Justerini & Brooks

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Justerini & Brooks Ltd.
IndustryManufacturing and distillation of liquors and wine
London, United Kingdom
ProductsDistilled and blended liquors, wine

Justerini & Brooks is a fine wine and spirits merchants founded in St. James's in 1749, originally to provide wine and spirits to the aristocratic households of London. The firm has been a supplier to every British monarch[1] since the coronation of King George III in 1761.

Today, Justerini & Brooks sells to private collectors based in 49 different countries, as well as a number of hotels and restaurants across the United Kingdom.[2] The company is known for its extensive fine wine portfolio, and represents many of the world's leading winemakers and chateaux, including Château Pétrus and Château Lafleur in Bordeaux, Comte Liger Belair, Marquis d’Angerville, and Domaines Roumier, Mugnier, Bruno Clair, Leroy, Rousseau, Rouget, Coche Dury amongst others in Burgundy. Didier Dagueneau in the Loire, Domaine Chave and Chêne Bleu in the Rhône, Weingut Joh. Jos. Prüm in Germany as well as Altare, Roagna, Voerzio and Azelia in Barolo.

The firm is known for creating and developing its blended house whisky, J&B Rare.[2] Justerini & Brooks is owned by multinational Diageo plc.[2]


Early years[edit]

In 1749, Giacomo Justerini (or Giustarini) from Bologna, fell in love with a soprano and followed her to London, bringing with him a number of recipes for liqueurs created by his father, who was a distiller. He met an English investor, George Johnson, and together they founded the wine merchants Johnson & Justerini. In 1760, Justerini returned to his native land after selling the business to Johnson. Johnson continued to grow the business, naming his grandson, Augustus, as a partner, and building relationships with European suppliers from Bordeaux, Cadiz, Mayence, Reims, Genoa, Dijon and Palermo.[3]

Justerini & Brooks crest

The next year, King George III honoured the firm with its first Royal Warrant, which has been granted by eight consecutive British Monarchs since that date.[4]

George Johnson was killed by a runaway horse colliding with his sedan chair in Piccadilly in 1785, while returning from a lunch with the Duke of Queensberry, leaving Augustus Johnson solely in charge of the company. In 1790, Johnson & Justerini's offices suffered major damage by a fire in the adjoining opera house—Her Majesty's Theatre. Augustus Johnson's son, Augustus II, is made a partner in recognition of his efforts to extinguish the flames.[3]


When King George III died in 1820, Augustus Johnson II continued stocking the royal cellars, often delivering up to seven wagon-loads of liquor at a time.

In 1831, Johnson sold the business to Alfred Brooks. A gentleman of means - it was said that his St John's Wood gardens were sufficiently large to include a snipe shoot. The firm was renamed Justerini & Brooks, and its headquarters were established in Regent's Park. Charles Dickens was an early customer.[5]

When Queen Victoria was declared Empress of India in 1858, Justerini & Brooks immediately saw a commercial opportunity and began selling to many of the country's reigning Princes and Maharajahs. Furthering its international expansion, Justerini & Brooks opened a New York office in 1866.

In 1876, Alfred Brooks handed the company over to his son-in-law, William Cole. Cole laid down large stocks of young wines, seeing them as essential to the business' success.[3]

Seeing the potential of blended whisky, J&B was one of the first London spirits merchants to buy up stocks of mature malt whisky and create its own "house" blend. This was named Club. William Cole sold Justerini & Brooks to Anderson & Newbiggin in 1889, shortly before his death. The company began selling a specially curated Champagne, 'Sarcey', to King Edward VII in 1908. In 1914 (or at the end of World War I[6]), the firm debuted its cellarage service for its private collectors.[3] Justerini & Brooks now stores circa £200 million of its customers reserves, which is held with Cellarers at Octavian's warehouse in Corsham, Wiltshire.

During Prohibition, Justerini & Brooks was promoting a brand they had created specifically for the American market, J&B Rare, and when Prohibition came to an end in 1933, their activities began to pay dividends in and around New York City.

During World War II, pre-war wine prices inflated 20 times over, but J&B continued to sell bottles at 1939 prices as a gesture of goodwill and solidarity.[3]

In 1976 Justerini & Brooks' managing director Geoffrey Jameson opened up the Hong Kong wine market with a series of lavish dinners held at both the Mandarin Oriental Hotel and the Peninsula hotel. A focus on Singapore followed in 1980s, which has continued to the present day.

Justerini & Brooks launched the charity conservation programme "J&B Care for the Rare" in 1992, an international initiative to save rare species from extinction.[3] It is now involved with Prince William's conservation charity Tusk Trust.


In 2001, J&B became the exclusive agent for Domaine du Comte Liger-Belair in the UK and Singapore.[7] In 2008, Hew Blair became J&B chairman, having joined the business in 1974, and being the buying director since 1982. In 2011 Hew Blair was appointed President of the Royal Warrant Holders Association and earned a seat on the Buckingham Palace Wine Committee.[3]

In 2012, Chadwick Delaney became managing director of Justerini & Brooks, having been Sales Director since 2003.

In 2014, Justerini & Brooks became UK distributors for both Chateau Lafleur and Petrus.

Mergers and acquisitions[edit]

Justerini & Brooks has been involved in a number of mergers and acquisitions during its lifetime.


  • 1749 – The merchant was founded by Giacomo Justerini and George Johnson under the name Johnson & Justerini.
  • 1760 – Justerini moves back to Bologna, selling his share of the business to Johnson. Johnson and his son Augustus are now in control.
  • 1831 – Augustus Johnson sells Johnson & Justerini to Alfred Brooks, who renames the business Justerini & Brooks.
  • 1889 – Brooks' son-in-law William Cole, now in charge of the business, sold Justerini & Brooks to Anderson & Newbiggin.
  • 1962 – Justerini & Brooks merged with gin producer W&A Gilbey to form International Distillers & Vintners (IDV).
  • 1972 – IDV becomes part of Grand Metropolitan, which then merged with Guinness to become Diageo.[3]

Wine and spirits[edit]

Justerini & Brooks whisky bottle

Justerini & Brooks are known for their selection of fine wines,[citation needed] as well as for their J&B Rare blended whisky brand.

Fine wines[edit]

Justerini & Brooks are an importer of domaine-bottled fine wines from Burgundy, Barolo and Germany into the UK.[8] As well as having long-standing relationships with the finest properties in Bordeaux, the Rhône, the Loire and Champagne.

Justerini & Brooks' fine wine list includes wines from all over the world.

Old World wines include Alsace, Beaujolais, Bordeaux, Burgundy, Loire, and Rhone. New World varieties include wines from Australia, New Zealand, California, Argentina, Chile, South Africa, and the United Kingdom.


J&B Rare Blend, the blended scotch whisky brand, is a blend of forty-two malt and grain whiskies. It has an ABV of 40%. It includes the single malts Knockando, Auchroisk and Glen Spey.[9]

From 1997 to 2018, Justerini & Brooks had lost the distribution of the J&B whisky in the UK.[10]


Justerini & Brooks' current heritage with the sport dates back to the 1980s, when they simultaneously launched their involvement in England, and also in India. In India, Justerini & Brooks launched the ‘J&B Baroda Cup’ in Delhi - an international 12-goal event. The J&B Baroda Cup was the first time that sponsorship had been introduced to the game of polo in India, which until then had been regarded as a military sport. Justerinis & Brooks' title endorsement, alongside that of a small group of highly distinguished influencers[who?], brought the sport to increased eminence in Delhi, and polo in India became increasingly synonymous with luxury amongst an international elite.

During the same period back in the UK, Justerini & Brooks sponsored the J&B Pro International polo tournament, with a J&B polo team captained by James Lucas - HRH Prince Harry's former coach, and which he took to victory in 1992.

The company's involvement in polo continues. It is the global wine partner to British Polo Day, supporting their exhibitions that tour the world annually - visiting countries that include France, Germany, India, China, Indonesia, Thailand, Singapore, Australia, Dubai, Abu Dhabi and the USA. Justerini & Brooks also continues to support polo in the UK with its partnership at the Beaufort Polo Club in Gloucestershire, sponsoring both its high goal tournaments, the Prince of Wales Cup and the Arthur Lucas Cup.[citation needed]


When Giacomo Justerini and George Johnson founded the company in 1749, they set up their offices at Number 2 Pall Mall, in the St James's area of London's City of Westminster. The business remained at this location for over 200 years, surviving damage from two fires at the adjoining opera house, Her Majesty's Theatre.[3]

In 1954, 205 years after it was founded, Justerini & Brooks moved out of Pall Mall to set up an office in Bond Street, with a second office in Holborn Viaduct. 15 years later, in 1969, Justerini & Brooks relocated once more, with the wine side of the business moving to St James's Street, close to where the business was founded. The whiskey side of the company moved to York Gate, Regent's Park.[3]

Today, Justerini & Brooks has four offices: The head office in St James's Street, a further office in London's Golden Square, and sales offices in both Edinburgh and Hong Kong.

Justerini & Brooks is the main user of a giant, 30-acre high-security cellar, the Octavian Vaults, in Wiltshire, sitting 100 feet below ground level. The cellar is accessible through a winding staircase, and the merchandise is transported with the cellar's own venicular railway. Justerini & Brooks stores £200m worth of wine in the Octavian Vaults. The company operates 3 other storage warehouses in Bordeaux, Hong Kong, and in Hertfordshire.[6]

In popular culture[edit]

Throughout the 1970s, J&B whisky bottles cropped up with remarkable regularity in Italian poliziotteschi, commedia sexy all'italiana and particularly giallo films as a signifier of cosmopolitan prosperity, sophistication and virility, probably influenced by the brand's popularity among the Italian American "Rat Pack" celebrities Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin.[11]

Kurt Russell's character, R.J. MacReady in John Carpenter's The Thing is seen drinking several bottles of J&B Whiskey.

In the novel American Psycho (1991) by Bret Easton Ellis, the main character Patrick Bateman is a habitual drinker of J&B, which seems to be his drink of choice whenever he is drinking socially.[12]


  1. ^ "Justerini & Brooks Ltd | Royal Warrant Holders Association". www.royalwarrant.org. Retrieved 2018-07-18.
  2. ^ a b c "Brand explorer". Diageo. Retrieved 2018-07-18.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j "Our History". www.justerinis.com. Retrieved 2018-06-26.
  4. ^ "Justerini and Brooks Whisky". Master of Malt. Retrieved 2013-08-20.
  5. ^ "Justerini & Brooks - Our Royal Warrants". Justerinis.com. Retrieved 2013-08-20.
  6. ^ a b Josh Sims, Inside Justerini & Brooks' billion-pound wine cellar, Luxurylondon.co.uk, 4 March 2020
  7. ^ "Buy Domaine du Comte Liger-Belair Wines Online | Justerini & Brooks". www.justerinis.com. Retrieved 2018-06-26.
  8. ^ Andrew Ellson, Roll out the riesling, German wines are making a comeback, in: The Times dated 9 December 2019
  9. ^ Staff, Dorling Kindersley Publishing (April 2011). Great Whiskies. Dorling Kindersley Limited. ISBN 9781405360180.
  10. ^ Lisa Riley, Justerini & Brooks reclaims UK distribution of J&B Rare whisky, Harpers.co.uk, 2 May 2018
  11. ^ Mikel J. Koven, La Dolce Morte: Vernacular Cinema and the Italian Giallo Film, The Scarecrow Press, Inc., 2006, pages 49-50.
  12. ^ Easton Ellis, Bret (1991). American Psycho (1st ed.). New York: Vintage Contemporaries. p. 09/96. ISBN 0-679-73577-1.

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 51°30′23″N 0°08′22″W / 51.5065°N 0.1395°W / 51.5065; -0.1395