US-based rye whiskey producer WhistlePig has divested its minority stake to Chicago-based merchant bank BDT Capital Partners.

BDT made a structured equity investment consisting of a significant minority common equity stake.

Financial details of the transaction have not been divulged.

This partnership with BDT enables WhistlePig to provide liquidity to all shareholders, which includes its original founder Raj Bhakta who retired from the business in 2017 and has now completely exited his remaining stake.

Many of the other investor partners will continue to invest in the firm.

Founded in 2008, WhistlePig won the ‘Best in Show Whiskey’ title in the blind tasting rounds of the San Francisco World Spirits Competition in 2017.

WhistlePig CEO Jeff Kozak said: “We remain committed to crafting and ageing the world’s finest and most enjoyable rye whiskeys and believe our partnership with BDT will allow us to further accelerate our growth and momentum in the fast-growing, ultra-premium American whiskey category.

“We remain committed to crafting and ageing the world’s finest and most enjoyable rye whiskeys.”

“2018 was another stellar year for WhistlePig, with our revenues growing by more than 40%, more than twice the category, and our operating cash flow close to doubling, allowing us to further expand our distillery and build out our inventory of high-quality and ageing whiskey, as well as expand our distribution.

“Also, BDT’s experience partnering with founders and entrepreneurs of some of the world’s most iconic brands, their long-term focus, as well as their network of successful global business owners, will help us further accelerate our future growth potential.”

WhistlePig co-founder Wilco Faessen said: “We are thrilled to have BDT as a partner, enabling us to continue as patient stewards of our revered brand and ageing whiskey portfolio, and to solidify our position as the pre-eminent, ultra-premium and luxury American whiskey distiller.

“This partnership is another important step in WhistlePig’s transition from a startup to a leading craft distiller. In addition to getting the right partner in BDT, we are very pleased and grateful that the hard work of many contributors over the last ten years has created tremendous value for our long-term investors.”

BDT Capital Partners chairman and CEO Byron Trott said: “WhistlePig is a dynamic company with a world-class brand, high-quality product and strong leadership team.

“We look forward to partnering with Jeff Kozak, Wilco Faessen, the board and their talented management team to help build upon the growth and innovation of this business and further expand the brand both in the US and around the world.”

Rothschild & Co and Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom acted as financial and legal advisors to WhistlePig, while Davis Polk & Wardwell served as legal advisor to BDT Capital Partners.

In 2015, WhistlePig opened its grain-to glass-distillery following renovation.

A year later, the company’s board members made an attempt to remove Bhakta from the leadership role and this fight resulted in new changes in the leadership framework, which saw Bhakta continue to be on the board as founder.

In 2017, the firm reportedly sought bids from interested entities after acquisition propositions.