Campari Group to Acquire Wilderness Trail Distillery for $600 Million

An Italian spirits company is buying a Kentucky distillery in a deal valued at $600 million.

Campari Group this week announced that it is buying a majority stake in Danville, Kentucky-based Wilderness Trail Distillery. In addition to the eponymously named liqueur, Campari Group also owns SKYY Vodka, Wild Turkey Distillery and more brands. The company will initially purchase 70% interest of Wilderness Trail and purchase the remaining interest in 2031.

Founded in 2012 by Dr. Pat Heist and Shane Baker, Wilderness Trail’s portfolio includes bourbon and rye whiskeys. In a statement, Heist and Baker said they are thrilled about their partnership with Campari.

“Premium bourbon and rye whiskies and state-of-the art production facilities coupled with worldwide distribution, first-class marketing and expertise across multiple spirit categories provide the perfect foundation for the continued success of the Wilderness Trail brand and ensure it will be enjoyed around the world for years to come,” said Heist and Baker. “This is a win-win situation for both parties and we are very proud of this partnership and what we can achieve together with our shared vision.”

Campari Group’s bourbon journey started in 2009 via the acquisition of the Wild Turkey brand and distillery. Since then, the company has also helped grow Russell’s Reserve and launched the small-batch bourbon Longbranch in 2018 in partnership with Matthew McConaughey. In 2017 Campari Group also launched its ultra-premium Whisky Barons Collection, including Old Ripy, Bond & Lillard and William Butler Saffell. And in August, Campari acquired an initial minority interest with path to control in Howler Head, a Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey with Natural Banana Flavor, together with exclusive global distribution rights. 

In a statement, Campari CEO Bob Kunze-Concewitz said the acquisition of Wilderness Trail primes bourbon to become Campari Group’s second major leg after the aperitif portfolio. “Moreover, we accelerate our premiumization journey, further enriching our RARE portfolio, the division aimed to unlock and accelerate the growth potential of a select range of high-end individual expressions in our core premium spirits markets,” added Kunze-Concewitz. “In addition, we have the opportunity to significantly expand our production capacity and aging inventory to satisfy the future growth of our premium bourbons, such as the high potential Whiskey Barons range, currently capped due to capacity constraints. We are very excited to partner with such a strong team of industry pioneers and distilling experts allowing us to accelerate and significantly expand the innovation platform for our bourbon portfolio.”

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