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A Year After Constellation Purchase, High West Shows Major Growth

October 31, 2017

A year ago, Constellation acquired Park City, Utah–based craft distiller High West for an estimated $160 million. This year, High West is projected to reach about 100,000 cases, roughly double its total of two years ago. “We’ve been able to step-change the growth we’re seeing,” says Constellation vice president of marketing Carl Evans. “The latest 52 weeks in IRI data show we’re up 78% versus last year.”

At the forefront of the surge is High West’s American Prairie Bourbon ($34.99 a 750-ml.), which has jumped 60% year-to-date, due in large part to Constellation’s marketing muscle. “One of our strengths is our sales force and wholesaler network—our ability to get High West out to more outlets and drive sampling behind it,” Evans explains. “We’ve advanced the brand’s relationships with the on-premise trade, and we’ve worked diligently to become ingrained in more mixology programs.”

High West’s three other core labels—Double Rye ($34.99 a 750-ml.), Rendezvous Rye ($59.99) and Campfire ($64.99)—have also benefited from increased visibility across the country and are seeing similar gains, according to Evans, driving the brand upward from its 2016 base of 65,000 cases. In addition to its core whiskies, High West produces a number of limited releases, including A Midwinter Night’s Dram ($99). That offering, which is Rendezvous Rye finished in French oak Port barrels, has developed a strong cult following. Other limited releases include Yippee Ki-Yay ($65), which is finished in vermouth and Syrah barrels, and Bourye ($80), a blend of Bourbon and rye whiskies.

Though High West’s blends are its hallmark, the debut of its new distillery in Wanship, Utah, in late 2014 has opened the possibility of creating its own-made whiskies in years to come. “We’ve got a keen eye on an American single malt,” Evans says. “We’ve been doing some distillation of our own-made product in Wanship around that, likely to be small and part of our limited portfolio. It’s a 2019 proposition for us.”

Meanwhile, High West is gearing up for the 2018 Winter Olympics as the first-ever spirits sponsor of U.S. Ski & Snowboard, the national governing body of Olympic skiing and snowboarding. The three-year deal includes digital, print and broadcast media campaigns, as well as a number of special events throughout the year, including activation events in stores and the on-premise. —Julia Higgins

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