Suntory Buys Beam, Let’s All Calm Down

January 20, 2014

Now that’s a shakeup

A week and a half ago, we wrote a small piece about our own appreciation of the Japanese whiskey industry.

Little did we know that four days later the news would be dominated by the announcement that Beam Global was purchased by Suntory Holdings of Japan. Suntory is a beverage powerhouse, which also happens be one of the largest producers of whisky in Japan.

With the announcement of this deal some American whiskey drinkers find themselves conflicted. Knowing that their beloved Jim Beam Bourbon is “turning Japanese” has more than a few on edge. Time magazine even went so far as to post a listicle for the ‘Patriotic’ bourbon drinker. In reality, it seems that nothing about this merger should change how the bourbon will be produced, or even how Beam Global will do business. The executive team remains in place, and while wholly-owned, will [most likely] be run as an independent entity. Regarding the Beam Bourbon itself, nothing about it can really change, if Jim Beam still wants to call itself bourbon. Bourbon, the uniquely American whiskey form, is a federally protected and regulated spirit.

Beam already owned a LOT of whiskey

It’s also worth noting that Beam doesn’t just make bourbon – they make a LOT of bourbon: Jim Beam, Maker’s Mark, Knob Creek, Basil Hayden’s, Baker’s, Booker’s, Old Grand-Dad, and Old Crow.

Beam’s rickhouse doesn’t stop at the Atlantic Ocean, either. Just two years ago, Beam Global did something quite similar to what Suntory just did. With the purchase of the Irish distiller Cooley, Beam Global placed itself fully into the global market for Irish Whiskey. The Kilbeggan, Connemara, Tyrconnell, Greenore, and 2 Gingers labels were added to the Beam portfolio. Beam Global also owns a portion of the Scotch market, with Laphroaig, Teacher’s, and Ardmore. Let’s also not forget the Canadian Blend market, with Canadian Club, Windsor Canadian and Alberta Premium.

Suntory’s pre-Beam whiskey holdings aren’t country-bound either. Morrison Bowmore Distillers of Scotland are a wholly-owned subsidiary, and the producers of the Auchentoshan, Bowmore, Glen Garioch and McClelland’s labels.

What we’re seeing here is the joining of two companies with diverse and respected global distilling histories. While the deal may be based in business, it will undoubtedly serve to expand the whiskey world in many ways.

Source: My Old Osaka Home: Suntory of Japan to Buy Maker of Jim Beam [Michael J. De La Merced and David Gelles // New York Times Dealbook]

Image Source: Issei Kato [Reuters via NPR]

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