two South African businessmen, Geoff Bell and Wayne Kieswetter, to acquire the mothballed BenRiach distillery, which is located in the industry’s Speyside heartland, in a deal worth about £5m 12 years ago.
He said: “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.
“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 fulfil their full potential, and prove to be worthy custodians of these historic distilleries.”
Brown-Forman, which also owns Finlandia vodka, was previously a minority shareholder in rival single malt distiller Glenmorangie, before selling its interest as part of the firm’s sale to Moët Hennessy in 2005.
Varga said: “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.”
GlenDronach was founded in 1826, while fellow Highland distiller Glenglassaugh traces its roots back to 1875. The BenRiach distillery began making malt whisky in the heart of Speyside in 1898.
The takeover, expected to complete at the start of June, includes BenRiach’s brand trademarks, its three malt distilleries, a bottling plant and the company’s Edinburgh headquarters.