Portland-distilled Aviation Gin has been acquired by the world's largest spirits maker in a deal worth up to $610 million.
Diageo, which is headquartered in London, announced yesterday that it has purchased Davos Brands, the New York marketing firm that has owned the Aviation brand since 2016, adding to a portfolio that already includes Smirnoff, Johnnie Walker and Captain Morgan, as well as other recognizable gin labels such as Gordon's and Tanqueray.
While Davos' other spirits, Astral Tequila, Sombra Mezcal and TYKU Sake, are included in the deal, Aviation—now the second-largest "super premium gin" in America—is the focal point.
"We are delighted to announce this transaction, which supports our participation in the super premium gin segment in the United States," Diageo CEO Ivan Menezes said in a statement. "We are confident that Aviation American Gin will continue to shape and drive the growth of super premium gin in North America."
Aviation started out as the flagship product of House Spirits, which moved from Corvallis to Southeast Portland's Distillery Row in 2005. In 2016, co-owners Christian Krogstad, Thomas Mooney and Ryan Magarian sold the brand to Davos and put the money toward expanding their whiskey production.
House Spirits has continued to distill Aviation on a contract basis, though it is unclear if the sale to Diageo will affect that arrangement.
The brand's profile raised considerably in 2018, when actor Ryan Reynolds purchased a stake in the company and began appearing in wryly clever ads for the product: According to Diageo, sales of Aviation grew 100 percent in 2019.
Following the sale, Reynolds will maintain his interest in Aviation.
"Growing the brand with my company, Maximum Effort Marketing, has been among the most fulfilling projects I've ever been involved with," Reynolds said in a statement. "I want to thank Diageo for their incredible team and passion. We're so excited for the next chapter of Aviation Gin, which, I promise, will require just as little reading."
In typical Reynolds style, the Deadpool star also reportedly set up his work email with a lengthy out-of-office message referencing the deal: "In related news, I just learned what an 'earn out' is… And I'd like to take this opportunity to apologize to everyone I told to go fuck themselves in the last 24 hours."
While the $610 million price tag is eye-popping, it's somehow not even that close to being the biggest purchase of a celebrity-owned liquor Diageo has been involved in: In 2017, the beverage giant acquired George Clooney's tequila brand, Casamigos, for $1 billion.