The 86 Co. sold to Brown-Forman

It’s nice to see friends incubate a product and then successfully sell it on—at least we hope that the exit terms are such they rate “a success”!

I am sad that Caña Brava never quite worked out—it was our best shot yet at recapturing something of the well-aged, filtered Cuban-style rum that Bacardi once sold. I hope somebody tries again, soon.

I also rather liked Tequila Cabeza—it seemed like an honest blanco, and it offered a heavily smoky option at the lower end of the market, where smoke is uncommon. I suppose with the increase in priced-for-mixing mezcales on the shelves, Cabeza is less differentiated.

Brown-Forman to acquire Fords Gin parent


By David A. Mann

Jun 10, 2019

Brown-Forman Corp. has reached a definitive agreement to purchase New York-based The 86 Co., adding add Fords Gin, a London dry gin brand, to its portfolio.

The price of the acquisition was not disclosed in a news release this morning. Louisville-based Brown-Forman (NYSE: BFB), the parent of Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Whiskey, Woodford Reserve and Old Forester, did not have a gin brand in its portfolio previously.

“Fords Gin is a unique brand with terrific momentum in one of the fastest growing categories in spirits,” Lawson Whiting, president and CEO of Brown-Forman, said in the release. “We look forward to building Fords Gin into another iconic brand in our portfolio.”

Simon Ford, co-founder of The 86 Co., called Brown-Forman a great partner to bring the brand to consumers in the U.S. and around the world.

“We’re extremely thankful to all our supporters who have been championing the brand since the beginning and look forward to seeing what the future holds with our new collaborators,” Ford said in the release.

Fords Gin is flavored with a mix of nine botanicals. It starts with a traditional base of juniper and coriander seed balanced by citrus, florals, and spices, according to the release.

Simon Ford and The 86 Co. team will remain a key part of the building and crafting of Fords Gin going forward. And the purchase will include the Fords Gin trademark and other assets.

The 86 Co.'s LinkedIn profile mentions that it also has rum, vodka and tequila brands. It has been phasing out those brands and Brown-Forman is supportive of that strategy, a Brown-Forman spokesperson said.

The transaction is is expected to close within 30 days.

Word from Simon Ford (via Matt Pietrek) from within the walled garden.

Simon told me that Ford’s Gin sales had been carrying the company for some time. The other three brands never did much. I knew 86 was going to eliminate the rum, tequila and vodka. Had no idea the Brown buyout was in the wind. But that does seem to have become the path of success for craft spirit labels.

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Seriously? They’re dropping Caña Brava!? That’s horrible.