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The HISTORY of SazErac

Founded in 1850 and acquired by its current owners, the Goldring family of New Orleans, in 1948, the Sazerac Co. has grown dramatically in the last 25 years through a series of strategic acquisitions. With top-selling brands including Pappy Van Winkle, Fireball, Buffalo Trace and Southern Comfort, the Sazerac Co. is now the fifth largest spirits company in the world and the only U.S. manufacturer in the top five. “We do business in 112 countries, we’ve got 2,000 employees, and we’ve got nine manufacturing facilities,” Brown said. “We are the proud owners of 420 million bottles of bourbon and Canadian whisky, and we’re roughly capable of making a  $3 billion acquisition if we put our minds to it.”


America's First Cocktail
Before there was a company, there was a drink. Antoine Peychaud, a Creole immigrant, operated a pharmacy on the French Quarter's Royal Street in 1838. With his background as an apothecary, he was a natural mixologist. His friends would gather for late-night revelry at his pharmacy. Peychaud would mix brandy, absinthe and a dash of his secret bitters for his guests. Later this quaff would come to be known as the Sazerac.

The Bar
After the drink, there was the bar. The cocktail immediately spread in popularity at the city's finest coffee houses, which was the term for drinking establishments during the mid-1800s. However, the cocktail is most strongly associated with the wildly popular Sazerac Coffee House located on Exchange Alley. In 1850, the owner Sewell Taylor institutionalized the drink at his coffee house by using only Sazerac de Forge et Fils brandy, which he imported and sold exclusively. The Sazerac cocktail received its name from this coffee house, where it was most often imbibed.

The Company
From the bar, a company was born. In 1869, Thomas H. Handy purchased the Sazerac Coffeehouse and began to acquire and market brands of liquor. He bought out the rights to Peychaud's Bitters in 1873. In the 1890s his company began to bottle and market the Sazerac cocktail, now made with rye whiskey instead of brandy. In addition, the company operated the Sazerac Bar on Royal Street. Later, Handy's former secretary, C. J. O'Reilly, chartered the Sazerac Company. Ever since (except for a stint as a delicatessen and grocery vendor during Prohibition), the Sazerac Company has distilled an ever-increasing line of fine spirits. Today, we are still an independent, American family owned company and proud owners of many of America's most venerable distilling companies - Buffalo Trace Distillery, A. Smith Bowman, Glenmore Distillery, Barton, Fleischmann, Medley and Mr. Boston.


  • Medley Distilling Company - 1634

  • Buffalo Trace -1787

  • Sazerac - 1850

  • Fleischmann Distilling Company -1868

  • Glenmore Distillery - 1871

  • Barton Distillery - 1933

  • Boston Brands of Maine Distillery - 1933

  • Gemini Spirits & Wine Company - 1934

  • A. Smith Bowman Distillery -1935



1989 Sazerac acquired several brands from Seagram: Benchmark, a bourbon, eventually changing its name from "Benchmark" to McAfee's Benchmark; James Foxe Canadian Whisky; Nikolai (vodka); Carstairs Blended Whiskey; Crown Russe, a vodka and gin brand; Dr. McGillicuddy's, a liqueur brand, that included its Fireball Whisky, which was rebranded as Fireball Cinnamon Whisky in 2007; Eagle Rare, a Kentucky straight bourbon whisky.

1992, Sazerac acquired the George T. Stagg Distillery in Frankfort, Kentucky, at which time the company's primary focus became the production of bourbon whiskey, a product that is primarily distilled, aged, and bottled in Kentucky, later changing its name to The Buffalo Trace Distillery in 1999.


1994, Sazerac acquired Monsieur Henri, a wine and specialty spirits company. In 2007, it was announced that they were changing the name Monsieur Henri to Gemini Spirits and Wine, headquartered in Loomis, California. In 2014, Sazerac announced the creation the Bond & Royal Company, located in Chicago, Illinois, to take over the specialty and craft segment of its brands from the Gemini Spirits and Wine portfolio including: Del Maguey Single Village Mezcal, a "cousin" to the Tequila family of spirits," Campo de Encanto Pisco, a Peruvian brandy, Banks Rum, Siete Leguas Tequila, Glenfarclas Single Malt Scotch, Dimmi Liquore di Milano, an Italian liqueur, and the Casa San Matias Tequilas.

1999 Sazerac acquired the W.L. Weller Bourbon brands.

2002 Sazerac entered an agreement with the Van Winkle family to produce its Pappy Van Winkle's Family Reserve and Old Rip Van Winkle bourbon and rye whisky brands at its Buffalo Trace Distillery.

2003 Sazerac acquired the A. Smith Bowman Distillery, located in Fredericksburg, Virginia. Kentucky Gentleman, a bourbon whiskey, is distilled there.

2009 Sazerac completed its acquisition of Constellation Brands value-priced spirit assets. The purchase included Barton Brands and several other bourbon brands, Barton Distillery in Bardstown, Kentucky, and a bottling and warehousing facility in Owensboro, Kentucky. Later that year, Sazerac acquired The Old Taylor Bourbon label and barrel inventory from Beam Global Spirits & Wine, now known as Beam Suntory.

2011 Sazerac entered into an agreement with Corby Distilleries Limited, to purchase 17 Corby owned brands including: McGuinness Silk Tassel Canadian Whisky, Red Tassel Vodka, and DeKuyper Geneva Gin and Peachtree Schnapps as part of the agreement made with the other brands acquired from Corby Distilleries Limited. The deal also included shares of Corby's manufacturing and bottling facilities in Montreal, Quebec, Canada and Quebec, Canada. The distillery was eventually renamed as the Old Montreal Distillery. Later that year, Sazerac Acquired 32 brands from White Rock Distillery, most notably including: Tortilla triple sec, Desert Island cocktails, Kapali liqueurs, Ryans Irish cream liqueur, Fire Water schnapps liqueur, Ice 101 liqueurs, Barbarossa rum, Ice Box blenders and cocktails, Mount Royal Canadian whisky, and others. In May 2012, Sazerac Acquired several more brands from White Rock Distillery including: Baja Tequila, Tenure Vodka, Epic Vodka, Superia Vodka, Stroyski Vodka, El Charro Tequila, Blackmaker Root beer liqueur, and Chocolate Valley Vines wine.

2012 Sazerac acquired Gran Gala, a liqueur brand, from Stock Spirits.

2013 Sazerac bought a distillery, including land and equipment in Lewiston, Maine, from Beam Inc. (now known as Beam Suntory). By 2017, the name of the distillery was changed to Boston Brands of Maine Distillery. The Mr. Boston line of Brandies is distilled there.

2015 Sazerac acquired Michael Collins, an Irish whiskey from the Sidney Frank Importing Company. Sazerac added Van Gogh Imports, changing its name to 375 Park Avenue Spirits, as an independent, but fully integrated, division in its portfolio.

2016 Sazerac completed the purchase of the Southern Comfort brand of whiskey-based liqueur, and Tuaca, a brandy liqueur, from Brown-Forman, Inc. Sazerac acquired Hi-Spirits to take over the distribution of its products in the UK. Mid-year Sazerac finalized a deal with Pernod Ricard's Irish Distillers to acquire its Paddy Irish Whiskey brand. Later that year Sazerac acquired The Last Drop Distillers, a Scotch Whiskey bottling company. Also, Sazerac acquired South Trade International, an Australian spirit maker, from Pinnacle Drinks. In October 2016, Sazerac acquired Frïs Vodka from Pernod Ricard. In December 2016, Sazerac announced its acquisition of The Popcorn Sutton Distillery in Newport, Tennessee and Domaine Breuil de Segonzac Cognac. "The purchase included the cognac distillery, vineyards, and existing buildings" located in near the town of Segonzac, France, near Cognac.

2018 it was announced that Sazerac would acquire 19 lower-end spirits brands from Diageo Plc, including Seagram VO Canadian whisky and Goldschläger cinnamon schnapps.

A. Smith Bowman Distillery - 1935

A. Smith Bowman’s distilling roots date back to the years before prohibition, in Algiers, Louisiana. In 1935, after the Repeal of Prohibition, Abram Smith Bowman and his sons relocated to Virginia continuing the family tradition with the distillation of bourbon. The original distillery was located on the Bowman family homestead in Fairfax County, Virginia called Sunset Hills Farm. The distillery’s hallmark bourbon called Virginia Gentleman was first created in small-batches to ensure meticulous control over the quality of each bottle. In response to the rapid growth of Northern Virginia, the distillery was moved in 1988 and is now nestled in the historic city of Fredericksburg in Spotsylvania County, 60 miles away from the original location. As a small and privately owned company, The A. Smith Bowman Distillery continues the time-honored traditions on which it was founded. Considered a micro-distillery by today’s standards, A. Smith Bowman produces an assortment of hand-crafted sprits distilled from only the finest natural ingredients and using the latest technology. This micro-distillery focuses on the production of premium spirits honoring the legacy of Virginia’s first settlers. Looking ahead the micro-distillery has innovative ideas for new and different small batch products of all sorts which will honor the rich distilling tradition dating back more than 60 years.

Barton Distillery - 1933

Prior to Prohibition, there was no distilled spirits industry – just the whiskey business. Two Chicago gentlemen, Oscar Getz and Lester Abelson had been engaged in the whiskey business at this time. This was true after Prohibition as well, when these two men joined forces to re-enter the business shortly after the repeal in 1933 and founded Barton Brands.

By 1944, to ensure a reliable source of whiskey, Barton purchased the Tom Moore distillery in Bardstown, Kentucky. Tom Moore had been producing neutral spirits for the military during World War II but had recently returned to the art of bourbon.

A colorful personality, Oscar Getz loved the heritage of the American Whiskey business. Over the years, he collected whiskey memorabilia and eventually opened a museum in their offices in Bardstown. The Oscar Getz Museum remains open in Bardstown to this day.

Boston Brands of Maine Distillery - 1933

Old Mr. Boston was originally a distillery located at 1010 Massachusetts Avenue in Boston, Massachusetts. It was founded in the Roxbury, Massachusetts neighborhood of Boston in 1933 by Irwin "Red" Benjamin and Hyman C. Berkowitz. Old Mr. Boston was renowned for its high quality cordials and collectable bottles such as the 1953 Inaugural Bottle and others.

The distillery was a major employer in the Boston area from the 1930's until its closing circa 1986. It experienced a series of owners and name changes over time, dropping "Old" and "Mr." and simply becoming "Boston." Boston joined the Sazerac company family in 2009.

Mr. Boston is also highly recognizable for "The Old Mr. Boston Official Bartender's Guide" a "must have" reference book used by both professionals and home bartenders. First published in 1935 in the early days after the repeal of Prohibition, the guide continues to be the "Cocktail Bible" for cocktail creation.

Buffalo Trace -1787

Hundreds of years ago, the mighty buffalo thundered across the land and carved paths known as traces. One such trace, the Great Buffalo Trace, led to the rugged banks of what is now known as the Kentucky River. Early adventurers followed the buffalo, and discovered some of Kentucky’s treasures, rich fertile land excellent for growing grain and abundant limestone waters. Distillation soon followed and in 1787 a working distillery started on the grounds, located in Frankfort, Ky. The first modern distillery was built on the site in 1857 and incorporated the use of steam power, a major advance in producing high quality bourbon. The distillery was later purchased by E.H. Taylor, Jr. one of Kentucky’s original Bourbon aristocrats. Astute and innovative, Taylor brought advancements to the facility as well as to the entire whiskey industry. By 1886, the distillery had introduced the nation's first climate-controlled warehousing for aging whiskey and had earned a worldwide reputation for producing America's finest bourbons. During Prohibition, the distillery existence was spared by the allowance of a permit – one of only a few issued in the country to continue distillation for medicinal purposes, therefore making it the oldest continuously operating bourbon distillery in the United States. In 1992 the Sazerac company purchased the distillery and renamed it Buffalo Trace Distillery, paying homage to the mighty buffalo that once roamed the area. The Distillery has won numerous awards both for the fine bourbons it produces as well as the distillery itself.

Fleischmann Distilling Company -1868

Charles Fleischmann was born in 1834 near Budapest Hungary and Maximillian Fleischmann in Austria in 1846. Charles came to America during the Civil War from Austria where he had managed a distillery. Once in America, he quickly saw the need for the improvement of baking and returned to Austria to acquire samples of yeast used in baking there. His brother Maximillian returned with him to America and the two formed a partnership with James Gaff, a Cincinnati distiller, in 1868. America had its first standardized yeast, revolutionizing the baking industry. A few years later in 1870, a subsidiary named the Fleischmann Distilling Company was founded and America had its first distilled gin as well.

The Great Centennial Exposition of 1876, the first official World's Fair in the United States, occurred in Philadelphia. Among exhibits and offerings at this event were Alexander Graham Bell's telephone, Remington's Typographic Machine (the typewriter), Heinz Ketchup and Fleischmann's Vienna Bakery. The response to the bakery was overwhelming and demand for the yeast caused the company to build another factory in Peekskill, NY and eventually a distillery there as well.

Fleischmann purchased the shares of the company when Gaff died in 1879. Over the next several decades, Fleischmann expanded their foray into spirits with Eastern Rye Whiskey, cordials, bourbon and vodka. In 1975, they were the first to introduce an American-made Amaretto – Amaretto di Amore.

Gemini Spirits & Wine Company - 1934

Gemini Spirits & Wine Company has a long tradition of bringing fine wines and spirits from around the world to discerning consumers in the United States. Founded in 1934 by Harry Feinberg as Monsieur Henri Wines, the company's early years were focused on the importation of predominantly first growth, exceptional French wines. A major departure took place at the 1964 World's Fair when the company launched Yago Sangria, which became the first 2 million case imported brand in the U.S.

PepsiCo acquired the business in 1972, along with rights to Stolichnaya, a 10,000 case brand at the time, and other respected brands such as Concha y Toro. The company flourished; during 1977-79, it was the only U.S. wine importer to have five 100,000 case brands. The company built Stolichnaya into a 1.2 million case brand by 1993. In early 1994, U.S. distribution rights for Stoli were moved to Carillon due to changes in the industry. 

In 1994 Sazerac acquired Monsiuer Henri Wines, and in 2007 the company was renamed Gemini Spirits & Wine. Sazerac is a New Orleans-based, privately held and family owned business. The resources, influence and support that Sazerac provides along with supplier partners that are aligned with the mission, vision and culture enables great brands to be built.

Gemini Spirits & Wine Company is headquartered in Chicago, Illinois.

Glenmore Distillery - 1871

James Thompson was born in County Derry, Northern Ireland in 1855. He came to America at the age of 16 and became very successful at selling whiskey to wholesalers and large retailers on a brokerage basis. However, he dreamed of venturing into the distilling business on his own. Thompson began his search for the perfect location to produce bourbon and discovered the Monarch Distillery on the banks of the Ohio River in Owensboro, KY. High quality corn and limestone water were readily available here, as well as easy transportation via the Ohio River. Thompson purchased the distillery and changed the name to Glenmore Distillery, named for the Glenmore Castle near his birthplace in Ireland.

After World War I, Frank B. Thompson and James P. Thompson, sons of the founder, joined the company. Over 1,000 brands existed at Glenmore by September of 1919 — the beginning of Prohibition. Glenmore was fortunate to be one of four distilleries in the country allowed to operate on a limited scale for medicinal necessity. When Prohibition was repealed on 1933, Glenmore entered a new era of distilling with over 31,000 barrels of aged whiskey and the ability to make more. Surviving tragedies such as flood and fire, the distillery went on to fill its two millionth barrel of whiskey in 1946. In 1973 they were producing 540 barrels a day. When distilling operations ceased in 1993 – bottling and warehousing continued at Glenmore.

In recent years, the distillery has been through many ownership and name changes. In March of 2009, the Sazerac Company purchased the distillery and reprised the name Glenmore Distillery. Glenmore boasts one of the largest and most modern bottling facilities in the country and continues to be a sizable employer and fixture in the city Owensboro.


Medley Distilling Company - 1634

The Medley Distilling Company traces its roots back to 1634 when John Medley immigrated to Maryland from England and established Medley's Neck on the banks of the Potomac River. Included in the items brought over from England was the family still.

Over 150 years later, John Medley VI joined the throngs of settlers traveling west, through the Cumberland Gap and settled in Washington County, Kentucky. The family still from England also accompanied him on his journey; leading to the founding of the Medley Distillery in 1812. In 1901, Medley purchased a Distillery known as the Daviess County Distillery. This company survived Prohibition by selling bonded whiskey to the American Medicinal Spirits Company.

The distillery went through several ownership changes from 1978 through today. In 1978, the Abraham Schecter family of Chicago purchased Medley, then just ten years later, it was acquired by the Glenmore Distillery. The distillery again changed hands in 1991 when it was acquired by United Distillers and was in turn closed in 1992. It has changed ownership since 1991 but remains closed today. The Medley brands that were produced at the distillery have been sold to various distilling companies, including the Sazerac Company.

The Wathen-Medley family has been distilling premium bourbon for 8 generations, beginning more than 100 years before prohibition. When the 21st amendment was ratified in the winter of 1933, Thomas Aquinas Medley began distilling and releasing unaged spirits to get started, much like the whiskey producers of today. Thomas Aquinas Medley first produced bourbon and sold it as a 30 day old spirit. This was a far cry from his aged bourbons of pre-prohibition, but people were ecstatic! Next came a 60 day bourbon. And so it went until sufficient reserves had been built and a sufficiently aged bourbon could be offered.

After Thomas Medley’s death in 1940, the next generation of Wathen-Medleys boys stepped up to bat. They realized that within their warehouse where their whiskey matured, were “sweet spots” that created a superb bourbon to the rest. While much of their whiskey was sold in bulk to larger whiskey houses, R. Wathen-Medley “cherry picked” these single barrels of superior quality and branded them under the family name, Wathen’s “Single Barrel” Straight Kentucky Bourbon. The very first Single Barrel on the market! Fast forward 70 years…

Today the company is run by the 7th and 8th generation Wathen-Medley boys, Sam and his Father Charles. A low rye mash bill is used to create these high quality Kentucky Straight Bourbons. The father and son team produce Wathen’s “Single Barrel” Straight Kentucky Bourbon and the recently released “Old Medley.” “Old Medley” 12 yr bourbon is a richer, sweeter style of bourbon with a lower ABV to allow the spirit and age of the whiskey to really shine. The name andthe recipe have risen from the ashes of American history and put back in bottle nearly a century later. The recipe remains unaltered although the Old Medley of today has had the opportunity to mature to its full potential.

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