Suntory Holdings Ltd agreed on a $16 billion deal to acquire US bourbon maker Beam Inc, the company behind the classic American whiskey Jim Beam.

The Japanese family-owned beer and soft drinks maker will pay $13.6 billion in cash and take on Beam’s debt, a particularly tall order for the beverage firm, according to The Nikkei.

Suntory has been eager to snap up big overseas firms as the world develops a fresh taste for bourbon—a type of American whiskey that is made primarily of corn and typically distilled in Kentucky.

The acquisition announced Monday was “a once-in-a-lifetime gamble” for Suntory, said President Nobutada Saji.

“I believe this combination will create a spirits business with a product portfolio unmatched throughout the world and allow us to achieve further global growth,” Saji told The Wall Street Journal.

The two companies have worked together in the past. Suntory, best-known for Japanese whiskey brands Yamazaki, Hakushu and Midori liquor and Bowmore Scotch whiskey, distributed Beam products in Japan.

Beam spokesman Clarkson Hine said for now, the deal will result in few changes for fans of Beam’s bourbons. Chief Executive Matt Shattock will retain his role following the deal and will continue to operate the US brands from the current headquarters near Chicago, the BBC reports.

Suntory will pay $83.50 per share. The companies put the deal’s value at about $16 billion, including debt. Suntory is expected to borrow from Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ to fund the deal. Beam’s shares rose 24 percent on Monday after the acquisition was announced.

By Maesie Bertumen

Image: sebra /