US spirits and wine giant, the Brown-Forman Corporation, has agreed to buy BenRiach Distillery Company for £285m.
The purchase of the whisky distiller includes brand trademarks, three malt distilleries, a bottling plant and the company’s Edinburgh HQ.
The deal adds three brands to the US firm’s whisky portfolio – The GlenDronach, BenRiach and Glenglassaugh.
Brown-Forman said it expected to complete the purchase in June.
The BenRiach Distillery Company, which has a workforce of 165 employees including 55 seasonal and casual workers, will operate as a subsidiary of Brown-Forman.
Paul Varga, chief executive officer of Brown-Forman said: “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.
“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.”
Brown-Forman has previously been a minority shareholder of Glenmorangie, marketing Glenmorangie Single Malt Whisky in the US and Canada from 1992 to 2005.
Douglas Fraser, BBC Scotland Business/economy editor
The BenRiach distillery was sold before the industry’s exports really took off, for £8m. That was 11 years ago.
Four years ago, it was valued at around £25m. Now, with two similar, premium-end single malt distilleries and a bottling plant, it’s fetching £285m for investor Billy Walker and two South African partners.
Even though the exports momentum has stalled for the past three years, this points to continued confidence in Scotch – and particularly for single malts.
Malts have been growing past 10% of volume, as blends have fallen back. By value, single malts are near 25% of the market, and growing at around one percentage point per year.
That’s where the BenRiach business has real value. The makers of Jack Daniel’s will soon have premium malts to distribute to the US market, which has a fifth of that Scotch segment.
And not just the 12-year-old industry standard. Billy Walker has built up the business by having the patience – and deep pockets – to wait for 18, 21 and 25-year-olds. He refuses to sell through the big multiple retailers. You don’t find these brands on special offer.
The bluegrass boys at Brown-Forman bring big distribution clout. They’ve got themselves a significant stock of ageing whisky casks and butts. These have been getting increasingly scarce and valuable as older stocks have been run down to meet recent malt demand growth.
Managing director of BenRiach Distillery Company Billy Walker 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 energized 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.”
The GlenDronach Distillery is near Huntly in Aberdeenshire, BenRiach is near Elgin, Moray, and Glenglassaugh Distillery is on the Moray coast at Portsoy