Wild Turkey sales slip, fail to buoy bad quarter for Campari

Wild Turkey's master distiller Jimmy Russell. Photo courtesy Wild Turkey. 

Wild Turkey's master distiller Jimmy Russell. Photo courtesy Wild Turkey. 

By Michael A. Lindenberger
BourbonStory.com

WASHINGTON --The boom in bourbon has been so strong that it's eye-opening to read of a giant whiskey brand and its parent company reporting sharply decreased year-over-year sales. But that's exactly what happened Thursday when the Italian conglomerate Grupo Campari announced that its sales have slumped during the first three months of 2014 compared to last year. Overall it earned $28.4 profit against $395 million in sales worldwide. Last year, it earned $54 million in the same quarter on $432 million in sales.

Campari owns Austin Nichols Distillery in Nicholasville, Ky., makers of Wild Turkey bourbon. 

It says that about 2/3 of its revenue decrease comes from currency exchange costs, and says turmoil in Russia triggered a near-50 percent decline in sales in that country. 

So how did Wild Turkey do? Not as well as you might have expected. In Australia, the firm announced, ongoing weakness in the demand for brown liquors took its toll.  

The Wild Turkey line accounts for 9 percent of Campari's total sales, and about half (51 percent) of that is the bourbon brands. The rest is split evenly between Wild Turkey Honey and Wild Turkey Ready to Drink single-serve beverages. 

Overall, Wild Turkey sales were down 6.5 this year versus last, a decline that actually hit the company's pocket books as if it were 15.4 percent due to the currency exchange risks.

Other notes

  • The bright spot for the company, which says its sales in April have already rebounded overall, was single-serve products in Italy, its largest market.

  • The company is closing on its purchase of Canadian distillery Forty Creek Whisky, in Ontario.

  • Wild Turkey's visitor center opened this month, as noted by the Lexington Herald-Leader's bourbon writer, Janet Paxton

Michael Lindenberger (@bourbonstory) is Editor of Bourbon Story Magazine. Send hi ideas, complements or complaints at bourbonstory@gmail.com.

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Michael Lindenberger

Michael Lindenberger is a 2012-13 Knight Journalism Fellow at Stanford University, where he will spend a year developing a business model for blogs that looks beyond advertising and subscriptions for revenue. He is on leave from The Dallas Morning News, where he is a senior reporter writing about the nexus between the politics and policy of transportation on the local, state and national level. He is founder and co-author with Rodger Jones of the Dallas Transportation Blog. His print journalism was recognized in 2012 as the previous year's best example at The News of work that brings perspective, interpretation and analysis to bear on difficult topics. Also in 2012, the newspaper nominated his work for the Pulitzer Prize in local reporting. A 2006 graduate of the night program at Louis D. Brandeis School of Law at the University of Louisville, Michael also is a contributing national legal affairs writer for TIME.com and a former adjunct professor of media law at the University of North Texas Mayborn School of Journalism. His work has appeared in newspapers, wire reports and magazines around the world, including The New York Times, Reuters, The ABA Journal, Robb Report Magazine and others.