By Richard Thomas
Whisky observers were shocked Wednesday morning by news that American drinks giant Brown-Forman, owner of Jack Daniels and Woodford Reserve, had bought the BenRiach company from whisky entrepreneur Billy Walker for £285 million ($416.4 million). The deal marks a return to Scotch whisky for the company, following an 11 year absence.
The BenRiach deal encompasses all the whisky holdings built up in the company during Walker’s tenure, which includes not just the BenRiach distillery and brand, but also those of GlenDronach and Glengassaugh, as well as a bottling plant and the company headquarters in Edinburgh.
Walker, 71, is a Dumbarton, Scotland native, former Burn Stewart operations director and Master of the Quaich, the highest honor available in the Scotch whisky industry circles. He teamed up with South African businessmen Geoff Bell and Wayne Kieswetter 12 years ago to buy the defunct BenRiach distillery and revamp its brand, launching the company.