I've been a big fan of High West for quite a few years. Their 21 year rye is probably my favorite rye whiskey. So I had mixed feelings when it was announced last week that Constellation Brands purchased High West for $160 million.
David Perkins, the founder of High West, left his job at Genentech back in 2004. His decision to move from biochemistry to distilling was due in part to a vacation he and his wife took to Kentucky. In a conversation I had with David a number of years ago he made the observation that while touring the distilleries, he noticed some familiarity with that equipment and what he used as a biochemist. He stated to his wife "I could do that", and the seed was planted.
David at the outset sourced from Constellation among others and in my opinion, did a very good job with barrel selection and ultimately, blending. Much of the success of High West is due in part to David's vision and execution and all you have to do is visit Park City Utah and see the High West compound first hand to see his dream in action.
So, back to my opening comment about mixed feelings of the sale. David has stated he will be staying with High West as Brand Ambassador playing a very hands on role in the business. His reason for selling had to do with growth stating that where he wanted to take the distillery couldn't happen without some bigger player with bigger money. Enter Constellation Brands who also owns Corona, Modelo and Ballast Point beers and a whole gaggle of winery's and wine labels. This to my knowledge would be the first spirits addition to their portfolio and truth be told, it's a good addition. My first reaction was some sadness to see an independent distillery go corporate but I certainly understand the reasoning. The purchase of Ballast Point didn't go so well and I hope that Constellation took some lesson's learned and won't repeat the same mistakes. I glad that David and his team will be staying on to keep things going.
Time will tell how this investment will pay off for whiskey enthusiasts because that's all I really care about and of course curious as to what new products or innovations High West will produce in the future.