30 May IU Angel Network invests in alumni-founded, Indiana-based craft distillery, Cardinal Spirits
Bloomington, Ind. — The IU Angel Network has announced a new investment in Cardinal Spirits, a local craft distillery in Bloomington that distributes award-winning spirits in 12 states and Washington, D.C. The investment will enable the distillery to expand its contract bottling services and ready-to-drink canned cocktails, along with bourbon production.
The IU Angel Network is one of the major investment programs managed by IU Ventures, Indiana University’s early-stage venture capital and angel investment arm. Members of the network include IU alumni and friends from across the nation and world wanting to support high-potential startup companies or small businesses seeking to build their market opportunities.
Co-founded in 2015 by IU alumnus Jeff Wuslich and Adam Quirk, Cardinal Spirits is a rapidly growing distillery that produces high-quality, handcrafted spirits, including vodka, gin, rum, and whiskey. It has been recognized as one of the best craft distilleries in the country and has received numerous awards and accolades, including USA Today’s 10 Best Distillery – Craft Vodka and Craft Rum Award for 5 years in a row, most recently placing #2 in the country for its canned cocktails.
“Jeff and I have a shared passion for leading and growing small businesses, and we both loved Bloomington as a location for a craft distillery,” said Quirk, who serves as CEO of Cardinal and is a guest lecturer at IU’s Kelley School of Business. “IU students and faculty experience our tasting room and brand and then take that loyalty with them back to Chicago, Indianapolis, New York City and other markets where we distribute. It’s a great place to launch a brand.”
Cardinal distributes its products both through retail outlets in thirteen states and at its distillery in Bloomington, where customers can sample spirits and take tours. In addition, Cardinal has a successful co-packing arm, catering to clients by producing and bottling products, including private labels for retailers. To expand its reach, Cardinal’s brand sales division sells a range of craft spirits and canned cocktails via distributors across the U.S., with flavors such as Bourbon Cream Soda, Bourbon Honey Lemonade and Bramble Mule.
“Cardinal Spirits is a great example of the entrepreneurial spirit that is thriving in Bloomington,” said Jason Whitney, chief venture officer of IU Ventures and director of the IU Angel Network. “We are looking forward to seeing the impact they will have on the craft spirits industry.”
Quirk said that Cardinal, which recently moved into a new 28,000-square-foot facility on Bloomington’s west side near Cook Medical and Ivy Tech Community College, aims to build its canned cocktail brand toward 50,000 annual cases.
“Our industry sees a lot of M&A activity around that milestone, and we’re getting very close to reaching it,” he said.
About IU Ventures:
IU Ventures invests in and supports IU-affiliated early-stage companies. Its investment programs include the IU Philanthropic Venture Fund, IU Angel Network, Shoebox Fund, and Innovate Indiana Fund. It further supports IU founders through the Executive in Residence Program and IU Founders and Funders Network. Student support is provided through a variety of engagements, including the new IU Venture Fellows Program. Each program takes unique approaches to accelerate and support the positive impacts that entrepreneurs affiliated with IU already achieve across the world. IU Ventures is a recognized leader in increasing opportunities for diverse and historically underserved entrepreneurs and investing in Indiana startups with a shared commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion.
Emily Atkinson, PhD