The Brown-Forman Corporation, headquartered in Louisville, Kentucky may be the fourth largest Bourbon Distiller in the world but it is by far the largest Whiskey, wine and distilled spirit maker in North America. In fact, the company produces over 46 brands, labels and variations of Bourbon and North American whiskey. Some of the name brand lines that are produced by one of three distilleries include the world's best selling-whiskey Jack Daniels as well as Woodford Reserve, Old Forester, Early Times, Canadian Mist and Collingwood.

The company dates all the way back to 1870 when two brothers George Garvin Brown (a young pharmaceutical salesman) and J. T. S. Brown were convinced by a local doctor to seal their high-grade bourbon in a glass bottle for quality and consistency reasons. This was a first at the time since all bourbon and whiskey before this time was sold and distributed straight from the barrel. They named that bourbon after their doctor friend, Dr. William Forester and the brand was launched as "Old Forester."

Brown-Forman   owned   Woodford Reserve   has three  iconic Copper Pot Stills  which now identifies itself as their logo.

Brown-Forman owned Woodford Reserve has three iconic Copper Pot Stills which now identifies itself as their logo.

The company changed its name after the two brothers split up over a dispute related to production and the company Accountant George Brown bought a minority share in the business now called "Brown-Forman." In 1901 Forman dies and the Browns buy all of the outstanding shares from his family. In 1904 after graduating college Owsley Brown, the son of founder George Garvin Brown is convinced by his father to stay home and work at the family business. In 1917 Owsley Brown takes over as President of the company after George dies at age 70.

In 1920 Prohibition starts and Brown-Forman acquires one of six licenses from the federal government to produce medicinal whiskey. Those six were Brown-Forman, Glenmore, Frankfort Distilleries, Schenley, American Medicinal Spirits and A. Ph. Stitzel Distillery. Of the six, Brown-Forman is the only one in operation today that is in the same name and form as then.

Woodford Reserve Distillery   on a cool March morning and   Whiskey University’s Founder   and lead instructor   Professor Colonel Craig Duncan   who teaches every one of the the 48 courses available at Whiskey University.

Woodford Reserve Distillery on a cool March morning and Whiskey University’s Founder and lead instructor Professor Colonel Craig Duncan who teaches every one of the the 48 courses available at Whiskey University.

In 1923 the company acquired Early Times' entire stock of whiskey and moved it a U. S. Government supervised warehouse in Louisville. This insured that Brown-Forman had enough inventory to sell during some very lean years and survive prohibition.  In 1941 Brown-Forman purchases the Labrot & Graham Distillery in Versailles, Kentucky from the successors of Elijah Pepper that was opened way back in 1812. That distillery years later in 1996 would reopen to distill Woodford Reserve. In 1946 the company acquires Bluegrass Cooperage, the world's largest supplier of whiskey barrels.

In 1951, Owsley Brown retires and the third generation of Browns are ushered in. W. L. Lyons Brown takes over as Chairman of the Board while George Garvin Brown, III takes over as President. In 1953 Early Times becomes the best selling bourbon in the world.  1956 was an extremely good year for Brown-Forman as they purchased the century-old New York City importer Garneau Company and the Jack Daniel's Distillery in Lynchburg, Tennessee.


In 1965 Brown-Forman bought both Korbel Champagne and California Brandy. In 1966 George Garvin Brown takes over at the home office and moves the headquarters to a huge new facility on Dixie Highway in Louisville, Kentucky. Meanwhile, W. L. assumes the Chairman's position over at Jack Daniels. In 1971 the company acquires Canadian Mist headquartered in Collingwood, Ontario. In 1973 the company undertakes a huge effort to completely renovate the Labrot & Graham Distillery in Versailles, Kentucky.   In 1975, the fourth generation's W. L. Lyons Brown, Jr. takes over the company as Chairman from both George the III and W. L. Sr. (his father) and appoints Lincoln Henderson as their Master Distiller.  In 1976, current Master Distiller Chris Morris joins the company at age 18 as an intern while studying business at Bellarmine University.

In 1979 Brown-Forman purchases the New Orleans based Southern Comfort line. In 1983 the Corporation buys Lenox China, Crystal and giftware and century and the half old Hartman Luggage Company out of London, England.


In 1988 Brown-Forman releases its first super premium brand ever in Gentleman Jack Rare Tennessee Whiskey. In 1989 the company purchases North America's oldest luggage company when they buy Crouch & Fitzgerald of Madison Avenue in New York. In 1990 acquires the world's oldest continually operated winery in Brolio Wines, Italy's largest producer of Chianti. In the same year the Lenox China subsidiary purchases Baltimore-based Kirk Stieff Company, North America's oldest silver and pewter smiths and creator of the famous Preakness Trophy called the "Woodlawn Vase."

In 1991 Brown-Forman acquires one of the world most famous whisky makers in Glenmorangie Single Highland Malt Scotch. In 1992 they purchase Fetzer Vineyards in California, establishes its wine division which is instantly the fourth largest wine producer on the continent.  Owsley Brown II is elected as the company's new Chairman in 1996 and acquires exclusive rights to distribute Finlandia Vodka and buys 20% of the company. In that same year, Master Distiller Lincoln Henderson unveils the popular small-batch brand Woodford Reserve and then appoints Chris Morris as Apprentice Master Distiller. Jack Daniel's Single Barrel is ushered in as the company's first "Top Shelf Brand" in 1997. In 1998 Woodford Reserve is announced as "the official Bourbon of the Breeders' Cup."

In 2001 Brown-Forman becomes the sole distributor of Appleton Rum. In 2003 the company changes the old Labrot & Graham Distillery's name to the "Woodford Reserve Distillery." In 2006 the Corporation purchases Chambord Liqueur and the stockholders appoint George Garvin Brown, IV and Martin S. Brown, Jr. to the Board of Directors becoming the fifth generation of Browns to oversee the company. In 2007 Brown-Forman promotes Garvin to Chairman and acquires Don Eduardo Tequila. In 2011 the corporation buys Maximus Vodka and releases Jack Daniel's Tennessee Honey. In 2012 they open a second Cooperage in Decatur, Alabama to exclusively supply the Lynchburg Distillery because of the overwhelming worldwide growth of Jack Daniel's. In 2013 Brown-Forman announce its agreement to be the exclusive distributor of Jägermeister. In 2014 the company expands its Woodford Reserve Distillery tripling its output capacity and officially opens its visitors center and tasting room.

in 2015 Brown-Forman opens two new buildings on "Whiskey Row" and christens it the Old Forester Distillery on West Main Street in Louisville. In that same year, the company buys Slane Castle Irish Whiskey and a new stave mill in Spencer, Indiana to supply its cooperages. Also in 2015 Jack Daniel's releases a new brand in Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Fire. In 2016 Jack Daniel's releases its first non-corn based distillate in over 100 years in  Jack Daniel’s Single Barrel Rye and invests $140 million to construct two new barrelhouses. They also purchase three scotch brands in  GlenDronach, BenRiach, and Glenglassaugh. Campbell P. Brown is elected to the Board of Directors and brings in the sixth generation of Browns running the company.

Click On first Slide to see all of Brown-Forman's North American Whiskies

All photos of Brown-Forman are provided by Brown-Forman Distillery