by - January 5th, 2017

Constellation Brands, traditionally a large player in the wine industry, is serious in wanting to get into craft whiskey it looks like. It first made a splash last year with the $160 million High West acquisition, followed by a minority investment in Kentucky-based Bardstown Bourbon Company. Now word has come down of a similar investment play in Virginia-based Catoctin Creek Distilling.

Catoctin Creek is known to whiskey drinkers for their flagship Roundstone Rye whiskey, among other expressions. The unknown investment amount put into them by Constellation actually happened last year, but only now was unveiled during the liquor giant’s third quarter fiscal announcement.

Catoctin Creek

The founders of Catoctin Creek (image via Catoctin Creek)

“We created Catoctin Creek to produce award-winning 100% rye single-barrel whisky entirely from grain to glass,” said Becky Harris, the president and chief distiller of Catoctin Creek, in a prepared statement. “In order to expand our production and portfolio, we needed the right partner for the next level of growth. Constellation has a strong commitment to this category, and with their expertise and support, we look forward to bringing our Virginia whisky to the world with the same team and exceptional product quality.”

“We are excited about our future in craft spirits,” added Scott Harris, founder and general manager of the distillery.  “When we started, our core mission was to produce the finest rye whisky possible.  Constellation understands that core mission, and shares our business values.”

As plans stand now the core management team of Scott and Becky Harris, who founded the distillery in 2009, will remain the same. The investment by Constellation will allow Catoctin Creek to expand, with plans for that to happen later this year.

This financial play by a large spirits company into a craft whiskey producer was a trend we saw begin to pick up speed in the latter half of last year. In addition to Constellation’s plays with High West and Bardstown, investments and/or buyouts also happened with Westland/Remy Cointreau, Popcorn Sutton (more accurately their distillery only)/Sazerac and Smooth Ambler/Pernod Ricard. There’s no reason at this point to think this trend will slow down anytime soon.

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