For those of us who are whiskey freaks, whiskey is many things: a passion, an intellectual pursuit, a fitting end to the day (or beginning?) or maybe even an obsession. The truth is, however, that whiskey is also a business, and like communications, media and almost every other industry in the global economy, whiskey distilleries acorss the globe are being consolidated by a few large corporations. These corporations often own whiskies of mutiple origin (e.g. Bourbon and Scotch) as well as other beverages.
As with all industries, the issue of globalization and consolodation is complex and controversial, and while I have my own views on the subject, I don't intend to use this forum to promote them.
However, I think it behooves us all to know which companies own our whiskey and what they are doing with it. To that end, when I review whiskey in the future, I will include the owning corporation, and from time to time, I will profile a whiskey company and their portfolio.
We will start that process today with the elephant in any room discussing whiskey ownership: Diageo.
Diageo is the largest alcoholic beverage company in the world. It was formed in 1997by a merger of Guinness and Grand Metropolitan. It is publicly traded and headquartered in London.
Among its holdings are:
Single Malt Scotch (working distilleries):
Single Malt Scotch (shuttered distilleries):
Major Blended Scotch Brands:
Black & White
George Dickel Tennessee Whiskey
Other Major Alcohol Brands:
Bailey's Irish Cream
Captain Morgan Spiced Rum
Don Julio Tequila
Godiva Chocolate Liqueur
Red Stripe Beer
In addition, Diageo has distribution rights for Jose Cuervo Tequila.
As you can see, this is a massive company with a very deep portfolio. Most people probably would not guess that Captain Morgan and Port Ellen share a common ownership, but there it is.
In terms of single malts, Diageo's greatest innovation has been the classic malts range, a special promotion of a selected whiskey from each Scottish region. The classic malts range allows a bar or restaurant to say that they have a wide range of malts by simply purchasing the range, all from Diageo. The precise malts in the range change from time to time, but the marketing of these "classic malts" has been laregely responsible for the US popularity of Lagavulin, Oban, Dalwhinnie and Talisker.
Interestingly, despite the popularity of the classic range, the one thing the Diageo profile lacks is a top-selling single malt. None of their malts crack the top 5 in sales.
In the future, I'll try to profile more whiskey companies and their holdings, just so you know who owns your favorite whiskey.