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Justerini & Brooks Profile
Founded in London in 1749 as a producer and retailer of liqueurs, the company soon moved into the wine and spirits market. Creating its own in-house blends from whiskies sourced in Scotland, the company developed the J&B Club blended Scotch whisky. However, it was not until a lighter blend of Scotch whisky, J&B Rare, was developed for the American market in the mid 1930s that the company found large, international sales. By the late 1960s it was selling over two million cases in the US alone, and today – as part of the Diageo Scotch whisky portfolio – is one of the most successful blended Scotches in the world.
Justerini & Brooks History
In 1749 Giacomo Justerini arrived in London from his native Bologna in Italy in the passionate pursuit of opera singer Margherita Bellino, with whom he had fallen madly in love. Sadly, it appears his feelings were not reciprocated, though with the financial assistance of George Johnson he set up a business, Johnson & Justerini, making liqueurs using recipes supplied by his distiller uncle back in Italy. The partnership was so successful that Giacomo was able to retire to Italy just 12 years later, with George’s son Augustus taking his place in the company.
In 1831 the third generation of the Johnson family, Augustus II, retired and sold the company to Alfred Brooks. Alfred subsequently dropped the Johnson name and added his own, to create Justerini & Brooks Ltd. In 1876 Brooks retired, leaving his son-in-law, William Cole, to take over the company. As Scotch whisky grew more popular in London, due in part to the lack of brandy caused by the outbreak of phylloxera in France, Justerini & Brooks became one of the first London merchants to purchase mature and bonded whisky stocks in Scotland. Its aim was to create its own blended Scotch whiskies, one of the most popular being J&B Club.
In 1900 William Cole’s son, also named Alfred, sold the business to a company specially formed to purchase the business.
The end of Prohibition in the US saw the beginnings of a large period of growth for the company. Correctly predicting the repeal of the act, Eddie Tatham, who had joined the company after the First World War, visited the US to determine the potential of a post-Prohibition era. Realising that the American palate would appreciate a lighter style of Scotch whisky, the company developed the J&B Rare blend. In 1937 the company signed up a New York based agent – The Paddington Corporation. It had been formed by an ex-Prohibition enforcement officer, Charlie Guttmann, and by the mid-1950s was selling 25,000 cases a year, mainly on the east coast. By 1962 the brand had gone nationwide, and the million case milestone had been met.
During this period, Justerini & Brooks had merged with a wine and spirit importer, Twiss & Browning & Hallowes Ltd., to form United Wine Traders, which also incorporated wine merchant Charlie, Richards & Co. into the group.
In 1962 the company merged with W&A Gilbey to form International Distillers and Vintners (IDV). This opened up access to Gilbey’s Scotch whisky distilleries (the first time J&B had actually owned any), and identified new opportunities for the J&B Rare brand in Europe, Australasia and South Africa. Soon after the brand became the second largest Scotch in the world.
The following year, partly in order to meet this increase in demand, the company opened a new blending and bottling plant, Strathleven Bond, in partnership with Hays Wharf Ltd., which was capable of producing five million cases a year.
In 1972 IDV was purchased by British brewer Watney Mann, which a few months later was itself taken over by Grand Metropolitan. In 1976 the Scotch whisky operations of Grand Metropolitan, previously known as the IDV Scotch Whisky Operations Unit, was renamed J&B (Scotland) Ltd., to reflect the company’s heritage.
Justerini & Brooks was included in Grand Metropolitan’s merger with Guinness PLC in 1997 to form Diageo PLC. Its J&B Rare is still one of the best-selling Scotch whiskies in the world.
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