Taste Radio Episode 636

Simon Ford Built – And Sold – His Brand By Following A Simple Rule


During our conversation with Simon Ford, the co-founder of revered spirit brand Fords Gin, he recited an adage that could be inscribed on the walls of any successful company: “People don’t do business with brands, they do business with people.”

He’s lived by the maxim throughout a 20-plus year career that includes experience in wine retail, bartending, spirits marketing, and, of course, entrepreneurship.

In 2012, Simon and master distiller Charles Maxwell launched The 86 Company, a portfolio of high-quality and versatile spirits, including Fords Gin, developed to set a standard for modern bars and mixologists. Fords Gin emerged as one of the definitive brands represented at high-end cocktail bars around the world and was key to the acquisition of The 86 Company by beverage alcohol giant Brown-Forman in 2019.

In this episode, Simon speaks about how a diverse background in spirits and hospitality helped him create extensive connections within each industry, what he means when he says that he “never pitches business,” the reasons behind successful – and unsuccessful – relationships, his belief that naivety is a gift and how he cultivated a strategic partnership with Brown-Forman.

In this Episode

0:35: Simon Ford, Co-Founder, Fords Gin – Simon, who met with Taste Radio editor Ray Latif at Bar Convent Brooklyn 2024, talks about how his grandmother’s book of traditional cocktail recipes and his first sip of gin helped guide his interest in spirits and what he considers to be the keys to a great brand story. He also shares his preference between negronis and martinis, how Fords Gin differentiated itself via package design and why he values industry expertise as an entrepreneur. Simon also explains why he loved the experience of selling the company and working with Brown-Forman and offers a few suggestions on esoteric bands or musicians that people should listen to, particularly on vinyl.

Also Mentioned

Plymouth Gin, Fords Gin