Campari Group to acquire majority interest in Wilderness Trail, will complete buyout over next decade

Published 4:18 pm Monday, October 31, 2022


Campari Group has reached a majority share of Wilderness Trail distillery and will complete the buyout over the next several years.

The company, based in Italy, will acquire a 70% interest in the Danville-based operation and will acquire the remaining interests in the company by 2031, the companies announced in a joint news release. Campari is no stranger to the bourbon industry. The company already owns the Wild Turkey brand.

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Wilderness Trail Distillery was launched in 2012 as a ‘premium craft distillery’ with a clear focus on making the highest quality bourbon and rye whiskey. Leveraging the advanced and versatile operational infrastructure, the founders launched in 2018 Wilderness Trail Bourbon and Wilderness Trail Rye Whiskey. The portfolio has since introduced high-end silver label 6-year and 8-year bourbon line.

The initial investment is $420 million based on the distillery value of $600 million.

The founders and current shareholders, Shane Baker and Dr. Pat Heist, are fermentation experts with more than 20 years’ experience in the production of whiskey. The distillery’s proprietary infusion mashing process and sweet mash technique have a highly flexible output driven by the multiple mash bills and yeast strains, crafting bourbons and rye whiskeys with distinctive flavors.

“We are very excited to take a controlling interest in world-class Wilderness Trail Distillery,” said Bob Kunze-Concewitz, Chief Executive Officer Campari Group. “By adding the fast-growing super premium Wilderness Trail brand we further expand and premiumise our bourbon offering, priming it to become Campari Group’s second major leg after the aperitif portfolio. Moreover, we accelerate our premiumisation 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. 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.”

Campari’s marketing should help Wilderness Trail expand its reach into the growing bourbon market, the distillery’s founders said in the release.

“We are thrilled about our partnership with Campari Group. 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. 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.”