Tom Jago, maker of best-selling liquor brands, dies at 93

NEW YORK — Tom Jago, an inventive British liquor executive who was part of the team that developed Baileys Irish Cream and made it the world’s best-selling liqueur, and later helped establish the Malibu Rum and Johnnie Walker Blue brands, died Oct. 12 in London. He was 93.

His daughter, Rebecca Jago, said he had fractured his neck in a fall the previous week.

Mr. Jago was a spirits maven for more than a half-century, reinvigorating old drinks, devising new ones and, in his final years, hunting down casks of forgotten yet exquisite whiskey in cellars and warehouses to sell in limited editions.


Baileys came to life in 1973 when Mr. Jago was in charge of new products for International Distillers & Vintners, or IDV, a British liquor giant.

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Baileys — the first Irish cream liqueur — sold nearly 7 million cases last year, nearly double that of any other liqueur, according to The Spirits Business, a trade magazine.

In 1978, a few years after Baileys reached the market, IDV faced a problem with Coco Rico, a coconut rum. It was being made in South Africa, whose racist apartheid policy had made it an outlaw nation. Mr. Jago renamed the rum Malibu, changed its packaging and repositioned it as a Caribbean-style liqueur. Bottling was moved to England, and eventually to Barbados.

“He had a failed brand in his locker called Malibu, and immediately we loved the name,” James Espey, who had been marketing director of IDV Worldwide, wrote in an article in International Opulence magazine.

Today, Malibu is the world’s second-most popular liqueur, after Baileys, and is owned by Pernod Ricard.


In addition to his daughter, Mr. Jago leaves his sons, Barnaby, Dan and Francis; six grandchildren and a brother, Geoff. His wife, Penelope Jago, died this year.