Major distilling industry figure dies

Owsley Brown II
• From The New York Times

Owsley Brown II, who expanded his family’s Kentucky liquor company to reach a global market for its brands, among them Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Whiskey, Southern Comfort and Finlandia vodka, died on Monday in Louisville, KY. He was 69.

Matthew Barzun, a son-in-law, said the cause was complications of pneumonia.

Mr. Brown was a former chief executive of Brown-Forman, the company founded in Louisville in 1870 by his great-grandfather George Garvin Brown. The company’s first brand, Old Forester Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whisky, was America’s first bottled bourbon and remains one of Brown-Forman’s strongest sellers.

Mr. Brown worked his way up the ranks of the family business, becoming chief executive in 1993. Two years later, he added the title of chairman.

Besides expanding into foreign markets under Mr. Brown’s leadership, Brown-Forman also introduced a number of new products. In 1995, it released Tropical Freezes, which the company calls the first blended freezer cocktails. The drink, which comes in a foil package, was another big seller. In 2002, Brown-Forman joined with Miller Brewing to produce Jack Daniel’s Hard Cola.

But he resisted calls for merging Brown-Forman with another company. Speaking in June, he said mergers could “breed arrogance and complacency, and even a sense of entitlement.”

“One thing seems clear to me,” he said, “pursuing size for its own sake is a very poor choice.”

[Go here for the remainder of the obituary.]

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