Explore our interactive timeline to learn more about the history of Brown-Forman, and the people, brands, and events that have shaped our company.
Founding of the Company
After several name changes and the dissolution of the original partnership, George Garvin enters in a partnership with George Forman, his accountant and friend, and Brown-Forman is created.
& the War Years
Brown-Forman correctly anticipates the outbreak of World War II and, within days of Pearl Harbor, begins producing industrial alcohol for the war effort at a converted Old Forester plant.
The company also purchases the Labrot & Graham Distillery, originally founded in 1812 by bourbon-making pioneer Elijah Pepper.
Acquisitions & Growth –
Jack Daniel’s, Southern Comfort…
The company moves its corporate headquarters to 850 Dixie Highway, Louisville, Kentucky.
The import firm of Fontana-Hollywood becomes part of Brown-Forman; one of the few non food items that Fontana-Hollywood imported was Bolla Italian wines.
The company acquires Canadian Mist, located in Collingwood, Ontario, and the import rights to Noilly Prat, the world-famous French vermouths.
Robinson Brown, Jr. is elected chairman of the board after the retirement of W. L. Lyons Brown.
W. L. Lyons Brown passes away on January 5.
Brown-Forman sells its interest in the Labrot & Graham Distillery. The company eventually repurchases the distillery and begins an ambitious renovation to restore it to the original small-batch distilling process.
W. L. Lyons Brown, Jr. replaces William F. Lucas as Brown-Forman president and CEO.
Diversification & Innovation
Lenox, Incorporated becomes part of the Brown-Forman family of companies, bringing with it Lenox china, crystal and giftware, and the 125-year-old Hartmann Luggage Company.
W. L. Lyons Brown, Jr. is elected chairman of the board. Owsley Brown II is elected president.
Lenox, Incorporated celebrates its centennial.
Crouch & Fitzgerald, the oldest luggage store in the U.S., is acquired by Brown-Forman. Located at Madison Avenue and 48th Street in New York City, the store was established in 1839.
Owsley Brown II becomes the corporation’s new CEO (he retains the position of president), succeeding his brother, W.L. Lyons Brown, Jr., who had been CEO for 18 years.
Carmen Vineyards Chilean Wines becomes part of the Beverage Company’s portfolio in April.
Owsley Brown II is elected chairman of the board. He retains the title chairman and CEO.
Blue Grass Cooperage, one of the World’s largest producers of whiskey barrels and a subsidiary of Brown-Forman, celebrates its 50th anniversary.
Brown-Forman becomes the exclusive U.S. importer of Finlandia Vodkas.
The newly restored Labrot & Graham Distillery in Woodford County, Kentucky, located on the site of the first commercial distillery in the state, celebrates its grand reopening. Brown-Forman introduces Woodford Reserve Bourbon, the first new product from Labrot & Graham.
The Brown family and Brown-Forman Corporation are presented with a National Preservation Honor Award from The National Trust for Historic Preservation. The company and family are honored for the restoration of the 150-year-old Labrot & Graham Distillery in Woodford County, Kentucky, contributions to the preservation of Shakertown at Pleasant Hill, a village built by Shakers in 1805, and for leadership in the renovation of the Cathedral of the Assumption in downtown Louisville.
Woodford Reserve is named the Official Bourbon of the 1998 Breeders’ Cup Thoroughbred Racing Championships.
Brown-Forman Corporation donates $1 million to the University of Louisville to finance a chair in entrepreneurship at the College of Business and Public Administration.
Leadership changes at Lenox, Inc. with the formation of a board of directors, appointment of its chairman, and selection of a new company president. Barry D. Bramley becomes chairman of the Lenox Board and Stanley E. Krangel, who was previously president of Lenox Collections, accepts the position of president of Lenox, Inc.
The company adds four new wine brands to its portfolio, Sonoma-Cutrer Vineyards and Mariah Wines of California, and two Australian brands, McPherson Wines and Owen’s Estate Wines.
By mutual agreement, Brown-Forman’s relationship with Carmen Wines of Chile ends in December.
Brown-Forman signs an agreement with Tequila Orendain de Jalisco, S.A. de C.V. to be the worldwide marketing agent for Orendain’s premium tequila and liqueur brands. The first new products introduced are Don Eduardo ultra premium tequilas.
Brown-Forman also purchases an interest in Tuoni & Canepa Spa of Italy and becomes exclusive marketing agent for that company’s Tuaca Liqueur in the U.S. and other markets.
Brown-Forman reports record earnings and 10% earnings per share growth for the Fiscal 1999. The company also increased its quarterly cash dividend 5.1%, from 29.5 cents to 31 cents per share on Class A and Class B Common Stock. As a result, the indicated annual cash rise from $1.18 to $1.24 per share.
Brown-Forman announces plans for an $8 million restoration of the historic 626 West Main Street building (formerly known as the Bernheim Building) in downtown Louisville. The building is projected to be ready for occupancy in the first quarter of 2001.
American Spirit – Global Opportunity
For the first time in company history sales exceed $2 billion.
Owsley Brown Frazier, great-grandson of George Garvin Brown, retires after 45 years of service to the company.
Southern Comfort changes its bottle for the first time in 65 years.
Brown-Forman acquires marketing and distribution rights for Appleton Estate Jamaica Rum.
Brown-Forman Corporation reaches an agreement with Charles Jacquin et Cie, owner and producer of Chambord Liqueur, to purchase the Chambord brand and all related assets.
Board of Directors elects Sandra Frazier, Martin S. Brown, Jr., and Geo. Garvin Brown IV to become directors of the company. All three are descendants of George Garvin Brown, who founded Brown-Forman in 1870, and they are the first members of the family’s fifth generation to join the company’s board.
Brown-Forman completes its previously announced acquisition of all substantial assets of the Mexican tequila company, Casa Herradura.
Brown-Forman assumed full ownership of the Don Eduardo Tequila trademark.
Chief Executive Paul C. Varga was named to succeed Owsley Brown II as chairman of Brown-Forman Corporation, while Garvin Brown IV was named to the new position of presiding chairman of the company’s Board of Directors. Owsley Brown II retires from executive management but will continue to serve on the company’s Board of Directors. James S. Welch, Jr. and William E. Mitchell are elected to the Board of Directors, while long-time director Stephen E. O’Neil retired from the Board. Brown-Forman CFO Phoebe Wood was promoted to vice chairman of the corporation.
The company sells its Bolla and Fontana Candida Italian wine brands to Gruppo Italiano Vini.
In January the company pays out a dividend making this the 64th consecutive year Brown-Forman has issued a quarterly dividend.
The company announces that it will be establishing its own distribution company in Germany within the year. Brown-Forman will now have a fully-owned sales and marketing operation in Germany.
Brown-Forman decides to renew distribution agreements with Bacardi Limited so that each company can distribute the competitor’s products in a number of European countries. As per the agreements Bacardi will distribute Brown-Forman brands in Belgium, Denmark, Austria, Switzerland, Luxembourg, Portugal, and Andorra, and Brown-Forman will distribute Bacardi brands in the Czech Republic.
In October 2010, Brown-Forman Corporation received its first perfect score of 100 points on the Corporate Equality Index (CEI), a national benchmarking survey and report on corporate policies and practices related to LGBT workplace equality, administered by the Human Rights Campaign Foundation.
Brown-Forman Corporation acquires Maximus Vodka brand from Altia, Plc.
Owsley Brown II, former chairman and CEO of Brown-Forman and well-known Louisville community leader, dies after a brief illness. He was 69 years old.
Joan C. Amble elected to the company’s Board of Directors.
Jack Daniel Distillery introduces its first new expression in a generation: Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Honey, a 70 proof blend of Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Whiskey and a proprietary honey liqueur.
Owsley Brown Frazier, former vice chairman of Brown-Forman Corporation and well-known Louisville community philanthropist, dies after a long illness. He was 77 years old.
Brown-Forman confirms that it reached agreement in principle with the Asahi Group to distribute its brands in Japan as of January 1, 2013.
Woodford Reserve Double Oaked Bourbon launches, more than 15 years after the distillery’s initial launch of Distiller’s Select Bourbon.
Brown-Forman Australia announces that it has been appointed the exclusive distribution rights to Jägermeister.
Brown-Forman announces the restructuring of its Asia Pacific (APAC) region into two new regions, Australia, New Zealand, and Southeast Asia region (ANZSEA) and the North Asia region (NA).
Woodford Reserve Distillery begins expansion to meet expected growing global demand for its super premium Woodford Reserve Kentucky Bourbon.
Brown-Forman establishes its own distribution company in France.
Woodford Reserve Distillery officially re-opens its visitor center after completing an expansion and renovation project that includes the addition of a tasting room, improvements to the retail space, and general aesthetic enhancements.
Brown-Forman Europe opens an operations head office in Amsterdam, The Netherlands.
Jane Morreau is named Executive Vice President, Chief Financial Officer, as previous CFO Don Berg retires from the company.
Michael J. Roney and Michael Todman elected to the company’s Board of Directors.
Brown-Forman Corporation’s CEO and Board Chairman receive the 2014 Family Enterprise Leadership award by Northwestern University, Kellogg School of Management, Center for Family Enterprise.
Brown-Forman opens Jack Daniel’s Cooperage in Decatur, Alabama, due to growing worldwide demand for Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Whiskey.
Brown-Forman Corporation received a perfect score of 100 percent on the Corporate Equality Index (CEI), administered by the Human Rights Campaign Foundation. This is the fifth consecutive year Brown-Forman has received a perfect score.
Brown-Forman purchases all shares of Slane Castle Irish Whiskey Limited. The company will build a new distillery and consumer experience on the historic Slane Castle Estate in County Meath, Ireland.
Brown family reaffirms commitment to company with the election of two fifth generation family members to the Brown-Forman Board of Directors, Stuart R. Brown and Augusta Brown Holland. Dace Brown Stubbs, the last member of the family’s fourth generation to serve on the board, elected not to stand for re-election after sixteen years of service as a director.
The company purchases a new stave mill in Spencer, Indiana, to support the company’s increased barrel production.
Jack Daniel Distillery announces the U.S. nationwide release of its red-hot cinnamon spirit, Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Fire.
Woodford Reserve introduces Woodford Reserve Kentucky Straight Rye Whiskey, the third offering from the distillery.
Casa Herradura in Jalisco, Mexico, receives the 2015 Environmental Excellence Award from Mexico’s Federal Attorney for Environmental Protection.
Brown-Forman sells its Southern Comfort and Tuaca trademarks to Sazerac.
The company is identified as a global leader for its response to climate change and is awarded a position on The Climate “A” List by CDP, an international not-for-profit.
Jack Daniel’s celebrates the 150th anniversary of America’s oldest registered distillery, the Jack Daniel Distillery in Lynchburg, Tennessee.
Jack Daniel Distillery releases Jack Daniel’s Single Barrel Rye, the brand’s third offering within the Single Barrel Collection and first new grain bill in 100 years, in the U.S.
The Brown-Forman Cooperage celebrates 70 years of barrel-making excellence. Brown-Forman is the only major spirits company to own and operate a new whiskey barrel-making facility, making more than 2,500 barrels per day.
Brown-Forman announces expansion plans for the Jack Daniel Distillery to meet future demand.
Brown-Forman pays its regular quarterly cash dividend for 70th consecutive year, increasing the dividend for 32 consecutive years.
Brown-Forman purchases The BenRiach Distillery Company Limited, including The GlenDronach, BenRiach, and Glenglassaugh brands. The purchase includes brand trademarks, three malt distilleries, a bottling plant, and a headquarters in Edinburgh, Scotland.
Coopers’ Craft launches in summer, the first new bourbon brand for the company in more than twenty years.
Campbell P. Brown, Marshall B. Farrer, and Laura L. Frazier, fifth generation descendants of George Garvin Brown, elected to the company’s Board of Directors. Martin S. Brown Jr., Sandra A. Frazier, and James S. Welch Jr., did not to stand for re-election.
Brown-Forman Corporation approves a two-for-one stock split for all shares of Class A and Class B common stock to be paid in the form of a stock dividend.
The company claims the top spot as the “greenest” beverage alcohol company among U.S. publicly traded companies in the Newsweek Green Rankings.
Brown-Forman named a top-scoring company in the 2016 Disability Equality Index (DEI®) survey, conducted by the US Business Leadership Network (USBLN) and the American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD).
Brown-Forman announces the launch of a nutritional information website for its consumer brands.
Rachel Barrie appointed whisky maker for its Scotch whisky portfolio which includes the BenRiach, The GlenDronach, and Glenglassaugh distilleries.
Jack Daniel’s and the National Basketball Association (NBA) begin a multiyear partnership making Jack Daniel’s an official marketing partner of the NBA, the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA), the NBA Development League (D-League), and USA Basketball. This markes the largest partnership with a professional sports league in the brand’s history.
Slane Distillery, the company’s initial entry into distilling Irish whiskey, opens. Slane Distillery is the first distillery built by Brown-Forman outside of the United States. Brown-Forman Corporation establishes its own distribution organization in Spain.
Brown-Forman announces that it will invest $45 million in the Brown-Forman Cooperage to modernize the Cooperage, reduce operating cost by improving efficiency, and allow the continued production of high quality barrels in Louisville.
Old Forester claims its place on historic Whiskey Row in Louisville, Kentucky, with the opening of the Old Forester Distillery. The 70,000 square foot distillery guides guests through the brand’s rich history and Bourbon making process of Old Forester, America’s First Bottled Bourbon.
CEO Paul Varga retires on December 31, 2018. Varga succeeded by Lawson E. Whiting, a 21-year veteran of the company previously served as EVP and Chief Operating Officer. Whiting is the tenth executive leader of Brown-Forman since its founding in 1870 by George Garvin Brown.
Coopers’ Craft launches Barrel Reserve 100 proof, aged in a barrel custom-made at the Brown-Forman Cooperage. Its staves are chiseled after the barrel is charred which allows the spirit to interact more deeply with the wood.
Old Forester, America’s First Bottled Bourbon, introduce Old Forester Kentucky Straight Rye Whisky, the distillery’s first new grain recipe in nearly 150 years.