Constellation acquires $160m Utah whiskey distillery

US-based drinks producer Constellation Brands has acquired Utah whiskey distillery High West in a deal worth a reported $160 million.

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Confirmed on Monday following a three-month negotiation period, the acquisition includes all of High West’s operations and its portfolio of American straight whiskeys.

The High West Distillery was founded by David Perkins and his wife, Jane, in 2004 with a vision to produce whiskey that “celebrates the history and heritage of America’s Old West”.

High West is the first legal distillery in the state of Utah since 1870, and has experienced double-digit volume growth year-on-year for the past three years.

Constellation fended off competition for the distillery from several other bidders, which included Pernod Ricard SA and LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton, according to The Wall Street Journal.

It currently sells around 70,000 cases annually, from a portfolio that includes its American Prairie Bourbon, Double Rye!, Rendezvous Rye and Campfire – the only blend of Scotch, bourbon and rye whiskeys on the market.

“When it came to the next step for High West, we wanted to work with the right partner that will help us grow further while maintaining our culture and core values”, said John Esposito, chief executive officer, High West. “With the strength of the Constellation Brands team, we will be able to reach more consumers and continue our track record of innovation.”

Its sale sees Constellation step into the growing American whiskey market, and is the company’s third acquisition this year, having already purchased luxury wine brand Prisoner Wine Co. and craft brewer Ballast Point.

“With the addition of High West, Constellation Brands bolsters its position in the dynamic and growing craft spirits category”, said Bill Newlands, president, wine and spirits division, Constellation Brands.

“We look forward to welcoming this creative and talented team to Constellation Brands as we work together to drive growth for High West and build our premium spirits portfolio with brands that consumers love.”

As part of the deal, Constellation will help fund the expansion of the 30,000-square foot distillery and visitor’s centre, adding a second still capable of producing around 50,000 cases of whiskey a year.

The distillery’s 200 employees will remain within the company, and High West founder David Perkins will continue to serve as a brand ambassador and work on the product along with master distiller Brendan Coyle.

Constellation’s spirits portfolio also includes Svedka Vodka, Black Velvet Canadian whisky and Casa Noble Tequila, however the majority of its revenue comes from its Mexican beer brands Corona Extra and Modelo and wine brands like Robert Mondavi and Clos du Bois.

The transaction is expected to close by the end of October.

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