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The history of Diageo begins in the 18th and 19th century, with the creation of some of our most valuable and well-recognised spirit brands. Our story races through a twentieth century noted for expansion, innovation and diversification, before entering the 21st century as the business we know today - producing the world's greatest selection of premium drinks.

Here you can see the origins of our most recognised brands and key dates in Diageo's history.

Brand origins


1749 Giacomo Justerini's arrival in London leads to the formation of Johnson & Justerini - later to become Justerini & Brooks - wine merchants and blenders of the famous J&B whisky range
1759 In 1759 Arthur Guinness signed a 9000-year lease on a disused brewery at St James's Gate in Dublin deciding soon after to brew a variation of the porter stout popular in London at the time
1794 Oban distillery fires its stills in the West Highlands. During the next century, Oban is followed by Lagavulin, Talisker, Glenkinchie, Cragganmore and Dalwhinnie; all six distilleries are still operating today. Representing six unique styles of single malt whisky, they have been dubbed the 'Classic Malts of Scotland'
1795 In 1795 Jose Cuervo receive a licence to produce his now legendary tequila in Mexico. In 1812 the Cuervo family built Fabrica La Rojena, now the oldest distillery in Latin America. Soon they were selling their tequila across Mexico and by 1873 it was being exported to the United States
1820 Fifteen-year-old John Walker establishes his small Kilmarnock grocery shop in 1820. Soon after he applied the principles of tea blending to malt whiskies, producing a blend that evolved into the world's most popular whisky - Johnnie Walker
1830 Clergyman's son Charles Tanqueray abandons his family profession and establishes a small gin distillery in London's Bloomsbury district
1886 In 1886 Piotr Smirnov was made 'Official Purveyor' of vodka to the imperial Russian court. His pure, charcoal-filtered vodka became the toast of the Czars. Later, one of Smirnov's sons escaped Russia's revolution and restarted the family business in Paris, adopting the francophone name Smirnoff. The pure Smirnoff vodka took America by storm in the 1930's and went on to become a global icon
1974 Baileys Irish Cream liqueur is created in Ireland. This totally new drink used a unique blending process to combine Irish spirits with rich dairy cream. Today, it remains the most popular new spirit product of the past thirty years
1984 During the 1980s America developed a taste for rum bearing the name of Captain Henry Morgan - the British buccaneer, who became Governor of Jamaica from 1680 to 1688. Captain Morgan rum was already popular around the world, but it was the 1984 introduction of an Original Spiced Rum variant that made the Captain a Stateside success

Our history

2005 Diageo acquires Bushmills Irish whiskey. The Bushmills Distillery is the oldest licensed distillery in the world built in 1608

Launch of Captain Morgan Tattoo

Talisker Distillery celebrates its 175th anniversary

Launch of Archers Vea in Great Britain

Diageo acquires the Chalone wine group

Launch of J&B-6
2004 Diageo reorganises its business into three divisions: Diageo Europe, Diageo North America and Diageo International

Restructure of Diageo's United States joint venture with Moet Hennessey
2002 Diageo celebrated its fifth year. To mark this special event, Diageo executives rang the New York Stock Exchange opening bell
2001 In December the U.S Federal Trade Commission issued a consent order permitting Diageo and Pernod Ricard to acquire the Seagram spirits and wine business
2000 Paul Walsh becomes Chief Executive Officer

Diageo undertakes a strategic re-alignment of its beverage alcohol business

Lord Blyth of Rowington succeeds Sir Anthony Greener as Chairman of Diageo plc

Launch of Tanqueray No.TEN in the United States
1999 Launch of Smirnoff Ice in Britain, closely followed by launches in Ireland, Canary Islands, Australia and South Africa

Guinness Draught in a Bottle is introduced (August)
1997 GrandMet and Guinness merge; United Distillers & Vintners (UDV) created from the integration of the IDV and UD businesses
1994 Kilkenny Irish cream ale is launched

Launch of Smirnoff Mule

Guinness and LVMH cross-shareholding restructured. Guinness now has 34% of Moët Hennessy (drinks division of LMVH). LVMH retains a stake in Guinness PLC
1993 Guinness acquires Desnoes & Geddes, the Jamaican brewer of Red Stripe lager
1990 Guinness/LVMH cross-shareholding increased to 24%
1989 British launch of Guinness Draught in cans, using the famous 'widget'
1988 Guinness and LVMH take a 12% cross-shareholding in one another
1987 Launch of the Classic Malts range

United Distillers is formed, combining the businesses of DCL and Arthur Bell & Sons
1986 Guinness acquires the Distillers Company
1985 Guinness acquires Arthur Bell & Sons
1974 Launch of Baileys Irish cream liqueur
1963 Guinness opens first brewery in Africa, at Ikeja in Nigeria
1962 W&A Gilbey merges with United Wine Traders to form International Distillers & Vintners (IDV)
1909 Tom Brown draws the first Johnnie Walker striding man figure

Launch of Johnnie Walker Red Label and Johnnie Walker Black Label Scotch whisky
1898 Knockando distillery founded Alexander Gordon & Co merger with Charles Tanqueray & Co, forming Tanqueray Gordon & Co
1896 Dalwhinnie distillery founded
1886 Smirnoff becomes the sole supplier of vodka to the Russian Imperial Court
1877 Formation of the Distillers Company Ltd (DCL), a combination of six lowland grain whisky distilleries
1869 Cragganmore distillery founded
1857 Walter and Alfred Gilbey establish themselves as London wine merchants; they establish a gin distillery in Camden Town in 1851
1851 Justerini & Brooks joins forces with Twiss Brownings and Hallowes Ltd - agents for Hennessy cognac since 1840 - to form United Wine Traders
1837 Glenkinchie distillery founded
1831 Alfred Brooks purchases Johnson & Justerini and re-names it Justerini & Brooks
1830 Talisker distillery founded

Charles Tanqueray formulates his recipe for gin
1825 Thomas Sandeman sets up a spirit and wine business in Perth. Arthur Bell joins business in 1837 and later takes over
1820 John Walker sets up a grocery shop in Kilmarnock, Scotland
1817 Lagavulin distillery founded
1795 José Maria Guadalupe Cuervo received the first licence to produce tequila
1794 Oban distillery established
1779 Johnson and Justerini start selling Scotch whisky
1769 Alexander Gordon sets up his gin business in London
1759 Arthur Guinness establishes his brewery in Dublin
1749 Giacomo Justerini arrives in London from Italy and forms the Johnson and Justerini partnership - predecessor of Justerini and Brooks