Mick Harris, President of McCormick Distilling, on the acquisition of Broker’s Gin and the company’s legacy

%{[ data-embed-type=”image” data-embed-id=”” data-embed-element=”aside” ]}%

Last week, McCormick Distilling announced that it was purchasing Broker’s Gin Ltd., which produces the award-winning Broker’s London Dry Gin. This is big news for the Weston company. Though McCormick has been producing gin for years, Broker’s marks its first entry into the premium imported category, making this product one of the most prestigious in the McCormick portfolio. (In 2010, Broker’s London Dry Gin became the first gin ever to score 97 out of 100 in the distinguished Ultimate Spirits Challenge.)

This news follows the announcement that in December, McCormick will begin producing bourbon at the original distilling site in Weston after 30 years; Holladay 1856 bourbon, so-named for the year of establishment and founder Ben Holladay, should be available by 2018. And in April, McCormick will re-open its original distillery for public tours for the first time in 20 years.

I dialed up Mick Harris, President of McCormick Distilling, to discuss the big changes that the company has been making.

The Pitch: Tell me about this acquisition. Did Broker’s just sort of fall into your lap, or was this a deliberate purchase that you sought out?

The brand became available for sale, and we’d known the founders of Broker’s Gin — Martin and Andy Dawson — for many years. They’ve worked with us on many McCormick brands outside of the U.S. since 1993. They started building their brand in 1998, and we’ve just had a long association with them. So that’s how, when it became time for them to seek different situations for themselves, we sort of stepped in. Both Martin and Andy are at points in their careers where they felt that the brand would be better served by an owner with a little more reach. And we were a natural for them. 
%{[ data-embed-type=”image” data-embed-id=”” data-embed-element=”aside” ]}%
McCormick Distilling has been around since 1856. You’ve had domestic gin for a while, but this is the first time you’ve moved into the premium imported gin category. Why was this an important move for you?

So, gin is the only spirit that was historically produced in the U.K., and when you think of gin, for the most part, it’s London Dry. So that’s the birth place of gin. And McCormick has a long history here in Weston and in the Kansas City area, and that history is varied. It goes from Ben Holladay and the bourbon business back in the 1850s to the value-priced spirits with McCormick labels. Back in 1993, we had our first premium introductions with Tequila Rose and the eco-friendly 360 Vodka and McCormick Irish Cream. Those were some more premium, better quality items. Broker’s Gin is certainly an addition to that push.

Obviously, Broker’s has been a respected name in the gin world since it was introduced in the ’90s. What changes, if any, do you foresee making to the brand, now that it’s in your family?

What’s gonna come with Broker’s from its its association with McCormick is wider availability both in the U.S. and on a worldwide stage. The former owners of the brand were limited in their resources and limited in where and how they did business, so there’s a lot of opportunity. What’s going to happen with McCormick is that you’re going to be able to find Broker’s Gin in more places. 

In September, you announced that you would be moving your whiskey production over to the original site and would begin producing bourbon again on the original site for the first time in 30 years.

Yes! Our new still was installed last week — a 50-foot tall copper still — so we will begin producing bourbon in the same facility with the same water and the same water source as they did back in the 1850s. We’ll produce our first batches in December. There will be different offerings off the still — we’ll be offering some moonshine type of products, just raw distilled products that’ll become available immediately. Some corn whiskeys that’ll become available in about six months, and our bourbon whiskeys will be available three years from this December.

With all of that — the Broker’s acquisition, the bourbon — It seems like McCormick is starting to make some big moves right now. You’ve also got a new distillery in the works, opening for tours in April. What has been the impetus for all these new projects?

In order to stay relevant, you have to change, and we’re just adapting. It’s a much different spirits market today than it ever has been in the past, with the emergence of local brands and people wanting to know where their food and beverage was produced and how it was produced. We have a tremendous local history, and we’re just using it some.

Tell me about the changes you’ve noticed in the last 5 years with the craft cocktail movement sort of exploding in KC particularly. Maybe you can share your thoughts on the shift in distilling practices across the country.

For me it’s as simple as people wanting to understand exactly what goes into what they eat and drink. They want fresh, which a lot of times means local, and it means control. It’s all about knowing what’s going in to what you’re eating and drinking, and local is certainly a big part of that. I think that explains a large part of the craft movement, where people are willing to pay a little bit more. You can’t produce things as cost effectively as you can on a large industrial basis, but oftentimes you get better quality products from that process. We think we have what we’re offering is all the benefits of craft with the capacity and reach of a lot more people to enjoy our products.

See also
J. Rieger & Co.’s head distiller, Nathan Perry, talks up the new Midwestern Dry Gin
With J. Rieger & Co. Whiskey, Ryan Maybee resurrects a KC classic
360 Vodka introduces limited-edition, commemorative Royals-branded bottle

Categories: News