- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 14, 2014

The nation’s leading whiskey operations, Jim Beam and Maker’s Mark, may be joining business hands with Japan, but bourbon executives vow the product taste won’t change — and neither will the company’s historic purity standards.

Suntory Holdings Ltd., a Japanese company, just announced it was acquiring Beam Inc. and its portfolio of whiskey, cognac, tequila and vodka, The Associated Press reported. But that $13.62 billion deal won’t change the taste of the products, industry insiders promise. Rather, the deal is only akin to what’s in place with foreign investors for the classic Wild Turkey and Four Roses brands, which haven’t suffered in terms of product degradation, they say.

“Ultimately, what the consumer should be interested in is the product,” said Chuck Cowdery, an American whiskey writer and the author of “Bourbon Straight,” in the AP report. “There’s absolutely no reason that the product should change. So the consumer really doesn’t have anything to be concerned about.”

The alcohol is largely exclusive to Kentucky, with some distillers touting family ties to the business as far back as 1795.

The overseas connection is purely a business decision based on market realities and the desire to grow, industry executives say.

“We run the distillery exactly the way we always ran it,” said Jim Rutledge, a master distiller at Four Roses, which was acquired in 2002 by the Japanese-based Kirin Brewery Co., AP reported. “Nothing has changed except ownership.”

Meanwhile, Beam company executives say operations will continue as always.

“It’s business as usual,” said a spokesman for the company, Clarkson Hine. “[We’ll] keep doing what we’re doing.”

• Cheryl K. Chumley can be reached at cchumley@washingtontimes.com.

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