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Brown-Forman makes Irish whiskey move with Slane Castle buy

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Brown-Forman is the latest international spirits company to enter the Irish whiskey category, with the purchase of Slane Castle Irish Whiskey Ltd.

The US-headquartered company said today that it will spend US$50m on a distillery on the estate of Slane Castle in Co Meath. The estate is owned by Henry Conyngham, the eighth Marquess Conyngham, and his son, Alex Conyngham, the Earl of Mount Charles.

When contacted by just-drinks, a spokesperson for Brown-Forman declined to give financial details behind the purchase.

"Irish whiskey has been one of the fastest growing segments in the global whiskey category over the last few years," said Lawson Whiting, executive VP and chief brands & strategy officer for Brown-Forman Brands. "We’re excited to be partnering with the Conyngham family as we build the new Slane Irish whiskey distillery."

The distillery is scheduled to open late next year, with production set to start in early-2017. When fully operational, the distillery will have an initial capacity of about 600,000 9-litre cases per year.

Brown-Forman's only previous play in Irish whiskey was between 1967 and 2001, when it handled the importation and marketing of Bushmills in the US.

In September, William Grant & Sons officially opened a distillery for its Tullamore Dew brand, which it acquired in 2010. Meanwhile, Beam Inc, now Beam Suntory, bought Cooley distillery in 2012. The Irish whiskey category is dominated by Pernod Ricard's Jameson brand, which accounts for just over 60% global market share.

For a map of distilleries in Ireland, click here.


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