Grand Rapids-based Windquest Group Inc., the family office for Amway scion Dick DeVos and his wife, Betsy DeVos, is getting into the booze-making business, MiBiz has learned.
Windquest is listed as the registered agent for CC Acquisitions, LLC, which formed on Oct. 29, 2015 and a day later changed its name to Coppercraft Distillery, LLC. The company appears to have acquired certain assets of the Holland Charter Township-based craft distillery of the same name.
Coppercraft’s founder and head distiller Walter Catton III said he could not comment the matter.
“I can’t discuss the details of what’s going on, but I’m pretty excited about the Coppercraft brand continuing to grow and become a bigger part of Michigan’s craft story,” Catton told MiBiz by phone today.
According to a Jan. 8 filing with the Michigan Liquor Control Commission, a division of the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs, the small distillers license for the operations at 184 120th St. in Holland is being transferred to the Windquest-controlled company.
The MLCC sent the license transfer request for administrative review on Jan. 15. The process typically takes about three to six months, according to industry sources.
Circus Procession LLC, which was formed in 2012 and is registered to Catton, holds the state small distillers license for the operations at Coppercraft’s address. The transfer also includes a small winemakers license and a microbrewers license.
Catton’s business entity, Coppercraft Distillery LLC (with no comma), changed its name to WDC Holdings, LLC on Nov. 6, 2015, according to state records.
Currently, Coppercraft remains in expansion mode, according to Catton.
“We’re ramping up production output and we’re getting energized for Tulip Time,” he said.
The company is in the process of adding a full kitchen and food service at its current site, and the additions are expected to be operational before the May 7 start of the annual Tulip Time festival in Holland, according to Catton.
News of a potential sale involving Coppercraft had percolated in the craft beverage industry in recent months as at least one possible deal failed to materialize.
Last summer, Central Lake-based Mammoth Distilling LLC started negotiating a purchase agreement to buy the assets of Coppercraft and operated the company’s tasting room “as we tried to determine what equipment was functioning,” said founder and CEO Chad Munger.
The plan was to acquire the company’s assets — the stills and other distilling equipment, for example — and wind down the Coppercraft brand to focus on Mammoth, Munger said.
“But that all stalled very late last summer. We’re totally divorced from them now,” Munger said, noting the two parties could not come to an agreement on the purchase price. “I heard they had an investor come in.”
In the meantime, starting in late July, Coppercraft bottled and labeled spirits for Mammoth, according to filings with the U.S. Department of Treasury Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau. The last filing linking Coppercraft to a Mammoth product was made on Nov. 1.
Catton insists Coppercraft never had a deal with Mammoth, noting that “negotiations were being had — industry-wide, for a while” to help find a partner to continue to grow the company.
“We wanted to have the opportunity to continue to be a player in the industry, to continue our growth and focus on the handcrafted side of the product,” Catton said. “We want to be a player in Michigan’s story.”
Given the fanfare to which Coppercraft launched and the good reputation of its products, industry insiders had been wondering what would happen with the craft distillery as news of a possible acquisition involving Mammoth first trickled out.
“I’m not involved in the transaction, but the future of Coppercraft has been a featured topic of conversation in the industry for last six to eight months,” said Joe Infante, principal and chair of the alcoholic beverage regulation team at Miller Canfield Paddock and Stone PLC in Grand Rapids. “Everyone is interested in seeing how this deal works out.”
Coppercraft makes its whiskeys, vodkas, gins, rums and other spirits with a 300-gallon and a 750-gallon still, and had the capacity to produce 15,000 cases annually, according to prior MiBiz reports. The company made clear spirits, but its main focus was on producing whiskey, which it aged in wood barrels at its production facility and taproom.
Catton said Coppercraft sent out 1,000 cases of its products for distribution in Michigan, the Chicago area and in Colorado.
A spokesperson from Windquest did not respond to requests for comment as this report went to press. Windquest does not list Coppercraft as a portfolio company on its website.