Molson Coors Beverage Co., Chicago, has reached an agreement to acquire Georgetown, Ky.-based Blue Run Spirits, an award-winning producer of finely crafted bourbon and rye whiskies. The deal represents another step in Molson Coors’ evolution as a total beverage company while providing Blue Run with resources to continue its growth.

Since its launch in October 2020, Blue Run has won numerous awards, including Best Small Batch Bourbon — 11 Years Old & Older and Best Single Barrel Bourbon —11 Years Old & Older at the 2021 San Francisco World Spirits Competition, and most recently was awarded Best High Rye Bourbon at the 2023 New Orleans Spirits Competition. It also has gained international acclaim among whiskey experts and branding aficionados who laud Blue Run’s divergence from  traditional industry norms, which Forbes has called “sneakerizing the bourbon industry,” with premium whiskies that generate intense interest with each release, it notes.

As its first spirits acquisition, the addition of Blue Run boosts the Molson Coors’ footprint in spirits as it continues to evolve from its storied history as a beer company and premiumize its portfolio, the company says. In tandem with the acquisition, Molson Coors has established Coors Spirits Co., an expansion of its existing spirits business, which will house Blue Run, Five Trail Blended American Whiskey, Barmen 1873 Bourbon and future innovation, it notes. This acquisition will more than double the size of Molson Coors’ spirits team, further supporting the company’s premiumization strategy, it says.

Molson Coors entered the whiskey space with the 2021 launch of Five Trail Blended American Whiskey (which won double gold at the 2022 San Francisco World Spirits Competition) and the 2022 introduction of Barmen 1873 Bourbon.

“Molson Coors has been on a journey to broaden beyond our beer roots and build powerful brands in growing categories, and Blue Run joining us is an exciting next step as we establish Coors Spirits Co.,” said Michelle St. Jacques, chief commercial officer at Molson Coors, in a statement. “Blue Run has accomplished in three years what many brands hope to do in a generation and has done it at the luxury end of the whiskey category. Importantly, we are committed to maintaining Blue Run’s well-known quality, design and innovation as we continue to grow our spirits portfolio.”

Currently available in 31 states, Blue Run, with its trademark butterfly medallion on the bottle, can be found at retail and on-premise accounts in every region of the United States and online. In March, Blue Run announced plans to build a distillery in Kentucky. Those plans will continue as part of the Molson Coors family. In addition, Blue Run has three new whiskies slated for late summer/fall release.

Blue Run’s founders, Mike Montgomery, Tim Sparapani, Jesse McKnight and Andy Brown will all remain with the brand. Montgomery will take on an expanded role with Molson Coors as its vice president of Coors Spirits Co., Bourbon Hall of Famer Jim Rutledge will continue to serve as Blue Run’s distillery consultant and liquid advisor, and recognized whiskey community rising star Shaylyn Gammon will serve as whiskey curator for Coors Spirits Co. David Coors will continue to lead Molson Coors’ full-strength spirits strategy and business development as executive chair of Coors Spirits Co.

“Since launching Blue Run, we have always strived to do things a little differently to truly embrace today’s younger, more diverse generation of whiskey drinkers,” Montgomery said in a statement. “We are humbled by how the whiskey community has embraced our vision and that Molson Coors wants to join and support us in this journey.”

Blue Run was represented by Samos Capital, Southlake, Texas, in the transaction and is legally represented by Foley and Lardner LLP, Milwaukee, and Kaplan, Johnson, Abate and Bird LLP, Louisville, in addition to being supported by Joseph Goode and Cody Matthews of Truist Bank of Charlotte, N.C. Molson Coors was legally represented by Quarles and Brady LLP, Milwaukee.