Whisky industry grit helps when there's nip in air If There is a smell of alcohol in the air this festive season, it might not necessarily be coming from people's breath.
Aberdeen City Council is trying out a new type of grit for the roads - which is a by-product of the whisky industry.
A council spokesman said: "It is designed to work at lower temperatures and remain on the road surface for longer in wet conditions.
"It incorporates a mulch-like substance, which does have a slight odour and which is perhaps more noticeable in higher temperatures."
The grit has already been spread in some areas, including braes in Cults and Mastrick.
The spokeswoman said: "The compound is on trial at the moment and its benefits will be assessed."
Plans to cope with the worst of the winter weather will be stepped up. This year an extra £1 million has been set aside on top of a £1.6 million gritting budget.
Spending in the past two winters, which have seen average snow falls, topped £2 million.
A major effort is being made this year to keep public transport running on time.
The council's "winter maintenance operation plan" covers roads, pavements and other pedestrian routes.
Highways are being gritted in line with their designations as priority One, Two or Three.
The first category covers principal routes, other main roads carrying heavy traffic feeding on to them, and roads giving access to emergency and "essential" public services.
Council policy states that they should never become impassable unless the weather is extraordinarily severe. Articles Courtesy of The Press & Journal
Attraction draws record attendance Dewar's World of Whisky visitor centre at Aberfeldy in Perthshire, is enjoying its busiest season since it opened in 2000.
There have been more than 36,000 visitors in the eight months since this season began in April. By the time the 12-month season is up, the tally will be well ahead of last year's previous record of 35,190 people.
While many Americans have been more reluctant to travel after the September 11 terrorist attacks, the centre has seen US visitors increase by 2.5%, accounting for 7.4% of the total. The US is Dewar's core market, where Dewar's White Label is said to be the number one Scotch.
Centre manager Jane Grimley said: "The domestic market still contributes to almost 50% of Dewar's World of Whisky's business, but many European markets are fast emerging as whisky lovers too.
"This is reflected in Dewar's World of Whisky's visitor statistics with our German, Dutch and Swedish neighbours recorded as the most frequent foreign visitors."
The attraction has also enjoyed a small but significant increase in Russian visitors; the majority of whom are connoisseurs who have also proven to be some of the highest spenders in its brand store. Articles Courtesy of The Press & Journal
Distiller toasts exports lift The world's continuing love affair with whisky has helped to boost turnover and profits at one of Scotland's few remaining family-owned distillers and bottlers.
Speymalt Whisky Distributors, which trades as Elgin-based Gordon and MacPhail, saw turnover grow £768,393 to £13.714million with pre-tax profits ahead by some £88,669 at £534,135 in the year to February 29.
Managing director Ian Urquhart said the increased global interest in both single malts and blended Scotch lay behind the improved trading figures.
Gordon and MacPhail exports to 35 countries, but the biggest sales improvement has been seen in Europe, particularly among the 10 accession states, the United States, Canada and the Far East.
Exports stood at £2.186million, against £1.885million. The domestic market accounts for the largest part of the firm's business at £11.528million, up £468,000 on the year.
But Mr Urquhart sounded a caution, saying the strength of the pound against both the US dollar and the euro would make life more difficult when it came to selling Scotch abroad.
Gordon and MacPhail markets about 360 whisky expressions of its own in addition to some 80 single malts.
Mr Urquhart said: "Sales of our own bottlings of whisky have been the main drivers in growth. We have increased marketing activity and continued to improve our customer service."
2004 has been a successful year for the firm, which has relaunched the entire range from Benromach, the distillery it reopened at Forres six years ago.
The Urquhart family were presented with a lifetime achievement by Malt Advocate, America's leading whisky publication last month, while Gordon and MacPhail has also refurbished and doubled the size of its shop in Elgin, adding a whisky room.
The shop sells over 800 whiskies, while the firm's warehouses hold casks from more than 80 distilleries.
Mr Urquhart said while the focus for the whisky industry continued to be on growing sales of single malts and special bottlings, there were several markets where blends were reporting increased demand.
He said: "Some markets are showing interest in blends and that is encouraging. Many markets have been quite flat so this is really good news for the industry."
Gordon and MacPhail, which employs 120 staff, was founded in 1895. Mr Urquhart's grandfather, John, joined as an apprentice soon after the business was set up
When Mr Gordon and Mr MacPhail retired he took over the business, which has remained in the Urquhart family's ownership since then.
Mr Urquhart's two brothers, David and Michael, are executive directors, while his sister, Rosemary Rankin is a non-executive.
Mr Urquhart's son, Neil, 29, is involved in the firm as is Mrs Rankin's son, Stephen, 33, and David's son, Richard, 22.
The directors saw dividend payments in the last financial year increase from 6p to 32p a share, allowing them to share £60,800. The highest paid director, who was not named, saw their total package fall from £146,432 in 2003 to £135,473.
Speyside Whisky remains in dispute with the Contributions Agency over the payment of national insurance contributions.
The firm's accounts, released by Companies House yesterday, showed that £120,000 was outstanding, but the directors do not believe it is payable. Articles Courtesy of The Press & Journal
Distillery? Dram good idea! IF you’re going to buy a distillery, and if you can raise £10 million in a bit of a hurry, you’re as well buying one in the Highlands, source of the world’s mightiest malts.
And you’re as well buying one with form. The Tullibardine distillery in the Perthshire village of Blackford, virtually next door to Gleneagles Hotel, dates back to 1488 when King James IV bought beer from the brewery that stood on this site to celebrate his coronation at Scone, near Perth.
Panic ye not! This is no history lesson, it’s a tale of two likely Lowland lads, both richly experienced in the drinks trade, who had this big, brave (some said ridiculous) idea of buying a distillery and saw it come to fruition in somewhat bizarre circumstances.
Mike Beamish, 47, and Doug Ross, 41, were lunching at the Royal Burgess golf club in Edinburgh when the mobile call came from their lawyers confirming they had actually clinched the £10m deal.
Shropshire-born and bred, Mr Beamish is of highly appropriate stock. His forebears are the Beamish family who began brewing their famous stout in the 1700s.
Direct from a business degree at Edinburgh University, Mr Beamish joined chartered accountants Ernst & Young in Melville Street in 1978. After 18 months of rather intense accountancy, he jumped at the chance to cultivate his alcoholic roots with a job at the Distillers Company in sales and marketing.
"Invaluable experience for me," he recalls, "because for the first six months they put me into production, sampling the practical side of things."
He moved to the Drambuie Liqueur Company in 1995 at its Kirkliston headquarters near Edinburgh as sales and marketing director. "It was pretty well the perfect time to join the hallowed company because while I was there, until 2002, Drambuie were regenerating themselves. They had created a new team with brothers Calum and Duncan MacKinnon at the helm."
After 2002, Mr Beamish and Mr Ross had their sights firmly set on Tullibardine.
Mr Ross grew up in Lundin Links, Fife, schooled in Edinburgh at Stewart’s Melville, then went on to Heriot-Watt University for a business studies degree.
"That took me to 1988 and my first job, with United Distillers in London," says Mr Ross. "I left London in 1991 and stayed on with UD in Edinburgh till 1995.
"Subsequently I was self-employed in Edinburgh for eight years, specialising in consultancy, married with one child and living in Barnton. Which brings me up to summer last year and a whole new perspective on life and work when Mike and I clinched the distillery.
"Describing how and where Mike and I first met, while it proved most fortuitous in time, must seem mundane - a pub. You might ask ‘where else?’ considering what we are immersed in now.
"I was working for six months as a barman while studying at Heriot-Watt, the part-time job to help me through college, so to speak.
"Mind you, it was no ordinary pub. I’d managed to don the barman’s apron in The Tilted Wig, in the New Town’s Cumberland Street. It had style, it was patronised by a better-class clientele and it was owned by the personable, no-messing publican in Paddy Crossan.
"Now retired, Mr Crossan, who, with his mother, had run one of Rose Street’s legendary watering holes, Paddy’s Bar, was widely respected in the trade. Six months working for him was like taking evening classes.
"That’s where I first met Mike. He was a customer at the Wig."
Mr Ross first registered an interest in Tullibardine in the summer of 1999. With its plentiful supply of crystal-pure water flowing from the Ochil Hills, the brewery was still producing beer long after James IV succumbed at Flodden in 1513.
But by the early 1900s the brewery had fallen on hard times. It survived in various guises until 1947 when a Welshman bought it, intent on conversion to a distillery. Two years later Tullibardine distillery produced spirit for the first time.
Unfortunately it was eventually mothballed and from 1994 lay dormant until June last year when, along with its existing stock of whisky, it was purchased by the current consortium. Last December, spirit flowed from the stills for the first time in nine years.
Directors Mr Beamish and Mr Ross share the boardroom with non-executive chairman Alan Williamson, 60, and financial director Alastair Russell, 42.
Mr Ross explains: "When we say the project overall has been complex and far from easy we’re probably grossly understating things. Once we’d done our feasibility study we talked to Whyte & Mackay, then owners of Tullibardine, and the deal was done.
"This is a £10m development on what became a six-acre site once we’d leased ground from neighbouring Highland Spring. In reality, Mike and I were wearing two hats; we had two business plans operating simultaneously.
"We had plans drawn up for retail development and sold those to Kenmore, an Edinburgh property company. Bank of Scotland are also involved.
"The 55,000 square feet acquired by Kenmore includes 28,000 taken up by Baxters and 8000 we’ll lease for our own retail outlets. Tiso, the Edinburgh-based mountaineering and camping people, have snapped up 5000sq ft."
Adds Mr Beamish, married with two children and living down the road in Glenfarg: "Our game plan, if you like, will see business from the retail side feeding cash into the distillery. Also, we have built a visitor centre - with distillery tours - that includes a retail shop and restaurant.
"We’re calling the centre 1488, and inevitably when visitors ask us why we’ll tell them we owe it all to good King James. There’s a whole lot of history wrapped round this location."
What, hopefully, will intoxicate folk who frequent the visitor centre is Tullibardine’s and the village’s past. The name Blackford, for example, was established in the tenth century when, the story goes, the wife of the Nordic King Magnus fell off her horse and drowned while crossing a ford in the area.
The tragedy was said to have deeply affected the king, and the village thereafter was known as "black ford".
Distillery records confirm that its original capacity was 35,000 proof gallons annually by 1953.
Capacity increased subsequently through various measures, each change based on efficiency measures set by Delme Evans, the Welsh purchaser in 1947.
Invergordon Distillers took Tullibardine under its wing in 1971 and, two years later, capacity was boosted again through repositioning of the existing stills and duplicating the original pair.
At peak production the distillery employed 15 men.
In 1994, the then owner Whyte & Mackay merged Tullibardine with various others due to an excess of distillation capacity within the company.
Gradually, Tullibardine was to lose what remained of its individuality - and its hallowed history. It lay deserted and looking rather sorry for itself until last summer and the current consortium’s takeover.
Since reopening, distillation levels have been reduced markedly to ensure that only enough spirit is produced to satisfy realistic future demand - and to safeguard a working distillery open year round to the public.
Complex finish . . don't mention the lawyers
DOUG ROSS, while supervising the supply of spirits for United Distillers in Edinburgh, chaired the Scotch Whisky Association committee responsible for the integration and implementation of bar code and auto ID technology for cask warehousing.
Mike Beamish has spent his career in the drinks industry since graduating from Edinburgh University. In 15 years with United Distillers he sold and marketed their brands worldwide.
The men’s feasibility study for Tullibardine spanned three years, a preoccupation that saw them working on the project full-time throughout the third year.
"It’s as well we were confident everything would come good eventually and that we slogged on regardless. Sweating over traffic impact analysis, retail analysis, borehole analysis, not to mention environmental impact assessment... it all threatened to engulf us," they reflect.
"We dealt with 16 firms of lawyers during the entire process, all of them Edinburgh firms except one. Please, don’t talk to us about lawyers!"
Mr Beamish and Mr Ross claim that they have "the best site in Scotland". They reckon that 2.8 million prospective Central Belt customers live within an hour’s drive of the born-again distillery.
"We are barely an hour’s drive up the road from Edinburgh but it’s already a home-from-home for us," they chorus.
Mr Ross: "It’s comforting to know that Peter Lederer, chairman of VisitScotland as well as managing director Gleneagles, is virtually our next-door neighbour. If we ever run short of milk or sugar we can always nip over to the hotel. Similarly, if Peter should ever run short of a dram..." Articles Courtesy of The Scotsman
Honour for an expert with a nose for a dram A Moray whisky expert has become the first from a distilling background to earn one of the highest honours in the food and drink industry.
David Stewart, the Glenfiddich Distillery malt master, has been awarded the prestigious Grand Prix of Gastronomy by the British Academy of Gastronomes.
Mr Stewart, who is the longest serving malt master in the whisky business having worked for Dufftown-based William Grant and Sons for 42 years, received the award for his outstanding contribution to the development and quality of single malt and blended Scotch whisky. It is the first time that the academy has awarded the Grand Prix to someone from the whisky industry.
Academy chairman Peter Bazalgette described Mr Stewart as one of the world's leading master blenders. He said: "His long career and involvement in the development of the Glenfiddich and The Balvenie ranges of single malts, and his extensive experience and expertise in nosing and blending the Grant's range of blended Scotch whiskies, make him a great choice for this year's Grand Prix."
Following a 12-year apprenticeship with William Grant and Sons, Mr Stewart was appointed master blender in 1974, a position he has held ever since.
During his 42 years with the company, Mr Stewart has developed an award-winning range of single malts and blends which have earned him some of the industry's top accolades.
The British Academy of Gastronomes was founded by Egon Ronay in 1983, who remains its president. It has about 60 members, including MPs, peers, captains of industry as well as food and drink writers. Articles Courtesy of The Scotsman
Chinese sales of Scotch whisky soar 170% FIGURES released yesterday show that China is developing a taste for Scotch whisky.
Export figures from the Scotch Whisky Association reveal that in the first half of this year more Scotch was exported to China than in the whole of 2003, with export value growing more than 170 per cent to £9.7 million.
The trend far outstrips the growth of the value of Scotch whisky exports in total, which rose 2 per cent, or £20m, to £982m from £962.3m in the first six months of 2004.
Sales also grew in other emerging export markets, such as Brazil, up 44 per cent to £11.6m, and India, up 15 per cent to £6.2m.
Ian Good, the chairman of the SWA, said: "In the first half, we have seen a number of encouraging trends, with growth in established markets such as France and Spain complemented by rising exports to potentially important markets of the future such as China, Brazil and Russia."
The rise of bottled malt whisky exports also continued, with an additional £22m worth of malt whisky already sold compared with the first half of last year, an increase of 18 per cent to £144m.
Exports to the European Union also rose, by £40m to £415.5m, largely due to increasing shipments of both bottled malt and blended whisky to major markets such as France, Spain and Greece.
The United States continued to be the largest market for Scotch whisky, with the value of exports rising by 2 per cent overall to £142m. This was mainly as a result of increased demand for bottled malt products.
Total sales amounted to £2.37 billion in 2003. More whisky is sold in the second half of the year and the industry expects the total 2004 figure to exceed last year. Articles Courtesy of The Scotsman
Distillery staff toast £1.5 million HUNDREDS of whisky workers in West Lothian are set to share in a £1.5 million cash windfall by Christmas.
Staff at whisky distillers Glenmorangie are set to pick up an average of £4000 each as part of a takeover deal for the company.
The 300-year-old firm, which has nearly 400 staff at its headquarters in Broxburn and three distilleries, is due to be taken over by Moet Hennessy, the drinks arm of the luxury goods giant LVMH.
Most of the Glenmorangie employees are shareholders in what is Scotland’s last remaining independently quoted whisky firm.
The announcement of a £300m recommended offer from LVMH means an average pay-out of £4000 each when the deal goes through.
The new owners have already promised jobs at Broxburn and Glenmorangie’s other bases are safe.
The takeover will also result in a £40m windfall for charities. Part of the proceeds from shares held by the Macdonald family, the majority owners, will go into a trust which supports a number of good causes, including Capability Scotland, the Royal National Lifeboat Institute, the Royal Blind Asylum and the Royal Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Children. Articles Courtesy of The Scotsman
French owner to end deals on cut-price Glenmorangie LUXURY goods maker Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessy plans to ditch Glenmorangie’s practice of selling whisky at knock-down prices once its £300m acquisition of the distiller is complete.
LVMH won the race to buy Scotland’s last quoted whisky distiller last week following a battle with rivals from the US, France and Scotland.
The French group, led by president Christophe Navarre, wants to distance the upmarket Glenmorangie brand from the bulk own-label whisky business which provides much of the company’s turnover.
A spokesman for LVMH said: "One of the criticisms levelled at Glenmorangie was the level of its bulk sales. We achieve premium prices for our products. We intend to sell more of the real stuff."
According to one analyst, reducing its output of cheap whisky could prompt Glenmorangie to leave its huge bottling and blending plant near Broxburn for smaller premises.
Alternatively, LVMH could use the plant to bottle drinks such as Hennessy cognac.
Alan Gray, a whisky analyst at Sutherlands, the broker, said: "The problem Glenmorangie had was that when they moved to Broxburn, they moved to a plant which was too big for their requirements.
"Since then, they have been trying to do as much as possible to fill the plant."
He added: "LVMH are at the top end of the market. They may say, ‘OK, we will keep that’, or they may say that they do not want to be associated with it.
"If they have some products of their own, they may have them bottled at Glenmorangie. If they can’t do that they will have too big a plant, so they could move to other premises."
LVMH is understood to have offered the Macdonald family, which holds a controlling interest in Glenmorangie, a reassurance on jobs.
Some observers were surprised LVMH offered as much as £300m for Glenmorangie. One industry source said: "The ones you would have expected to have won, such as Bacardi, got nowhere near that price.
"It makes you wonder how they will extract value. But this should be good for the whole industry - LVMH believes whisky should be seen as a premium product." Articles Courtesy of The Scotsman
Whisky firm drinks to the £300m sale of a dynasty ONE of the last remaining Scotch whisky dynasties came to an end last night as the Macdonalds of Tain sold the family firm, pocketing more than £100 million.
This morning when workers report for duty at Glenmorangie’s Morangie Burn distillery on the Dornoch Firth at Tain, Ross-shire, they will, for the first time in 86 years, be reporting to new management team.
Gone are the Macdonalds, headed by the 71-year-old family patriarch David Macdonald; the workers’ fate is now in the hands of a French luxury-goods firm.
The premium malt whisky maker employs 400 people at its head office and warehouse site in Broxburn, West Lothian, and at its Tain distillery.
Despite a stock market flotation, tie-ups with internationally recognised companies and the appointment of high-flying chief executive Paul Neep, the Macdonalds had managed to keep control with a majority shareholding.
The shares are believed to be distributed among 15 members of the family with David Macdonald alone owning almost one million shares. He has four daughters: Fiona, Alison, Tara and Vaila.
Last night a spokesman for Glenmorangie said the Macdonalds received 35 per cent of the final £300 million selling price which gives them a windfall of £105 million, catapulting them into the band of Scotland’s richest families.
Paris-based Louis Vuitton Moët Hennessy says it will continue to develop and grow the premium brands in their key markets.
More importantly, it has also guaranteed the security of all the jobs, something Mr Macdonald is believed to have personally stipulated.
Christophe Navarre, chief executive of Moët Hennessy welcomed the deal.
"Glenmorangie is a fine whisky, a growing brand and a strong company," he said.
"It will be a fitting companion for Moët & Chandon, Hennessy and our other prestige brands. We look forward to a prosperous future together."
LVMH confirmed it would formally write to all shareholders outlining its offer.
It’s all a long way from the wine-and-spirits merchants Roderick Macdonald - the grandfather of former chairman David - set up with Alexander Muir in 1918.
Through good management it has grown into a business with a turnover of £68.8 million.
With the help of its portfolio of brands - Glenmorangie, Ardbeg, Glen Moray and a sizeable own-label bottling business - the firm has delighted the stock market. Its share price has risen steadily during the last four years, pushing the value of the company towards the £230 million mark.
It now sells 1.6 million cases of whisky a year, and as well as having Scotland’s biggest-selling malt it also owns the fast-growing Ardbeg brand, which has seen overall turnover grow by 6 per cent to £68.8 million. Articles Courtesy of The Scotsman
Allied raises glass to 6% profit rise ALLIED Domeq, the world’s second-biggest spirits maker, today toasted an "excellent year" with news of a six per cent rise in annual profit.
And there was confidence that even though some markets remain tough, the business would continue to grow in the current year.
Bristol-based Allied, whose portfolio of drinks brands includes Ballantine’s whisky, Beefeater Gin and Courvoisier cognac, said pre-tax profit was £521 million for the year ending August 31 on sales down slightly at £3.23 billion, mainly on foreign currency movements. That compared to a profit of £491m the year previously on sales of £3.4bn. Analysts had forecast pre-tax profit of between £518m-£525m. Its Quick Service Restaurants operations, which include Dunkin’ Donuts and Baskin-Robbins, had a strong year with profits up 21 per cent to £86m "driven by continued growth in same store sales".
The group said volumes of core spirits were up eight per cent, while profits from its premium wines rose 13 per cent.
Allied said the profit boost was helped by strong sales of its core brands, particularly in the United States where spirits are growing in favour, and the expansion of Dunkin’ Donuts.
"Our core brands performed well in the United States, delivering overall market share gains," said chief executive Philip Bowman.
"Overall these good performances have more than offset the trading challenges we faced in markets such as South Korea, France and Germany."
In particular, Allied delivered strong sales of wines, which include Mumm, Cuvee and Campo Viejo.
"We had a very strong year in the US, our largest wine market, with overall volumes up 14 per cent and net turnover up 17 per cent. Our largest US brand, Clos du Bois, was the key driver with volumes up 13 per cent, Mr Bowman said.
Britons were also drinking more wine, with volumes up by seven per cent over the year.
At constant exchange rates, Allied’s spirits and wine sales grew by five per cent, or £105m. However, its Quick Service Restaurants turnover slipped by £7m, reflecting the final transition of Baskin-Robbins from producing and selling ice cream to US franchisees to a wholly royalty-based model.
Overall trading profit in Europe was up 14 per cent to £139m reflecting a recovery in volumes in Spain and a good performance in the UK and central and eastern Europe, offset by declines in other western European markets caused by the challenging trading conditions.
Mr Bowman said the group’s UK business had "continued to deliver profit growth", with Courvoisier extending its leadership of the cognac category with both volumes and net turnover up nine per cent, and Malibu also doing well.
Looking ahead, Mr Bowman said he anticipated "continued momentum of the core brands". Articles Courtesy of The Scotsman
Houses galore in whisky site plans HUNDREDS of affordable homes are planned for the site of a doomed whisky plant in Leith.
Developer Teague Homes has snapped up Whyte and Mackay’s bottling factory and plans to replace the building with a £110 million development.
The firm hopes to construct up to 500 homes at the Salamander Place site, which is expected to be vacated by the firm in September 2006. Under city council guidelines at least a quarter of the one-bedroom units are expected to be offered for sale at no more than £57,900.
Whyte and Mackay announced last year that the Leith plant, where around 220 staff are employed, is to close as part of a major restructuring operation that will see the firm relocate to a new £20m bottling plant in Grangemouth, Stirlingshire.
Teague Homes, which was behind the Britannia Quay development of 330 apartments next to Ocean Terminal, has purchased the site for an undisclosed sum and is renting it back to Whyte and Mackay until the factory closes down.
Seamus Teague, the firm’s managing director, today said: "We’re hoping to create a development of low-cost housing aimed specifically at first-time buyers.
"There will be a mixture of one, two and three-bedroom flats on the site, as well as around 800,000 square feet of business units. We hope to have planning permission in place to allow us to start work as soon as Whyte and Mackay vacate the site.
"We think it’ll be a really attractive location because of its close proximity to Leith Links and it’s obviously in an area where there is great deal of development happening."
Up to a dozen business units of around 70,000sq ft each are earmarked for the land off Salamander Place that was subject to the lucrative deal.
Whyte and Mackay sparked anger when it announced plans to close the Leith plant and redevelop its current site in Grangemouth.
A spokesman for the company said consultation was still ongoing with the workforce in Leith to determine the number of staff that would be transferred to the new site. The number of staff working in Grangemouth is to increase from 140 to 220 by the time the new plant opens.
Whyte and Mackay’s plant is close to where around £32m worth of development is taking place on the site of the former William Muir whisky bond and warehouse on Salamander Street.
Strathclyde Homes is spending £23m creating 150 apartments and penthouses on a gap site.
And a consortium of Home in Scotland and Rutland Residential Limited is behind plans to convert the former warehouse into 88 flats for either rented or low-cost housing.
Under the city council’s affordable housing policy, at least 25 per cent of the properties on a development of 500 homes have to be either available for discounted sale or rent. The criterion for discounted sale is that a one-bedroom flat should be offered for sale at no more than £57,900.
A spokeswoman for the city council said: "We welcome developers taking a proactive approach to affordable housing and we look forward to working with Teague."
Whyte and Mackay was one of the high-profile critics to condemn the city council’s plans to create a giant waste plant off Salamander Street.
Campaigners against the scheme celebrated last week when council chiefs pulled the plug on the project, later admitting they had botched the handling of the planning application by failing to consult the local community fully. Articles Courtesy of The Scotsman
Jobs pledge as LVMH targets Glenmorangie LUXURY goods giant LVMH may seize Glenmorangie from under the noses of Pernod Ricard and Bacardi after pledging to avoid cutting jobs at a Scottish bottling plant.
Final bids for the prestige Scotch malt whisky company were tabled on Thursday night and are believed to have ranged between £285m and £300m. A winner is expected to be unveiled this week.
The shortlist is believed to have dropped to four - Pernod Ricard, Bacardi, Brown-Forman and LVMH. Pernod Ricard is being tipped as favourite as it has the firepower to outgun the rest of the bidders.
But sources close to the bidding believe the Macdonald family, which has put the business up for sale, would accept a lower bid in exchange for promises from LVMH about the future of the 250-strong workforce at its Broxburn bottling plant in West Lothian.
One source close to the auction said: "The bids are very complicated and it’s not all about the headline price. Everyone is very keen to preserve jobs where possible - particularly the Macdonalds. The objectives are firstly to maximise value, then secondly to preserve jobs. If there were two bids at the same price but one was better for jobs, the second would win through."
Another insider close to the deal said: "LVMH doesn’t have any other whisky brands or any other bottling operations in the UK so they would have to take on the Broxburn plant. Bacardi and Pernod would both be looking for synergies with their existing plants. Although Brown-Forman are still on the list, they’re not expected to be willing to bid as high anyway."
Bacardi has a whisky portfolio which includes Dewars, Lawsons and the Glen Deveron single malt. But it would be expected to transfer bottling to its plant in Southampton if it won the auction.
Pernod Ricard already owns Glenlivet, the number two Scotch whisky in the UK market behind Glenmorangie, which could raise a competition commission inquiry and delay any bid being processed.
Pernod would also close the Broxburn plant to integrate it with its existing Chivas Brothers bottling operations in Glasgow and Speyside, according to industry sources.
LVMH has no other whiskies in its portfolio and would turn Glenmorangie into a luxury brand if it won the auction. Articles Courtesy of The Scotsman
Distillers create new woodlands and improve whisky water ONE of the world’s leading drinks companies yesterday joined forces with Scottish Native Woods to announce a major environmental project in the heart of the North-east of Scotland’s whisky country.
Diageo, which owns ten distilleries in Speyside, is to invest £100,000 over the next three years to help establish a network of native woodlands in the catchments of four of the main rivers in Moray and Aberdeenshire in a scheme which will improve the quality of the water in the river systems and ultimately help boost fish stocks in the area.
The project, "Living Rivers", will lead to the restoration and expansion of more than 1,000 acres of riparian woodlands within the catchments of the rivers Spey, Deveron, Dee and Lossie, with the planting of the native Caledonian pinewood, birchwood, upland ash, elm and wet alder which once covered 80 per cent of the landscape.
The pioneering project was officially launched by broadcaster Muriel Gray, the patron of Scottish Native Woods, at Diageo’s Glendullan Distillery at Dufftown.
She said: "I have a love of Scotland's trees and woods and welcome the Living Rivers Project - a partnership with the aims of increasing awareness and management of the range of native wood types in the North-east."
A spokeswoman for the woodlands charity said: "The management and restoration of those areas can contribute to the productivity of our fresh water environment. And the management of these riparian woodlands will have a benefit for both local fisheries and the communities that rely on that economic activity."
Brian Higgs, the malt distilling director for Diageo, said the drinks giant placed a huge importance on the local environment of its operations, investing £20 million worldwide each year on local community projects.
He said: "Here in malt whisky country one of our most important raw materials is water and we are very heavily dependent on a good, healthy, clean supply at all times.
"At least ten of Diageo’s sites are situated within the catchment areas of the rivers and waterways covered by this project. Healthy riparian woodlands means a healthy water supply, as far as we’re concerned, and we’re delighted to be able to support this project." Articles Courtesy of The Scotsman
Bowmore serves up double loss Annual losses doubled at whisky distiller Morrison Bowmore last year, according to accounts released yesterday.
But sales are now ahead 27% on last year after its decision to focus on single malts.
Morrison Bowmore operates distilleries at Bowmore on Islay, Auchentoshan near Glasgow, and Glen Garioch at Oldmeldrum.
Figures released by Companies House showed pre-tax losses for the year to December 31 of £2.25million, against £1.069million. Turnover was, however, up almost £900,000 at £33.416million.
Higher costs and shared losses from joint ventures contributed to the larger losses.
Morrison Bowmore, founded in 1951, is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Japanese drinks giant Suntory.
The Scots company is a regular winner of awards for the quality of its malts and a former Distiller of the Year.
Just two months ago Bowmore Distillery was recognised by the European Commission as one of the most environmentally-friendly businesses in Europe.
The group employed 206 people last year, compared with 226 in 2002, while the top-earning director was paid £231,604 in the latest period, against £243,183 last time.
The group is led by chief executive Mike Keiller who was unavailable for comment about the accounts yesterday.
A spokeswoman said: "We are extremely confident about the way things are going." Articles Courtesy of The Press & Journal
Six suitors to get shot at distiller MALT whisky distiller Glenmorangie has whittled down the potential bidders for the West Lothian-based business to a shortlist of six.
Bacardi-Martini, Brown Forman, Pernod Ricard, Edrington, LVMH and William Grant are all reported to have made it to the next round, which gives them access to the group’s financial information.
The 300-year-old company, which employs almost 400 staff at its headquarters in Broxburn and its distillery in Tain, Ross-shire, opened talks with potential bidders after it was put up for sale last month.
The decision was made by the founding Macdonald family, which owns more than 50 per cent of shares in the business spread across around 15 family members.
The shortlist has been drawn up from more than a dozen companies that expressed an interest. The Glenmorangie board is expected to name a preferred bidder by mid-October, with the business estimated to be worth at least £300 million. The sale is expected to net the MacDonald family about £100m.
All the potential bidders already own whisky brands except luxury goods group LVMH which owns Moët & Chandon champagne and Hennessy cognac alongside fashion labels Luis Vuitton and Christian Dior.
Earlier this year Glenmorangie revealed that sales of its three premium malts were growing at more than twice the pace of the wider whisky market, boosting profits by ten per cent in the full year. Articles Courtesy of The Scotsman
Distilling Giant's Boss gets package worth over £3.6M The boss of Scotland's largest whisky distiller received £3.635million in the year to June 30.
The package given to chief executive Paul Walsh was revealed as the world's number one premium drinks company published its annual report. His pay and benefits increased by £250,000 despite Diageo posting reduced profits for the year - pre-tax profits before one-off costs of £2.07billion against £2.19billion the year before.
Mr Walsh, 49, received £823,000 in basic salary, plus £1.314million in annual performance payouts. He also gained other benefits worth £42,000. These included company cars, private use of a chauffeur, fuel, product allowance, financial counselling, spouse travel, medical insurance and life insurance premiums.
In addition to emoluments Mr Walsh received payments and made gains under long-term incentive plans of £1.456million during the year - down from £1.683million in 2003.
At the year-end he held some 3,523,814 shares and options, which at last night's close were potentially worth more than £24.1million. Mr Walsh would, however, have to pay for his shares under option before being able to cash them in.
The annual report also showed that Diageo's 11-strong board of directors - all but two of whom are non-executives - received total remuneration for the year of £4.334million, up £447,000 on last year.
Diageo's brands include Johnnie Walker whisky, Smirnoff vodka, Captain Morgan's rum, Gordon's gin, and Guinness. Among its other brands are Bailey's Irish cream, J &B whisky, Cuervo tequila, Tanqueray gin, and Bell's, Lagavulin, Cragganmore, Dalwhinnie and Talisker whisky. The group also owns the Gleneagles Hotel in Perthshire. Articles Courtesy of The Press & Journal
Bacardi favourite as bidding opens for Glenmorangie SPECULATION is mounting over who will end up with the MacDonald family’s coveted 52 per cent stake in whisky-maker Glenmorangie, with Bacardi-Martini the latest favourite to emerge.
Analysts are tipping Bacardi, which distributes Glenmorangie in the UK and Europe, to take the family’s stake, estimated to fetch up to £300 million, while Brown-Forman, owner of the Jack Daniels brand and a 10 per cent shareholder in Glenmorangie, remains another strong contender.
Glenmorangie plc, which owns the Glenmorangie, Ardbeg and Glen Moray malts, is expected to draw up a final shortlist by October to present to the MacDonald family, who put the distiller up for sale last month, and completion of the deal is tentatively set for November.
With the likely bidders reportedly narrowed down to three or four out of an initial seven, Louis Vuitton, Moet, Hennessy (LVHM) and Pernod Ricard, owner of Glenlivet, are also expected to be in the running.
Paris-based LVHM, the luxury-brands owner, is expected to put in a strong bid. "We are aware of the sale and their strong position in the market," said Christophe Navarre, head of its wine and spirits division, last week. Articles Courtesy of The Scotsman
Huntly group strikes gold with special malts Two whisky connoisseurs were yesterday celebrating a win at the Eurowhisky Awards in Switzerland.
Euan Shand and Alan Gordon took two Golden Thistles at the competition in Crans Montana for rare single malts produced by their independent bottling firm, Duncan Taylor & Co.
Judges were impressed with the Duncan Taylor Strathisla 35-year-old and the Duncan Taylor rare old Linlithgow 1982 cask strength malt.
Mr Shand said it was a coup for the small operation which he and Mr Gordon took over three years ago.
He added: "We've just got 15 staff and a bottling plant in Huntly, but we are now exporting to 28 countries. The United States and Japan are our biggest markets, but we are also moving forward in Europe and these awards will help us to do more.
"We export to Germany, France, Switzerland, Australia, Sweden, Denmark and Spain."
The businessmen bought the firm in 2002. It had been owned previously by American businessman Abe Rosenberg, who grew J &B whisky sales in the States from 25,000 cases to 3.5million.
Mr Rosenberg had a passion for whisky and bought many casks of new fillings from distilleries throughout Scotland.
When he died in 1994, aged 85, he had nearly 4,000 casks, ranging in age from 21 to 40-year-olds, in bond.
Duncan Taylor was placed under the management of a charitable trust for eight years before being sold to Mr Shand and Mr Gordon in a multimillion-pound deal backed by Bank of Scotland.
Mr Shand said: "We have a collection that includes some of the rarest casks of Scotch whisky. They include Bowmore and Macallan from the 1960s to name but two."
The pair have already received awards for the whisky from the Grampian Food Awards, as well as an export partnership award for exporting innovation. It is the second year of the Eurowhisky Awards, which attracted entries from most of Scotland's distillers. Articles Courtesy of The Press & Journal
Whisky in the pink PINK whisky - or Blush Scotch, if you prefer - is the latest in brand marketing for the Water of Life that will leave traditionalists, well, bright red.
A new whisky label, coyly named "Flirtation", will make its debut next week. For the modernists, it is a natural progression. The Scotch whisky industry has been battling to break free from the heather-and-golf-clubhouse image for years to reach out to a new generation of consumers. This is a brave journey that has led to the promotion of whisky as a "mixer" drink. Now comes pink whisky. Well, if you can have pink gin, why not Blush Scotch?
"Flirtation" is designed to appeal to the female market and a new generation of drinkers as far removed from the traditional tweed-clad club golfer as can be imagined.
It has been developed by the small Islay distillery Bruichladdich. The 20-year-old whisky developed its pink hue "accidently" after it was aged for five weeks in red-wine casks from the south of France. Wine merchant Mark Reynier, who owns the distillery, describes it as "pretty funky" (that’s for sure) but insists: "I cannot underestimate the seriousness of this whisky." Customers will have little option but to agree, as it comes at £65 a bottle. Priced thus, it cannot fail to bring out tipplers in a matching shade of pink. Articles Courtesy of The Scotsman
Diageo hit as profits and outlook lack spirit DIAGEO, the world’s biggest spirits group, yesterday reported slightly reduced annual underlying pre-tax profits - and saw its shares hit as it warned of tough trading in Britain, Ireland and mainland Europe.
Unveiling a pre-tax profit before exceptionals of £2.07 billion (£2.12bn), the company also stonewalled questions on whether it would be interested in picking up the Glenmorangie whisky company following the controlling family’s decision to sell up.
Paul Walsh, Diageo’s chief executive, also announcing an 8 per cent increase in the final dividend to 17p, said: "I would never comment on acquisitions."
Nick Rose, the group’s finance director, hinted at possible interest in the famous Scottish company, however.
"We’ve never ruled out the possibility of making acquisitions and if a small, interesting opportunity came along at the right price then we would look at it."
Diageo said the introduction of a smoking ban in Ireland and a tax on alcopops in Germany weakened demand for many of its brands, which include Guinness and Smirnoff vodka.
Of the smoking ban, Walsh said: "It’s very early days, but the indications are not good. We are watching this situation very carefully."
He said the Irish economy had been contracting for a few years, and tourism had been hit following the US terrorist attacks of September 2001.
At the same time, UK consumers were opting to drink at home rather than in pubs and this had driven down net sales of Smirnoff Ice by 17 per cent.
But the group said continued growth in North America, where four of its six spirits groups increased market share, and large markets such as Africa, meant it was able to improve its overall trading performance.
Adverse exchange-rate movements - primarily the weakness of the US dollar - reduced profits by £97 million.
Diageo’s operating profits before exceptionals eased back to £1.91bn (£1.95bn) following the completion of the sale of the company’s food operations, Pillsbury and Burger King.
The figure included £50m of restructuring costs after the group outsourced IT operations to IBM, tackled difficulties in its Irish business and moved its Park Royal Guinness production operation in London to Dublin.
Diageo’s shares closed down 8p at 675.5p after Walsh said he did "not see any change in the trading environment that we face. Europe remains our key business challenge and North America continues to provide our biggest opportunity".
Diageo trades in 180 countries and makes brands including Smirnoff, Guinness, Johnnie Walker, Baileys, J&B, Cuervo, Captain Morgan, Tanqueray, and Beaulieu Vineyard and Sterling Vineyards wines.
In the UK, where Diageo employs 5,000 of its 24,000 staff, turnover rose 2 per cent to £1.41bn on higher sales of Gordon’s gin, Blossom Hill wine and Smirnoff Red.
But profitability suffered as younger people increasingly opt to drink at home.
The group’s underlying sales rose 6 per cent. Articles Courtesy of The Scotsman
Glenmorangie suitors line up A PREFERRED bidder for a 52 per cent stake in premier Scots distiller Glenmorangie could be chosen within weeks, as the company nears the conclusion of the first phase.
Serious bidders will be granted access to a data room next month and NM Rothschild, appointed to handle the sale, has furnished the distiller with a list of interested parties.
Speculation surrounding the likely bidders for the stake, owned by the MacDonald family, has focused on Brown Forman, the 10 per cent shareholder which distributes Glenmorangie in the US, and Bacardi-Martini, responsible for the brand’s UK and European sales.
The maker of Glenmorangie, Glen Moray and Ardbeg is one of the largest remaining independent companies in the Scotch whisky industry and has been valued by City analysts at up to £300 million. Articles Courtesy of The Scotsman
Brown-Forman to make first move in £300m Glenmorangie bid battle BROWN-FORMAN, the drinks group behind Jack Daniel’s, will launch a formal bid for Glenmorangie, the Scotch whisky producer which was put up for sale last week.
US-based Brown-Forman refused to say anything about Glenmorangie in public but has let its industry contacts know that it will bid for the Scottish company, which was valued at just under £250m at Friday’s close.
Brown-Forman already distributes Glenmorangie’s products in the US and continental Europe and hold 9.6% of the voting rights in the company. It does not have a Scotch whisky brand of its own.
One senior industry figure said Brown-Forman would be a front runner from the start: "They already own nearly 10% of the company, so they can effectively afford to bid 10% more than anyone else for the same amount of money. It will be hard for anyone else to overcome that."
Brown-Forman is expected to contact NM Rothschild, the merchant bank handling the sale, within weeks. The bidding process was triggered by the decision of the Macdonald family to sell its 52% stake last week.
One of Glenmorangie’s biggest shareholders said Brown-Forman, based in Louisville, Kentucky, would face tough competition. Nick Train of investment management firm Lindsell Train, which holds a stake that accounts for roughly 6.5% of the voting rights, said: "I am certain there will be interest. I would be amazed if there was not more than one potential bidder that emerged. It is an incredibly strong brand. It still looks a bit undervalued, even after the rise this week."
He added: "It is a rare opportunity. There are not many offerings such as Glenmorangie left in the market, particularly publicly quoted companies."
Other potential bidders include Bacardi, which distributes Glenmorangie in some countries, and Moet Hennessy, the French drinks group.
Competition rules are likely to exclude Diageo, the world’s biggest drinks group, but London-based Allied Domecq is thought to be a strong candidate because it owns relatively few malt whiskies.
Dominic Roskrow, the editor of Whisky magazine, said: "I wouldn’t want to rule Allied Domecq out. In the past few years they have made more of an effort with their malt whisky brands."
Allied sold its Ardbeg distillery to Glenmorangie for £7m in 1997. But the London-based group may be keen to acquire the Glenmorangie distillery in Easter Ross.
Glenmorangie’s chief executive, Paul Neep, said last week that competitors of Brown-Forman would see their bids treated fairly despite the close working relationship between the US group and Glenmorangie.
Shares in Glenmorangie leapt by 36% last week, valuing the group at an all-time high of £246m. Investors may hold out for £320m, using the same valuation model that was applied to The Macallan malt when it was bought by Edrington in 1999.
Malt whisky is one of the fastest-growing categories of the international spirits trade, spurred on by consumers looking for higher quality. By contrast, the traditionally more popular blended whiskies are barely holding on against vodka, rum and alcopops. Glenmorangie is regarded as one of the top malt whisky producers and similar opportunities are unlikely to come up this decade. Its flagship brand is the UK’s most popular and the world’s sixth most popular malt.
But some observers believe the West Lothian company is already overpriced, given that it has yet to make more than £10m a year in pre-tax profits. As well as its two leading malts, it makes Glen Moray, a budget malt, and a number of blended and supermarket own-label whiskies Articles Courtesy of The Scotsman
Staff set for cash windfall DIRECTORS and employees at Glenmorangie could be in line for a cash windfall from the sale of the whisky giant. The strong rise in the company’s market value since the sale move was announced has significantly enhanced the potential value of outstanding share options in the company. And although the future of the executive directors following any sale is as yet unclear, if they were to leave the company they would be in line for handsome payoffs.
Chief executive Paul Neep, pictured, sales and marketing director Simon Erlanger and finance director and deputy chief executive Iain Hamilton are all on contracts requiring two years notice from the company.
Neep received a total pay package including bonus and benefits of £340,000 last year, Erlanger £204,000 and Hamilton £262,000. Operations director Peter Nelson, who received £155,000, is on a one year contract. It is also thought they would be compensated for the loss of share options under performance-related schemes. More than 850,000 options were outstanding under share option schemes for directors and senior management earlier this year. Almost 200,000 options on ‘A’ shares in the company are exercisable before 2010 at £3.80 - compared to Friday’s price of £13.35.
The value of the shares already held by directors in the company has risen by £160,000 since the sale move was announced. Under separate savings-related option schemes, there are also more than 60,000 options held by management and employees exercisable at prices ranging from 632p and 705.7p between this month and 2007.
Staff may also be able to exercise options before their normal exercise date although they may be liable to tax on any gain. Articles Courtesy of The Scotsman
Malt's brand new image MALT whisky Glenlivet is to undergo a £6.5 million marketing boost in a bid to make it the biggest-selling brand in the world.
Glenlivet manufacturer Chivas Brothers has outlined new growth targets for the single malt, which it aims to push ahead of arch rival Glenfiddich.
Martin Riley, Chivas’s international director of marketing, said the company initially wanted to push sales up to 500,000 nine-litre cases a year, before driving head-to-head with Glenfiddich, which sells around 800,000 cases annually.
Glenlivet is also to be given new labels and packaging and be marketed under the new slogan "The single malt that started it all" - aimed at highlighting its history as the first legal Scotch distillery in the area.
The campaign, which involves the Glenlivet 12-year-old, 18-year-old and a 15-year-old French oak reserve, will kick off in the US next month, followed by the UK in October.. Articles Courtesy of The Scotsman
Bidding war opens for Glenmorangie GLENMORANGIE was at the centre of a furious bidding war last night as the Macdonald familys decision to sell its controlling share sent ripples of interest through the City, catapulting its shares up over 25 per cent.
The company has been valued at £250 million, but analysts say it could reach £300m if a bidding war ensues. Although no formal bids have come to the table, two front runners in Brown Foreman, (makers of Jack Daniels) and Bacardi have emerged.
Last night, an analyst said: "Perhaps Brown Foreman have the slight edge as they already own 10 per cent of the shares, have a big cooperage business and have no whisky brands of their own. But if it comes down to money, one has to favour Bacardi."
In 2000, Brown Foreman, struck a deal with Glenmorangie to distribute its products in most international markets, including the United States and the Far East. Bacardi has the contract for distribution in the UK.
Yesterday, it emerged that the Macdonald family made the decision to sell early this year and informed the board at the end of June soon after the companys AGM.
Since David Macdonald retired as chairman eight years ago, none of his four daughters has been a director of the company. It is believed they have decided to cash in while the share price is still very strong. It comes after a five-year period of sustained growth - the longest in the companys history.
They have appointed NM Rothschild to conduct an auction which could land the Macdonald family a £150m windfall.
Yesterday Glenmorangies chief executive, Paul Neep, said their decision to sell did come as a surprise but the objective now was to retain the best value for all the shareholders and return to business as usual.
Neep said: "There is the sense that the major shareholders realise they cant be the controlling shareholders for ever and they want to exit while they can control the process."
The West Lothian distiller, which earns 90 per cent of its profits from three single malt brands - flagship Glenmorangie, Ardbeg and Glen Moray - reported a 10 per cent increase in profits on a 6 per cent rise in turnover.
But in the past eight years it has pursued an own-label strategy. This has seen the company supply blended whisky to supermarkets as well as managing its entire whisky category. Sources in the industry said, while it has enabled it to grow turnover, the strategy has been "deeply unprofitable" and that earnings and margins have come under pressure.
One source said: "There is a feeling in the City that the antiquated share structure that the Macdonald family retains has been holding the company back."
Shares closed up 25.77 per cent at £13.30. Articles Courtesy of The Scotsman
Glenmorangie is put on the market Whisky group in early talks over sell-off
ONE of Scotlands most famous distillers, the West Lothian-based Glenmorangie group, was today put up for sale.
The 300-year-old company, which employs almost 400 staff at its headquarters in Broxburn, West Lothian, and its base in Tain, Ross-shire, has been put on the market by its owners, the Edinburgh-based Macdonald family.
The company is in preliminary talks with a number of potential buyers.
The Glenmorangie brand, and the fact that it represents the most popular malt in the domestic market, will make the company an attractive proposition. City analysts value the company at up to £300 million.
The sale is expected to net the Macdonald family £100m. One industry journal is tipping Bacardi and Brown-Forman, the American firm that makes Jack Daniels, as favourites to buy the company. Glenmorangie has been owned since 1918 by the Leith-based family firm Macdonald and Muir.
In 1996, the company moved its headquarters to Broxburn, where it now employs 234 staff at its bottling plant and head offices. There had been no hint of a sale until yesterday and meetings were due to be held this morning to break the news to staff.
The family have appointed NM Rothschild, the City investment bank, to sound out potential purchasers for their controlling stake in Glenmorangie. It is understood that the shares are spread among about 15 family members, although the majority are held in charitable and family trusts.
A spokeswoman for the group said the Macdonald family had "realised it could not be a controlling shareholder forever" and had decided to exit the group from a position of strength.
The sale, which is expected to be concluded within three months, comes after a recovery in the companys fortunes in recent years.
The Macdonald family is said to keep a low profile and to have had little direct involvement in the company since David Macdonald stepped down as chairman in 1995, although two family members are still employees of the company.
Glenmorangie, which recently overtook Glenfiddich as the UKs best-selling malt, produces 1.6 million cases of whisky a year.
The companys main malt whisky brands are Glenmorangie Single Highland malt, Ardbeg Single Islay and Glen Moray Speyside malt.
Shares in Glenmorangie soared following the announcement, with the groups "A" shares, which are the most commonly held and confer one voting right on the holder, rising 18 per cent, or 192.5p to 1250p.
Scotch Whisky Association spokesman Campbell Evans said: "Glenmorangie is one of the best-known names in the industry and was the sixth best-selling whisky in the world in recent figures so it is an extremely attractive prospect."
Today, West Lothian Council deputy leader Willie Dunn said he was hopeful that employees jobs would be secure.
He said: "This has come as a complete surprise - I certainly knew nothing about this. Obviously this is a worrying time for the staff, but, as it is being sold as a going concern, hopefully that should secure long-term employment for the staff.
"It is not as though the company is in trouble. It is a strong, solid company."
Macdonald and Muir was established in Leith in 1893 by Roderick Macdonald and Alexander Muir. Today it is one of the few remaining independent family-owned and controlled companies of Scotch whisky distillers and blenders.
In 1982, the company embarked on an international marketing drive, stressing the premium quality and hand-crafted character of Glenmorangie, helping to pioneer the taste for single malt - the success story of whisky in the 1980s.
Glenmorangie now exports to more than 120 countries.
Brown-Forman Corp is already a Glenmorangie shareholder.
The Macdonald family controls the companys "B" shares, which account for 65 per cent of votes. The "A" shares, 25 per cent of which are owned by Brown-Forman, account for the rest of the votes.
Analysts also tipped privately-owned beverage firm Bacardi, which has distribution deals in Europe with Glenmorangie, as a possible contender for a takeover. Articles Courtesy of The Scotsman
Whisky extravaganza to hit Glasgow IT PROMISED to be one of the worlds largest whisky-tasting events and this week organisers have been true to their word as they unveiled more than 30 exhibitors and 50 brands for the two-day festival.
Whisky Live, a festival celebrating all aspects of the "water of life", will be held in Glasgow next month in what organisers hope will be the largest whisky-tasting extravaganza ever held in the UK.
A plethora of malts including The Macallan, Glenmorangie, The Glenfiddich and Glengoyne will be on show. As well as the whiskies, a variety of experts, including Richard Paterson, of Whyte & Mackay, will be on hand to deliver a series of masterclasses to give members of the public a chance to learn more about fine malt whisky.
The event will take place in the citys George Square and will appeal to both the enthusiast and the novice, giving festival-goers the chance to sample some of the greatest whiskies in the world, while mingling with the producers and distillers, all on one site.
Damian Riley-Smith, the managing director and founder of Whisky Magazine and the events organiser, said that the support from the whisky industry for this inaugural Whisky Live in Scotland had been fantastic.
He said: "Every leading brand, and a fine selection of the more specialised offerings, will be available to sample at Scotlands greatest display of its greatest export.
"As hotels, bars and restaurants spread the word, so the enthusiasm to experience Scotlands national treasure first hand grows daily."
The event began life in Tokyo in 2000, in response to Japans huge interest in Scotch whisky. Mr Riley-Smith then brought it to London and Paris. Later this year, he hopes to hold sister tastings in South Africa, Cape Town, San Francisco and New York during Tartan Week. Articles Courtesy of The Scotsman
Whisky Fringe 2004 A dram fine time was had by everyone
THE smell of whisky wafting down the grand staircase leading to the Signet Library was enough to knock you for six before youd even tasted a drop of the stuff.
The aroma was made up of the 150 drams on offer at this years sell-out Whisky Fringe, courtesy of distillers from all over Scotland, plus a few from Ireland and the United States for good measure.
With 400 people packed into the venue, the heat was at times stifling but didnt seem to spoil most peoples enjoyment.
Indeed, some grown men were behaving like kids let loose in a sweet shop.
"Its great - I can go up and ask for drams of whiskies I could never afford to buy," enthused one punter as he joined the queue for a taste of Highland Park 25-year-old, the smoother grand-daddy of the Orkney distillerys signature malt.
While some did seem a bit the worse for wear rather too early in the afternoon - "yes, theres quite a few arm-flingers", as the chap dishing out the Bunnahabhain commented - most people were selective about which whiskies they wanted to try.
Glenfiddichs Havana Reserve was a popular choice, as was the sneak preview of the new Macallan Fine Oak range. The 18-year-old Glenlivet was also going down well.
Whether people came to enjoy their favourite dram and try something new, or to try the water of life for the first time, most appeared to be having a dram fine time. Articles Courtesy of The Scotsman
Edrington makes it a double for US EDRINGTON, the private whisky group that is joint owner of the North British grain distillery in Edinburgh, has launched two new products in the United States, one of its biggest markets.
The groups Famous Grouse Vintage Malt, which has been successful in the UK and Taiwan, is now for sale in Chicago, Boston and Denver. A nationwide release is likely to follow, the company said.
The Famous Grouse brand has bucked the trend in the US, where the blended sector is in decline, Edrington said, adding the new vintage malt version has been well received so far.
The Macallan Fine Oak, a lighter style of single malt, was also launched this week, in New York.
The Macallan brand already sells 300,000 cases a year, with important markets in the US and Asia. The brand was recently awarded its sixth Queens Award for enterprise, and its 18-year-old product was named "best malt in the world" by Whisky Magazine, the industry bible. Edrington has also designed new bottles and packaging for its key brands, Famous Grouse and the Macallans sherry oak-matured range.
Chief executive Ian Curle said the company plans to develop premium extensions to existing brands Cutty Sark and Highland Park, and to look at new offerings after the success of the Famous Grouse Liqueur last Christmas.
"We are firmly committed to being more innovative and developing this area of the business, which provides the opportunity for long-term brand-building on the global stage," said Mr Curle, who took over the reins from Ian Good, now chairman, in April.
Mr Curle intends to grow the core brands to leading and premium positions in existing markets, plus new and emerging markets. He said: "Its important that we generate fresh revenue streams and a new product development team has been set up to provide new ideas." Articles Courtesy of The Scotsman
Rare whisky fetches £5,000 A RARE bottle of 50-year-old malt whisky has been bought for £5,000 by a mystery collector.
Only 60 bottles of the special Dalmore were produced and only eight remained. The buyer is said to be a local collector but his name was not revealed.
However, the purchase price does not quite compare to the £25,877.50 paid for a Dalmore 62-year-old malt which was sold at auction last year, the highest price ever fetched for a bottle of single malt whisky.
The 50-year-old was stored in three casks at the Dalmore distillery in Easter Ross on 1 May, 1926, the same day that 25,000 people in Glasgow staged a mass demonstration in support of the miners.
It was bottled on 17 February 1978 in hand-blown crystal decanters and is said to have a "deep, rich, intense, honied gold" colour with a soft and elegant nose.
Drew Sinclair, the Dalmore distillery manager, said: "It really is testament to the quality of our whisky that people have chosen to invest in this special malt." Articles Courtesy of The Scotsman
New whisky in the pipeline IAN MacLeod Distillers, the drinks maker and bottler, plans to release a new Glengoyne single malt whisky.
The new whisky, whose name is under wraps, is to be rolled out on the UK market on September 10, with launches in continental Europe and the United States to follow before Christmas.
Ian MacLeod, whose other brands include London Hill gin and Isle of Skye whisky, acquired Langs whisky brands and Glengoyne distillery, just north of Glasgow, last year for around £7.2 million from drinks giant Edrington.
Stuart Hendry, Glengoynes brand manager, said: "There is not much we can say at this stage, except that were all very excited about the new expression here, and its certainly part of our strategy to become a global player. Articles Courtesy of The Scotsman
A whisky on the rocks, Sir Sean? HE HAS appeared in movies set all over the world, playing Americans, a Russian and the quintessential English spy. But Sir Sean Connerys film appearances as a Scot, in Scotland, have been few and far between.
But that could be about to change after the team remaking the classic Whisky Galore! set their sights on the legendary actor.
Scotland on Sunday understands informal talks have been held with Connery about taking a leading role in the highly anticipated movie.
Preparations are at an early stage and Connery has yet to commit, but the film-makers are confident that if they can deliver a great script they have a good chance of signing up the star.
Whisky Galore! revolves around the SS Cabinet Minister, which runs aground off the fictitious Scottish island of Todday. The locals attempt to salvage its cargo of thousands of cases of whisky and outwit Home Guard Captain Waggett and the excise officers.
The original film was made in 1948, based on a novel by Compton Mackenzie, which in turn was inspired by the wreck of the SS Politician off Eriskay in 1941. The film starred Basil Radford as Waggett and a host of familiar Scottish actors of the time, including Wylie Watson as Macroon, James Robertson Justice, Duncan Macrae and a young Gordon Jackson.
Connery has already publicly backed the idea of a remake and is quoted in the prospectus issued to potential investors in the movie.
But sources close to the project believe a specific role has been identified which would be perfect from Connery, that of the wily postmaster Joseph Macroon, who leads attempts to salvage whisky from the shipwreck.
Connery has made only four feature films in Scotland: From Russia, With Love, in which Argyll doubled for the Balkans; Five Days One Summer; Highlander and Entrapment, and his plans for a film studio on the outskirts of Edinburgh came to nothing.
Whisky Galore! could present him with the chance to revisit Scotland and a Scottish film classic at the same time.
If he takes the part, he would face one of his most formidable antagonists since getting the better of Goldfinger and Dr No.
The makers of the movie want the part of Captain Waggett to be played by Bill Nighy, the veteran actor who left Hugh Grant and Colin Firth in the shade in last years hit comedy Love Actually.
"For the Home Guard fellow, I think Bill Nighy would be rather marvellous," said Bill Bryden, the Scots writer and director, who is working on the script.
Bryden says he is half-way through the script and promises it will preserve the original vision and spirit of the late Sandy Mackendrick, the legendary Scottish director.
Bryden is sticking closely to the original script and dismisses as a "travesty" the recent Holywood remake of Mackendricks The Ladykillers.
"Im saying that, while doing a remake of Whisky Galore!, but I think in a sense Im much more in touch with what Mackendrick would do now, were he alive, as opposed to just deciding to throw the baby out with the bath water," said Bryden
"I think a tale thats good for its own time is good for all time. Its like a classic folk tale. I dont want to muck around with it too much."
The new version will be a period piece, though it is likely to begin in the present day, with someone setting the scene.
"It might be somebody coming back to the island from America, who maybe left as a child, and is kind of telling the story," said Bryden.
He has gone back to the original novel and intends to use some episodes that were not in Mackendricks film. The Gordon Jackson characters romance is likely to be fleshed out, with Kevin McKidd the early favourite for the role.
"If you could find a fault in the film, its maybe a wee bit whimsical, and I think you can have a slightly harder edge to it without losing its fairytale quality," said Bryden.
In the book and the film, the islanders ultimately outwit Captain Waggett and the excise men, though in real life the pilfering of the SS Politician ended less happily for some as they wound up in jail.
Hollywood knows the value of a happy ending and that is one convention Bryden will almost certainly stick to. "I think our islanders prevail," he said. "I havent got there yet, but I dont think theyre going to go to jail."
FROM CALAMITY TO CLASSIC
The original Whisky Galore! was filmed entirely on Barra, a six-hour ferry journey from Oban for the 80-strong cast and crew, who stayed with local islanders. The historic location shoot was not the result of any great artistic vision - it was simply that Ealing Studios were full and the company was desperate for more films. Director Sandy Mackendrick had to contend with the worst summer for 80 years.
The film went over budget and was considered a disaster when studio boss Michael Balcon first saw it. He wanted to cut it down and release it as a supporting film. It was re-edited, but still performed poorly on its original release.
Its enduring popularity and classic status were ultimately assured by its authentic local atmosphere and a deceptively subversive sense of humour that has not dated. "A happy people with few and simple pleasures," says the opening voice-over, as nine children appear, one after the other, through a croft-house door.
The film was released in the US as Tight Little Island and in France as Whisky a Go-Go and a sequel, Rockets Galore!, was also shot on Barra. Articles Courtesy of The Scotsman
Whyte and Mackay shows more spirit Whisky distiller aims to diversify to transform into international group
WHYTE and Mackay, the whisky distiller, is planning to acquire or build brands of drinks such as rum, gin and aperitifs over the next five years.
Jacques Fragis, Whyte and Mackays chief financial officer, said making new lines would allow the company to change from a local whisky producer to an international spirits group.
On whether to acquire or create its own brands, he said: "It is always a debate. If you are starting from scratch it takes a lot longer. Ninety-five per cent of new products dont make it, but it doesnt cost nearly as much. It may be that a product like Campari comes up for sale and we might go for it. We are not tied to any particular methodology."
Fragis said new spirit brands could be made at Whyte and Mackays Invergordon distillery in Easter Ross, which makes grain whisky and Vladivar, the UKs second most popular vodka.
He said: "It can produce quite a bit more than 30 million litres (the current production level) and we have a large tract of land there."
Fragis said Whyte and Mackay would concentrate on its existing portfolio this year but wanted a broader range of drinks in subsequent years.
The company, previously called Kyndal, makes Whyte and Mackay blended whisky, Isle of Jura malt and Glayva liqueur.
Much of the companys effort will be put into trying to increases sales abroad.
Fragis said a new office in the far east was most likely, but appeared to rule out a US base. "Where do you put an office? You have to travel so much you might as well keep it here."
Fragis is a longstanding associate of Vivian Imerman, the companys South African chief executive and former Del Monte executive.
Imerman first became involved in Kyndal as a shareholder when it was bought out from Jim Beam Brands in 2001. Imerman and Fragis took control of the business, which had been led by Brian Megson, in February 2003.
Fragis said Whyte and Mackay could grow by becoming a more agile version of Diageo, the worlds biggest drinks group and top producer of Scotch whisky.
"Part of being agile is having an ear to the ground and being that bit closer," he said. "If we find there is an opportunity in market X, we want to get a product done, bottled and there before anyone else has woken up to the possibility.
"That is harder to do for a public company. We dont have to worry about short-term results."
The company has already committed more than £40m to its Whyte and Mackay and Vladivar brands in TV, poster and cinema campaigns.
Fragis said more cash would be spent promoting its malt whiskies, which are less well known than the leading brands of its rivals. "That may mean having somebody standing in duty free shops getting people to taste our drinks," he said.
The company last week revealed that it had made a £13.7m pre-tax loss on sales of £158.9m in the year to September 30, 2003. Earnings were hit by £17.4m of restructuring costs, including redundancies and the planned closure of its bottling hall in Leith, Edinburgh.
Fragis said these changes would cut Whyte and Mackays costs by between £6m and £8m per year. The company plans to make 200 staff redundant out of a total workforce of 700.
"We are cutting the number of bottling lines down from 21 to six or seven. It doesnt take a genius to work out that will save money," he said, adding that quality could be improved by the change.
He said the company had found a buyer for its Salamander Street site in Leith at a higher price than expected. He declined to name the developer, but said the plant would close in late 2005 or early 2006.
Bottling will then move to Grangemouth, where the company already has a plant. The firms sales team, currently based in Salamander Street, will move to the Easter Road ground of Hibernian football club, which is sponsored by Whyte and Mackay.
Some of the savings may go towards cutting prices, although Fragis said the company would not choose to make such a move. Whyte and Mackay plans to reduce the proportion of low-margin supermarket label whisky in its sales from 70% to 50% by selling more of its own brands.
Fragis said pricing pressure from supermarkets - one of the factors that is believed to have led to Kyndals restructuring - had not become any tougher in recent months. The companys accounts show it paid out £1.1m to former directors in compensation for loss of office in the year to September.
Directors pay before compensation fell from £715,000 in the year to September 2002 to £437,000 last year. Articles Courtesy of The Scotsman
Shake-up drains £10m from Whyte & Mackay WHYTE & Mackay has reported an annual loss of £10.7 million due to a large restructuring programme, against an £800,000 loss in the previous year.
But the privately-owned Scotch whisky maker said its five-year plan to rejuvenate the company was still on track.
The distiller sparked outrage last September when it announced that 220 workers faced the axe from its long-standing Leith bottling plant.
The Salamander Place plant is one of two bottling factories which executives want to "consolidate" into a new high-speed plant in Grangemouth.
Exceptional costs of £17.4m included £7m for redundancies and £4.3m for writedown of surplus assets in the closure of the bottling halls at Leith and Grangemouth and the creation of the new facility at Grangemouth.
Other costs include £2.9m for refinancing, following the abortive plan by bankers WestLB to securitise the whole of the companys assets and income against its whisky stocks.
Jacques Fragis, the groups chief financial officer, said the securitisation plan had been abandoned when WestLBs principal finance team left the bank in 2003. "It is not altogether a loss because a lot of the work will be helpful to new refinancing," he said.
WestLB still holds 30 per cent of the shares and has two seats on the board, as well as having provided £188m of debt in a facility with 12 years to run.
More than 12 months after the exit of the management buy-out team which created Kyndal Spirits, the company also announced it has installed Alex Nicol as chief operating officer. Mr Nicol, former marketing director of Glenmorangie and latterly international marketing director at Scottish & Newcastle, will report to South African Vivian Imerman, who controls the company and will remain as chairman and chief executive.
Mr Fragis said: "If we were going to compete with the likes of Diageo, we had to strengthen the management team. We need people who will make us a lot more agile than the big guys."
The announcement follows the departures of finance director Scott McCroskie, UK sales director Alan Lowndes and bulk sales director Nick Swan in February.
They followed directors Brian Megson, Ian Palmer, Alan Mackie and Douglas Reid who had departed over the previous year. All had been involved in the £200m management buy-out of the company from Jim Beam Brands in 2001.
The distillers balance sheet showed net debt rising from £193m to £197m in 2003, but Mr Fragis said healthy cashflow had enabled more than £12m of gross debt to be repaid in the past two years.
He said whisky stocks had been increased, in line with the companys growth plans, and after allowing for a £3m-a-year rise in the marketing budget the business was running "nicely ahead of last year" on the key measure of earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation. Articles Courtesy of The Scotsman
Whisky plant strike may hit supply to pubs WHISKY supplies to pubs and shops could be disrupted in the coming weeks after about 300 workers at a major production plant in Glasgow went on strike and threatened to continue the action indefinitely if no resolution is found.
Bottling-hall and warehouse staff at the Edrington Groups operation on the citys Great Western Road began the three-day action after pay negotiations between GMB union officials and the company broke down yesterday.
The strike, which includes picketing outside the plant, will affect the distribution of major brands such as The Famous Grouse, Cutty Sark, The Macallan and Highland Park.
The company has been in talks with the GMB since January but negotiations have failed to break the impasse over a proposed pay offer of 3.5 per cent.
Ian King, the GMBs senior organiser for food and leisure, said that the action would continue until midnight on Monday, but a decision on further strike action would be taken on Monday afternoon.
He said: "As of 2pm today, the workforce went out on strike and will be out until midnight on Monday.
"I held 11th-hour talks with the company yesterday morning to try to avert the industrial action and obviously the discussions broke down without agreement and led to the dispute, unfortunately.
"The plant is being picketed at the moment and a major demonstration also took place as the company held its AGM on site.
As you may imagine, the workers feel a little put out - IAN KING
The workers wanted to demonstrate against the decision to award an 8 per cent increase to shareholders while the GMB members were being asked to sell themselves short with their award.
"I will be meeting with the strike committee on Monday to discuss whether we step up the industrial action or not for the following week, as we are required by law to give the company seven days notice.
"The GMB have looked at various options and put forward various proposals and if the company were to front-load the offer in year one, I think it might well assist in getting some form of settlement."
Mr King warned that the workers were determined to see the strike through and said they felt aggrieved that other staff and the directors had been awarded large increases, with no strings attached.
He said: "If the company do not front-load the increase [award the bulk of the pay rise in the first year] then the workforce are going to stay out indefinitely, because the engineers were awarded a 7 per cent increase with no strings attached and the directors salaries have increased by 18 per cent with no strings attached.
"As you might imagine, the workers feel a little put out by that."
A spokesman for the Edrington Group said it was "hugely disappointed" with the strike decision, which was announced after the two-hour meeting in Glasgow.
Emrys Inker, the corporate affairs director, said: "After six months of partnership wage negotiations, it is unfortunate that the matter has come to this, as we have made what we consider to be a fair, consistent and competitive offer in todays tough operating environment.
"We have proposed a three-year deal, comprising above-inflation wage rises and an associated guarantee of employment, plus the creation of 40 new permanent jobs.
"This offer compares very favourably to other agreements struck in the Scotch whisky industry and is an excellent package."
On the way forward, Mr Inker said: "Our door remains open and we want to continue talking to the unions."
Edrington has seen its brands perform ahead of the industrys expectations this year.
On the companys website, Ian Curle, the chief executive, says: "The Famous Grouse increased sales despite tough market conditions and our single malt whisky brands - The Macallan, Highland Park and The Glenrothes - performed ahead of the industrys growth in volume and value.
"This movement ahead reflects our strategic priority to increasingly premium-ise our brands."
The groups turnover was £224.9 million, compared with £225.9 million in 2003, while its operating profit was £65.1 million this year and £64.9 million in 2003. Profit before tax increased by 17.3 per cent to £72.4 million, compared with £61.7 million in 2003, and shareholders earnings rose by 26 per cent to £39.2 million, compared with £31.1 million. The dividend increased by 10.5 per cent to 12.6p, up from 11.4p in 2003. Articles Courtesy of The Scotsman
Arran Distillers buys back £1m whisky form investors ONE of Scotlands newest distilleries has bought back £1m of malt whisky from investors in a move which should secure its long-term future.
Isle of Arran Distillers, which runs the islands only distillery, at Lochranza, issued shares to its early-stage backers in return for stocks of whisky which they owned.
Douglas Davidson, the companys managing director, said: "This strengthens our balance sheet and it releases to the management good-quality malt whisky at various ages which we can use."
Davidson said sales of Arran whisky products such as Arran Malt and Lochranza blended whisky were set to break the £1m barrier for the first time this year. Whisky sales rose by 27% between the first half of 2003 and 2004, and the company has benefited from an increase in visitors at Lochranza.
One reason for the companys sales success is its growing overseas distribution network. Arrans whiskies and Holy Isle cream liqueur are now on sale in 26 countries, up from six in 2002.
Last week Davidson was in talks with potential distributors from China and South Africa about extending its reach further. The company is also looking closely at countries which have just joined the European Union, such as the Czech Republic.
Davidson said Arran would take on more staff next year to meet increased demand. Production, which has taken place intermittently up to now, will restart this week and be cranked up in early 2005.
More regular production should also make the visitor centre more attractive, because visitors prefer to see whisky being produced. Articles Courtesy of The Scotsman
Diageo blasted over Scots whisky job cuts DRINKS giant Diageo has come under fire from union bosses today over the axing of 60 whisky jobs in Scotland.
The 55 posts in Glasgow and five in Edinburgh are being outsourced to Eastern Europe. The redundancies will be phased in from August to next March as the work is transferred to the firms base in Budapest, Hungary. Diageo said the transfer of the back office jobs would not result in the closure of either of its offices.
But Billy Parker, Amicus regional officer for the drinks industry, said there was a real danger of Scotlands most famous industry "drip dripping" abroad, and added: "Its an absolute disgrace that these people have been thrown on the scrap heap."
But Diageo said it had told staff of the job losses in February 2002, and pointed out that since then, 180 jobs had been created by the firm north of the Border. Articles Courtesy of The Scotsman
Fringe set for spirited performance with whisky event MORE than 300 people are expected to attend a Fringe whisky tasting.
Whisky Fringe 2004 will be held in the capitals Signet Library on 14 August and boasts 21 distillers and bottlers and more than 115 whiskies.
It will give enthusiasts the chance to meet many of Scotlands whisky producers and distillers and sample a wide range of malt whiskies.
Charles Maclean, the author of Scotch Whisky: A Liquid History, also the chair of the nosing panel at the Scotch Malt Whisky Society, said it was a great event and a brilliant idea.
"It will be quite interesting to see how the Fringe audience reacts to a room full of whisky. I would advise anyone attending to drink plenty of water alongside it and water in the whisky and pace yourself," he said.
"The whiskies that generally show best in these tastings are the smoky and sherried whiskies. The lighter styles tend to be lost as, when ones palate becomes dulled, one looks for the more powerful flavours and aromas."
A spokesman for the Scotch Whisky Association said: "The event will be a great chance for visitors from around the world to sample some fine Scotch whiskies."
As part of this years Whisky Fringe, the bourbon company Rip Van Winkle will be holding a dinner on Thursday, 12 August, and then a masterclass the following evening. Articles Courtesy of The Scotsman
Yachts pour in for launch of classic malts cruise Some 500 sailors, 110 yachts, 200 miles of stunning scenery and the finest-quality single malt whisky will be blended to make up the annual Classic Malts Cruise which sets sail from Oban on Sunday.
Now the largest cruising event on the west coast, the Classic Malts Cruise is entering its 11th year. Organisers have again teamed up with round-the-world yachtsman Sir Chay Blyth and his team to ensure this will be another event to remember.
"This year, we have more than 30 boats coming from overseas," said Dr Nicholas Morgan, global marketing director for the Classic Malts of Scotland.
"Word has spread so far that one gentleman from the US even sailed across the Atlantic this spring from his home town in St Petersburg, Florida, especially to join the cruise."
Cruisers choose their own route through the Inner Hebrides, stopping off at each of the three coastal distilleries which form part of the range of Classic Malts of Scotland, namely Oban, Talisker on Skye and Lagavulin on Islay.
At each distillery, cruisers are welcomed ashore as guests for barbecues, music, dancing and of course, for a chance to meet those whose lives are spent making Scotland's finest whisky.
Having sailed from Oban, the yachts will arrive in Loch Harport on Skye on July 21 and 22 and then will sail to Islay, arriving in Lagavulin Bay and Port Ellen harbour on July 28 and 29. Articles Courtesy of The Press & Journal
Fat payout for boss as losses mount up One of Scotland's top drinks firms paid a director almost £2million last year, despite a sharp rise in losses, it emerged yesterday.
The figure was revealed in accounts lodged at Companies House by Edinburgh-based Drambuie Ltd, which owns drinks firm Drambuie Liqueur Company. The director was not named, but is thought to be a member of the MacKinnon family which owns the group.
The pay award follows a string of so-called fat-cat handouts to Scottish company bosses.
The largest was to the Royal Bank of Scotland's chief executive, Fred Unwin, who earned £3.4million last year, while the salary package of Stewart Milne, chairman and chief executive of the Stewart Milne Group, rose by more than £1million to £2.5million.
The payout to an unnamed director of Dundee-based food and grocery firm C J Lang and Son soared, despite falling profits, by 408% to £1.8million in 2002-03 and three siblings at north-east family firm Walkers Shortbread shared £5.586million in pay and benefits in 2002.
By comparison, two top bosses at Wood Group took pay cuts last year, with chairman and chief executive Sir Ian Wood receiving £279,000 as group profits fell.
Drambuie declined to comment on the payout yesterday but said there were good, strong indications this financial year would be much better.
Sales and marketing director Miles Duncan said the group had its best Christmas yet in 2003, and was now seeing double-digit growth in some of its top export markets. He added: "Christmas sales were 21% up on the year before."
Mr Duncan would not reveal which Drambuie director had earned the top pay award in 2002-03 but confirmed that Malcolm MacKinnon and Duncan MacKinnon were the firm's joint managing directors.
The bumper pay packet of £1.817million was despite pre-tax losses of £3.043million for the period, against losses of £1.764million the year before.
However, the payout was less than the £1.969million the company's top earning director received in the previous period.
Turnover from continuing operations slipped to £26.827million from £28.626million over the year.
That excludes £149.595million of annual turnover lost through the sale of Livingston-based luxury car dealership Glenvarigill to its management in a multimillion-pound deal in July 2002.
The accounts also revealed that staff numbers had fallen to just 69 by June 30, 2004, from more than 500 the year before.
Mr Duncan said structural changes and the sale of Glenvarigill accounted for the drop.
It was revealed on Thursday that pre-tax losses at the Drambuie Liqueur Company, which produces a heather-honey and whisky liqueur, climbed to £3.04million during the same period. This was against profits of £103,000 the year before.
The company blamed the losses on declining sales, higher costs and the changes to its distribution network.
Mr Duncan said the new distribution arrangements and the Glenaird joint production venture with whisky firm Glenmorangie, which started in July 2001, were both working well.
Glenaird, based at Glenmorangie's site at Broxburn, now handles all of Drambuie's supply-chain requirements - from whisky sourcing to bottling, warehousing and logistics.
The venture forced the closure of Drambuie's old production base at Kirkliston on the outskirts of Edinburgh.
Ian King, senior organiser for the whisky industry at the GMB union, last night described the payout to Drambuie's top earning director as a classic example of companies rewarding their bosses for failure. He added: "This is typical nowadays." Articles Courtesy of The Press & Journal
US dollar dampens spirits for Diageo DIAGEO, the worlds biggest spirits company, today said its profits would be hit by up to £100 million this year and next because of the weakness of the US dollar.
The exchange rate factor would offset what is expected to be a rise in sales this year, said the firm, which employs about 3000 people in Scotland.
Diageo, which makes Smirnoff vodka, Johnnie Walker whisky and Guinness, said full-year sales and volumes up through the end of June will be similar to the increases seen in its first-half of six per cent and three per cent respectively - helped by higher prices.
The London-based group has benefited from better trading in the United States which accounts for some 40 per cent of profits.
However, Diageo said that exchange rates will trim annual pre-tax profits before exceptionals by between £95m-£100m, and for its new 2004-2005 year the hit will be broadly similar.
Diageo said its underlying operating profits are expected to grow six per cent in the year to end-June, and that sales, volumes and profit increases are expected to be similar for its new financial year 2004-2005 just starting.
Chief executive Paul Walsh said: "As we drive the growth of our priority brands, mix improvement together with robust pricing on an increasing number of brands has led to net sales growth substantially above volume growth." Articles Courtesy of The Scotsman
Edrington sees sales and profits soar around the world EDRINGTON Group, the producer of the Famous Grouse, the Macallan and Highland Park whiskies, revealed record profits yesterday, which it put down to renewed brand investment and efforts at boosting exports.
Despite what it called "difficult market conditions", the company toasted a 17.3 per cent increase in pre-tax profits to a £72.4 million. Turnover was in line with last year at £224.9m for the year ended 31 March, 2004, but contributions from its core brands increased 7 per cent.
The new chief executive, Ian Curle, who took over from Ian Good in April, said the turnover drop was due to a greater emphasis on key brands and a slower growth rate for non-core brands.
Curle said that shareholder dividend has risen 10.5 per cent to 12.6p.
"During the year, the contribution from our core brands increased by 7 per cent - the Famous Grouse increased sales despite tough market conditions and our single malt whisky brands, the Macallan, Highland Park and the Glenrothes, performed ahead of the industrys growth in volume and value," he said.
During the past year, Edrington has sold two non-core distilleries - Glengoyne and Bunnahabhain - bolstering its profits by £6.8m, and a number of exceptional items raised £7.8m, rather distorting direct comparison with the previous years results.
But despite a tough year for the industry, exacerbated by war in Iraq, SARS and political uncertainty, Edrington has managed to buck the trend with growth in North America and parts of the Far East, including Japan.
Grouse remains its flagship, said Curle, and that grew significantly, driven by strong performance in both the UK and Asia.
Southern Europe is an important region for its other famous blend, Cutty Sark, No 2 in Greece and Portugal and No 4 in Spain.
But he cautioned that the continued strong performance in these markets has been offset by tougher market conditions in France and Puerto Rico.
Edrington, which has 810 staff who are also shareholders, is controlled by the charitable Robertson Trust which donates its dividend payments to good causes in Scotland.
Last year it moved its Asia-Pacific headquarters from Hong Kong to Shanghai to concentrate on selling the luxury malt, the Macallan. The group is expected to underline its commitment to the region with a planned marketing and advertising spend in excess of £10m in the coming year.
The Russian market, where total Scotch whisky sales grew more than 400 per cent last year, is also an area Edrington is looking to exploit with the Macallan.
Curle said it was optimistic about the long-term potential for the brands in this region.
Moving forward, Edrington has also built on the name of its most successful product with the launch of Famous Grouse Liqueur.
Curle added: "Since the launch of the liqueur last year, the response has surpassed all our expectations and there are plans to distribute it in a number of territories where the Famous Grouse enjoys a strong presence, such as North America and Greece." Articles Courtesy of The Scotsman
Chancellor sticks with whisky plan GORDON BROWN today said he was going to go ahead with the controversial whisky duty strip stamp despite strong opposition from distillers and MPs.
In his reply to the all-party Scottish affairs committee at the House of Commons, the Chancellor dismissed claims it could put some small producers out of business.
But he conceded that rather than putting them over the top of the bottle, he might be prepared to put them on the back of the bottle or on the label.
This small concession was greeted as "a major step forward" by Campbell Evans, government and consumer affairs director of the Scotch Whisky Association.
The committee had called on Mr Brown to reconsider the duty stamps plan, saying it was a "19th century solution to a 21st century problem".
But Mr Brown today said the stamps were a "timely and effective solution" to the £600 million a year growing spirits fraud problem.
He wants a stamp slapped on the bottle in the distillery so it can then be tracked and claimed it would cut the cost of fraud by a third.
In the official Treasury response to the committee report, Mr Brown dismissed claims that the cost of changing bottling lines would be too much for smaller manufacturers and promised government help for those in need.
He said the big distillers already had the technology.
And he dismissed the industrys argument that fraudsters would be able to counterfeit the stamps. Articles Courtesy of The Scotsman
Whisky too strong for UEFA HIBS will go into this afternoons Intertoto Cup match at Easter Road without the name of their new sponsor on their jerseys, writes Alasdair Lawrie.
UEFA has ruled that Whyte and Mackay cannot appear on the shirts of Scotlands sole representatives in the competition because it has placed a ban on "high-strength liquor sponsorship".
Hibs will therefore take to the field today against FK Vetra with a plain blue Whyte and Mackay shield. The ban will have no impact on the £1million five-year deal the distiller negotiated with Hibs earlier this year.
David Pattison, international marketing manager for Whyte and Mackay, said: "We think that its a great pity that one of Scotlands most important exports has been banned from marketing to other football fans across Europe.
"We have no choice, however, but to accept UEFAs ruling. Therefore, Hibernian FC has removed the Whyte and Mackay logo from the teams shirts for Saturdays match and all further Intertoto Cup matches."
Meanwhile, Dutch legend Johan Neeskens stands in the way of Cork City making further progress in the competition.
City take on NEC Nijmegen, coached by Neeskens who scored against West Germany in a World Cup final, in the second round of the InterToto after putting out former European Cup finalists Malmo at the first hurdle.
Cork beat the Swedes home and away to book their passage into the next stage. The Irish side travel to Holland for the first leg tonight. Articles Courtesy of The Scotsman
Inquiry on whisky stamp Argyll Mp Alan Reid has welcomed a Lords select committee inquiry into Government plans to force the whisky industry to put stamps on bottles sold in the UK.
Mr Reid said: "The report repeats many of the criticisms that I made about the Government's proposals."
These included doubts over the accuracy of Customs and Excise's estimates of the level of fraud; the fact that the whisky industry was not given enough time to come up with alternative suggestions for reducing fraud and the costs that the tax-stamps scheme would impose on the industry. Articles Courtesy of The Press & Journal
Capone helped whisky barons beat Prohibition IT WAS a curious encounter in an exclusive wine and spirit merchants that linked the Scottish whisky industry to the notorious gangsters of Prohibition America.
Jack "Legs" Diamond, one of Americas most notorious bootleggers, walked into Berry Brothers & Rudd on Londons St Jamess Street one day in 1920 and ordered several hundred cases of their best Scotch.
His request may have raised some eyebrows, given that the firm had been purveyors of wine and spirits to royalty and nobility for more than 300 years. But he wasnt turned away.
New research by a Scottish author suggests that Berry Brothers & Rudd were secretly involved in smuggling Scotch whisky into the United States during the 13 years it was "dry".
George Rosie, author of Curious Scotland, Tales from a Hidden History, which chronicles the antics of the bootleggers, said the very profitable relationship between respectable whisky firms and American mobsters "is one of the great stories that has never been told".
In 1920, the United States was among the most lucrative markets for the whisky barons of Glasgow. So when Congress passed the Prohibition Act it became clear that for the whisky industry in Scotland to survive, the legislation would need to be circumvented.
Mr Rosie claims that Francis Berry, the junior partner at Berry Brothers & Rudd during the time of Prohibition, travelled to Nassau in the Bahamas, where he struck up a deal with a Scots-American seaman from Florida called Bill McCoy.
The deal was simple. Berry Brothers would legally ship their Cutty Sark Whisky into the British colonial governments warehouses in the Bahamas. From there, the whisky would be uplifted by McCoys schooner and taken to the international waters off the New York/New Jersey coast.
Once there it would be sold to American gangsters such as Charles "Lucky" Luciano, "Bugsy" Siegal and "Nucky" Johnson, who used high-speed motor boats to smuggle Scotch on to the mainland, where it would be distributed among other organised gangsters, including Al Capone.
Mr Rosie said: "The arrangement worked well. The gangsters could not get enough of the product, Bill McCoy added to his substantial bank balance, the Berry Brothers distilleries in Scotland did brisk business, and the firm carved itself a niche in the American market which it was able to exploit when Prohibition ended in 1933."
Exports of whisky to the Bahamas rose astonishingly during the period - from 944 gallons in 1918 to more than 386,000 gallons in 1922. Smaller Scotch depots were also established in Havana, the Turks and Caycos Islands, and on Grand Cayman.
Mr Rosie said: "The Scotch whisky industry prior to Prohibition had gone through a long period of aggressive expansion and they were determined to keep hold of the American market by any means that they could.
"They regarded Prohibition as an inconvenient legality."
Ronnie Cox, a director with Berry Brothers & Rudd, said the relationship laid the foundations for Cutty Sark becoming the most popular whisky in the US.
He added: "Bill McCoy earned a reputation for providing liquor that was the real stuff ... in other words it was not diluted or adulterated, which most of the other whiskies were during the time of Prohibition.
"What he sold was the real stuff hence the term the real McCoy."
Scotlands "war" with the US lasted almost 13 years, from early in 1920 when Prohibition was introduced until the end of 1933, when the act was repealed.
Charles Maclean, the author of Scotch Whisky: A Liquid History, said: "Prohibition was the best thing that ever happened to Scotch.
"By 1936, America had become the biggest export market, whereas before, Australia was the largest export market," he added.
"Essentially the Scotch whisky industry played it absolutely right and this was in the face of fierce criticism from the American government, who were complaining bitterly to the British government, who were pretending to do things but really not doing a lot. But Berry Brothers were just playing the same game as everybody else." Articles Courtesy of The Scotsman
Distillery jobs threat as Diageo seeks to redress blending imbalance Distilleries in the north-east could be closed temporarily and jobs lost, a drinks giant admitted yesterday.
Diageo, which owns and operates distilleries such as Cardhu and produces J &B and Johnnie Walker whisky, said job losses in Scotland were likely following a consultation exercise with staff.
A spokeswoman could not say where or when these cuts would be made.
But any redundancies would almost certainly be a blow for the firm's substantial workforce in the north-east.
She also said distilleries could being temporarily shut down for part of the year.
Diageo employees told the Press and Journal that distillery operatives, including stillmen and mashmen, are most at risk.
They said workers have been informed that distilleries will be closed for several months next year to reduce production levels of certain Diageo whiskies. The spokeswoman said talk of closures was premature, but it was seeking "a balance between the company's characters" that are used in the blending process.
Blended whisky accounts for around 95% of whisky sales, and the spokeswoman admitted at the moment the company does not have the right levels of all its whiskies to maintain current production levels.
"Only when the (consultation) process has been completed will we have any clear idea of how many people may be affected," she added.
She said one distillery which would not be affected is Cardhu, which will be "going full out" to counter a current worldwide shortage of the brand.
Diageo also operates Strathmill distillery at Keith and Inchgower at Buckie.
A spokesman for the GMB union said last night that they were aware of Diageo's consultation with staff. Articles Courtesy of The Press & Journal
Whisky body goes back to battle South African fakes THE Scotch Whisky Association returned to the high court at the Cape yesterday for the second time in nine months in an attempt to get further batches of fake Scotch removed from the South African market.
Thousands of litres of "Scotch" made from South African grape and cane spirit with caramel additives were destroyed last October after a application to the court by the Scotch Whisky Association. The bogus Scotch had been sold for years under such brand names as Prince Regent, Original Scotsman and Glenshire.
The labels said: "Produced in Scotland and bottled in South Africa." The whisky was being produced by a Pretoria firm called Purple Rains.
Advocates for the whisky association told the judge, Pat Ellis, yesterday that brands were still being passed off to South African drinkers as Scotch that bore no relation to the real thing. The association, backed by its local distributors, said the disputed products had been tested by the Scotch Whisky Research Institute in Scotland and the results showed they were not whisky.
Mr Ellis adjourned the case to allow time for a batch of documents and test results to arrive from the research institute.
Scotch exports are worth more than £2 billion a year to Scotland. "South Africa is very important to us," said David Williamson, the associations public affairs manager. "It is our 11th biggest export market, with 22 million cases heading there each year." Articles Courtesy of The Scotsman
Major investment means revival for mothballed Speyside distillery A Revitalised Speyside distillery is to start production again by the end of this month after being mothballed for two years.
Benriach Distillery, on the outskirts of Elgin, is being brought back to life thanks to a "significant seven-figure" investment by former whisky firm chief Billy Walker, 59, and two South African partners, Geoff Bell and Wayne Kieswetter, both in their 40s.
The acquisition of the distillery from Chivas Brothers by BenRiach Distillery Company was also backed by Lloyds TSB Scotland.
Mr Walker, operations managing director with whisky firm Burn Stewart until two years ago, said BenRiach had hired Alan McConnochie, previously with Burn Stewart's Tobermory Distillery, as distillery manager.
Mr McConnochie has since recruited staff, with the reopening of the distillery having created six jobs so far.
Mr Walker said BenRiach was currently available as a 10-year-old single malt, but the firm would be launching 12, 16 and 20-year-old brands - and perhaps even older.
He added: "We have also discovered a heavily peated variety which may be the only peated Speyside malt, and will want to do something with that. We are more than delighted with the facilities and stocks we have bought, and expect to be able to release the first product in August."
The 106-year-old distillery lay silent from 1900 to 1965 before coming back into production. It was then closed down by Chivas Brothers two years ago after it bought interests from Seagram. It is one of just a few distilleries in Scotland to still have its own working floor maltings. Articles Courtesy of The Press & Journal
John Macphail, businessman JOHN Macphail was one of the most inspirational and influential figures in the Scotch whisky industry, in which he worked for 44 years. He retired in 1993 as chairman of Robertson & Baxter, better known today as the Edrington Group, makers of the Famous Grouse and the Macallan. He also had a long association with the Cutty Sark brand.
Mr Macphail was born in Singapore, where his Scots father worked as a stockbroker, before moving to South Africa for his early education. He moved to Edinburgh in 1932 and was educated at the Edinburgh Academy. He was a talented rugby player, captaining the school XV in 1940-41 and the Edinburgh Accies in 1948-49. He went on to represent Scotland at hooker and also played for the Barbarians. He shot for the school eight at Bisley.
During the Second World War he served with the RAF, mainly in Aden Communication Flight.
Post-war, he qualified as a chartered accountant and entered the whisky industry in 1949, becoming a director of Arthur Bell & Sons, based in Perth. He left Bells in 1962 to become an executive director of Robertson & Baxter and Highland Distilleries. During a distinguished business career he held various senior positions, notably the chairmanships of Highland Distilleries, Robertson & Baxter, North British Distillery, Clyde Bonding Co and the Robertson Trust.
He was chairman of Highland Distilleries when it fought off a hostile take-over bid by Hiram Walker in 1979 and was one of the founder directors of the Scotch Whisky Heritage Centre, in Edinburgh, serving as its first chairman from 1987 to 1994.
He became a member of the Council of the Scotch Whisky Association in 1964 and its chairman in 1983, also being made the first grand master of the Keepers of the Quaich.
On industry issues his focused approach made him a formidable force when campaigning - in particular on the harmonisation of UK excise duties. Such was his commitment that he was not afraid to court controversy at times if that would further the cause.
Ian Good, the chairman of the Edrington Group, said Mr Macphail had been a truly inspirational leader of both Robertson & Baxter and Highland Distilleries.
"His breadth of vision, dedication to quality and capacity for forward-thinking made him a natural leader whose depth of integrity earned total respect from those around him," he said. "That formidable business acumen and meticulous attention to detail were reflected in his confidence to grow the brands in his charge, in particular the Famous Grouse. This tenacity was matched by his keen interest in company employees, invariably taking the time to pen a handwritten note to individuals when merited."
John Macphail is survived by his wife, Edith, daughter Copper, son Michael, two grandchildren and a great grandchild. Articles Courtesy of The Scotsman
Whisky is set to be the new vodka VODKA is as synonymous with Russia as the hammer and sickle, but now the national drink has encountered stiff competition from Scotlands favourite tipple.
Whisky sales in Russia have risen 400 per cent in the past year with the nations new elite now more likely to reach for a bottle of Scotch than a bottle of Stolichnaya.
Latest industry figures show the market for Scotch whisky has exploded in Russia, with 550,000 cases sold there last year compared to just 110,000 in 2002.
Alan Gray, whisky analyst with Sutherlands stockbrokers who compiled the figures, says that Russias growing love affair with whisky is down to increased affluence, UK business finally getting to grips with the market and aspirations within the country for a Western lifestyle.
Mr Gray said: "There is no doubt that sales are increasing in Russia. It is a market that has taken a long time to find its feet, but now it really is embracing the West.
"It has taken quite a long time for business to get to grips with the Russian market, the growth is certainly quite spectacular. I would think it is now capable of expanding quite significantly.
"I always have taken the view that any country with a spirit-drinking culture is capable of being converted to drinking whisky, which is a much more superior product."
Since the fall of communism and the introduction of capitalism, Russia has seen the emergence of a new group of young, rich entrepreneurs who are establishing their own individuality through the consumption of high-quality brands including malt whisky.
It is this generation that Moscow-based Erkin Touzmohamedov, the editor of Angels Share, a Russian whisky magazine, says is responsible for the growing popularity of the drink.
"Russians like whisky because of its versatility, its quality and its story. Vodka in this country will always be vodka because we have a long tradition of vodka drinking. But young people are trying to be trendy and people with money are trying to align themselves more with the trends of the affluent West."
Scotland has enjoyed historic ties with Russia. These include the fact that Patrick Gordon tutored Peter the Great, while architect Charles Cameron designed parts of Catherine the Greats palaces. In 2001 president Vladimir Putin made the first Russian state visit to Britain since Tsar Nicholas II in 1874, although he himself came to Scotland in 1991 as a trade delegate.
Earlier this year a Russian carrier Transaero Airlines unveiled the first direct air link between Moscow and the Scottish capital.
Russias consumption of whisky is still quite low. In 2003, exports of Scotch to Russia were worth £22 million compared to £6 million five years ago.
Mr Touzmohamedov believes the potential for whisky in Russia is largely untapped. He said: "
We are a country with a population of 160 million and a tradition of drinking spirits. The only thing that will curb the soaring whisky market is the average level of income."
Rupert Patrick, export director with Glengoyne, said: "There has been a lot of work put into the Russian market. We have seen a real explosion in whisky shops." Articles Courtesy of The Scotsman
Get into the spirit of saving FATHERS Day, on 20 June, provides an ideal opportunity to start on the savings ladder with the nations favourite spirit - Scotch whisky. It may surprise many, but good profits can be made by carefully choosing leading malt whiskies.
The two main ways to invest - other than through shares - are by purchasing the spirit in bulk as it comes off the still or, when fully mature, in single bottles.
Both can give many hours of enjoyment, particularly the former for the convivial nature of distillers and their encouragement to see the distillation process.
Currently, only the Islay malts at Bruichladdich distillery are available to private investors for cask purchases. The plant was rescued in 2001 by a group of enthusiasts. It has one of only three cooperages at Scotch whisky distilleries. The others are at Glenfiddich and Balvenie.
There is a choice between lightly peated Bruichladdich, which shows floral elegance with age and the heavily peated Port Charlotte. You can specify the cask type and length of ageing which, of course, will influence the final style and value. A fresh Bourbon barrel of 200 litres (140 original litres of alcohol at 100 per cent) costs £775 and a refill Sherry hogshead of 250 litres £1,050. Stock is insured for ten years at replacement value.
As the spirit matures in Customs-approved warehouses, evaporation of 2 to 3 per cent a year does not incur a loss in excise duty to the investor, who only pays the tax when the Scotch is bottled and cleared for UK domestic consumption. If put in 70cl bottles at 46 per cent, expect 380 bottles after 12 years or about 290 bottles after 20 years.
To gain a good understanding of single malts, join the Scotch Malt Whisky Society. It obtains bottles direct from the cask, issues a bottling list six times a year, a newsletter twice a year and has club premises in Edinburgh and London. Annual membership is £50, or £75 with an introductory bottle. There is a £1 per bottle discount for orders online.
In looking for appreciation, choose distilleries in international demand with a good age in cask; closed sites (as the available stock is diminishing) and anniversary bottlings
The Whisky Exchange, established five years ago, has a good range, including a Cragganmore 29-year-old bottled 1973 for £139 and Macallan 49-year-old bottled 1953 at £2,000. Springbank from Campbeltown is available as a 1970 33-year-old at £150.
The bottler can be significant. Bowmore bottled by Sherriffs Bowmore Distillery at 43 per cent has jumped from £70 to £300-£350 in the past decade. A single year, such as Bowmore 1938, has increased from £400 to £600-£700, while the 1963 has increased from £130 to £250.
The Macallan enjoys an international reputation and is unlikely to be harmed by news last month that it purchased bottles from Italy that turned out to be comparatively modern stock and not rare 19th century fillings. Martin Green, Scotch specialist at Glasgow auctioneers McTears, says it "will reject any entries which are dubious". Its next sale is on 22 September.
Single production years for the Macallan, like 1950, packed in original wood, have risen from £180 ten years ago to £300-400, says Green.
Commemorative events bring a premium. The bottling of the Macallan to celebrate the marriage of Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer has jumped from £140 to £350-£400 in ten years. Even a ten-year-old from the distinguished Tain distillery of Glenmorangie has increased from £40 to £60-£80 when the label commemorates Scotlands 1990 rugby Grand Slam.
Bottlings to commemorate the Queens silver jubilee continue to rise in value. Gordon & MacPhails 25-year-old the Glenlivet has almost tripled from £110 to £250-£300 at auction in the past decade. Bowmores bi-cententary 43 per cent bottling in 1979 has risen from £110 to over £250.
Long maturation in cask is much sought after. Gordon & MacPhails 1936 bottling of 50-year-old Mortlach from Dufftown has more than doubled in ten years from £200 to £400-£500.
Scotch from plants that have ceased production are popular. Convalmore, mothballed by United Distillers in 1985, is now a rare Dufftown malt. The 13-year-old, distilled 1969, has increased from £15 to £80-£120 in a decade, while a 16-year-old, distilled in 1966, from the Strathclyde distillery of Kinclaith has risen from under £17 to £250-£300
Do not forget decanters of special Scotch. One containing 15-year-old Lagavulin from Port Ellen on Islay has jumped from £50 to £150-200 in ten years. Articles Courtesy of The Scotsman
Whisky chief raises glass to £73,000 income jump GLENMORANGIE chief executive Paul Neep can afford to enjoy the finest malts his distillery makes.
Last year, Mr Neep was paid a salary of £224,000, plus performance-related pay of £91,000 and other benefits worth £25,000.
Figures in the West Lothian distillers annual report for 2003-2004 show that Mr Neep took home a total of £340,000, up from last years £267,000.
Executive salaries are based on market comparisons with other, similar companies, the report said.
Two annual incentive schemes mean that executive directors can receive up to 60 per cent of their base salary as bonus. Two-thirds of the incentive scheme depends on the companys profits before tax and executives are also judged on personal objectives set for them.
Overall, the company spent £9.2 million on wages and salaries, up from almost £8m the previous year. That money was spent on 351 employees, compared to 300 in 2002/2003.
Glenmorangie reported last month that its pre-tax profits rose to £9.57m for the year to March 31, on a six per cent rise in annual sales to £68.8m.
For its three key brands, Glenmorangie, Ardbeg and Glen Moray, the firm saw sales volumes double at twice the pace of the sector. These three brands account for 90 per cent of Glenmorangies profits.
But the group warned that the weakness of the US dollar in what is a key whisky market could hit profits, while UK interest rate rises may affect sales. Articles Courtesy of The Scotsman
On the Whisky trail This week we follow in the footsteps of the whisky smugglers of old on a hill track linking the Braes of Glenlivet with the Well of the Lecht, a route on the Glenlivet Estate.
The route is best enjoyed on a fine summer day, particularly in August when the heather is in bloom and the wonderful views on to the surrounding hills are at their best.
However, it is open and exposed, particularly where it crosses the shoulder of Carn Dulack (663m). Walkers should be adequately equipped and have an OS 1:50,000 map sheet 36.
This is a one-way route and walkers will need to retrace their steps or, preferably, arrange for transport at the Well of the Lecht car park.
Between the 1780s and the 1830s the isolated Braes of Glenlivet was home to numerous small illicit whisky stills operated by local people. To evade government regulations many of these stills were hidden in secluded parts of the Braes and the illegal whisky smuggled south and east using remote hill tracks. This path was one of several 'Whisky Roads' radiating across the Ladder Hills used by smugglers and their ponies.
Start at the Eskmulloch car park. The first part of the route is marked by a signpost (Public path to Lecht Mine via Scalan Seminary 5.5km) and Glenlivet Estate Walk 2 waymarkers along a metalled farm track to the Scalan Seminary. This was a training college for Catholic priests from 1717 to 1799 and it is well worth a detour to savour how "with courage and dogged perseverance" the priests and students kept the Catholic faith alive in Scotland during a very troubled period of our history.
From Scalan the route to the Well of the Lecht follows the waymarked track alongside the Crombie Water, firstly through enclosed fields and then beyond a gate in the boundary fence on to unenclosed rough grassland and moorland.
At the ruins of Clash of Scalan the route leaves waymarked Walk 2.
The route to the Lecht heads south-west following the Crombie Water uphill along a path beside the burn. This winds its way through juniper bushes to a hill fence where the ground starts to level out near a broad fairly flat col.
Cross the fence then head due south uphill through heather towards the summit of Carn Dulack. The path crosses the summit ridge to the north-east of the Carn Dulack top and continues due south, downhill, to reach the path to the Lecht Mine.
A well used track is joined providing easy access along the last section of the walk to the Well of the Lecht Car Park and picnic site. Between 1730 and 1737, iron was mined here. The ore was taken by pack horse over the hills to Nethy Bridge for smelting. Later, in 1841, the mine was reopened to produce manganese ore.
It was then that the building you see from the car park was built as a crushing plant.
FOR further information on walks on the Glenlivet Estate, phone 01807 580283, or visit www.aberdeen-grampian.com Articles Courtesy of The Press & Journal
Ian Macleod toasts a 50% jump in profits IAN Macleod Distillers raised a glass to a huge profit rise today after revealing annual earnings had gone up by 50 per cent.
The family-owned drinks and bottling business, based in Broxburn, recently spent £7.2 million on Langs whisky brands and on the Glengoyne distillery near Loch Lomond, which makes one of only two unpeated single malts in Scotland.
Known until January as the Peter J Russell holding group, Ian Macleod saw pre-tax profits climb to £616,907 for the year to the end of September 2003, compared with £417,310 the previous year.
The group is headed by managing director Leonard Russell, the third generation to run the business which was set up by his grandfather.
The companys acquisitions have greatly improved results since 2002 when profits slid by more than half as margins from the production of supermarket own-label whiskies were squeezed.
These declining margins were behind the decision to buy the Glengoyne malt and Langs blended whisky brands, and it appears that this is now paying off for the group.
Operating profits climbed to £1.3m from just over £1m on a turnover of £20.5m against £19.1m last year. The group reorganised at the end of last year, bringing Ian Macleod & Company into Peter J Russell, which then changed its name to Ian Macleod Distillers.
"The directors regard the state of affairs of the group as satisfactory," the company said. "Were pleased that our operating profit is up by 30 per cent."
The purchase of the Glengoyne distillery in April 2003 and the Langs brands - both bought from Edrington - were the latest in a series of acquisitions by Ian Macleod, which in recent years has purchased the Hedges & Butler and Watsons rums in separate deals. The company buys a brand every couple of years, Mr Russell said recently, continuing a trend started by his father, Peter Russell, the companys current chairman, who bought Macleods Isle of Skye in the 1960s. Edrington, which also owns the Macallan and Highland Park malts, is said to have turned down higher offers from abroad and sold what it described as its "favourite distillery" to Ian Macleod because it would be "true to the tradition of malt whisky making".
Ian Macleods other brands include McGilligans Irish Whiskey, King Robert II Scotch and Trawler Rum.
The company sees Glengoyne as its star product, describing it as a "true taste" of malt whisky and good introductory malt. Earlier this year, the company revealed plans to increase capacity at Glengoyne in a bid to push the malt into the global top ten. Based on worldwide sales of single malts in 2002, it would have to unseat the current tenth position holder, Balvenie, which sells 100,000 cases a year.
Single malts are becoming increasingly popular among young people, particularly in France and Spain, who see it as a premium spirit akin to champagne, Mr Russell said. Articles Courtesy of The Scotsman
Cash problems sour whisky project IT WAS to be the first new distillery on Islay since 1883 and should have opened its doors this week amid great fanfare at the height of the islands annual whisky festival.
The ambitious £1 million plan to open Kilchoman Distillery, heralded as the only operation of its kind to grow and malt its own barley and then produce and mature the whisky all on the same site, had been eagerly anticipated by whisky connoisseurs and locals alike.
But last night the plan to open the distillery - located in one of the most isolated parts of the inner Hebrides - remained in doubt after Scottish Enterprise, who last year pledged £150,000 of public money to help the project get off the ground, revealed that the sum wont be handed over until they are satisfied the project has planning permission and sufficient private financial backing.
Kilchoman Distillery, based in renovated traditional stone farm buildings at Rockside Farm on the western coast of Islay, is the brainchild of Argyll entrepreneur Anthony Wills, who aims to produce just 90,000 litres of whisky a year.
Since he announced plans for the groundbreaking project, which will rely solely on the most traditional methods of production and become Scotlands most westerly distillery, it has attracted a £150,000 grant offer from Argyll and Islands Enterprise and a reputed £600,000 from a number of private investors.
But despite progress being made on the fabric of the distillery in recent weeks the operation has been beset by a series of delays.
Speaking last night, a spokeswoman for Argyll and Islands Enterprise confirmed that they were not yet satisfied that the distillery owners fulfilled the criteria required for them to release the £150,000 funding promised last year.
She said: "We are aware that the distillery was due to open around now but as things stand we understand there are a number of issues surrounding it being given the go ahead.
"As yet, we have had no confirmation of planning permission or guarantees of the promised private investment that will form the bulk of the cost of the project. Until these issues are resolved, we will be unable to release the public money over to the scheme."
Mr Wills, who runs a whisky company called Liquid Gold Enterprises, admitted that the project was behind schedule but remained adamant it would open before the end of the year. He said: "There have been delays in the building of the project because we have been waiting on local builders to finish another project before starting on ours but we are now back on track.
" We also fully accept that we have to fulfil the criteria requested from Scottish Enterprise and we are in the process of getting the permission we require from the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency and Customs and Excise. There have been a number of false starts, but that is something you expect with an operation like this, we now have everything in place to make this a success and we would hope to be in operation in October or November.
"The idea is to take whisky production back to its roots, to when production was part of the farming year, growing and malting the barley and producing and maturing the whisky all on site. When it happens, this will be an excellent addition to Scotlands whisky heritage."
The farm buildings where the distillery will be based are being rented to Mr Wills by an Islay farmer, Mark French, who will grow barley for the still and has assumed a directorship of the distillery company.
It is understood that the pair are also planning a cafe, shop and visitor centre, which will include a small museum to tell the story of the farm distilleries which operated on Islay in the 18th century.
Local critics have questioned the choice of site. According to one local distillery manager, the project could be hampered by its location. He said: "They are hopeful that their traditional museum will attract the public and the fact that it will replace Bruichladdich as the most westerly distillery in Britain may be a draw. But remote island distilleries are much less practical locations for visitor-centre business.
"The local growth of barley is also causing a lot of interest. At present most of the barley for malting is shipped into Islay from England; growing it locally to the same quality will be a real challenge.
"All of this requires additional up-front funding to cover the years prior to mature whisky becoming available. If it gets off the ground, they have a hard slog ahead." Articles Courtesy of The Scotsman
Film producer says new Whisky Galore may be in the cannes A New version of one of Scotland's most popular films, Whisky Galore, could be nearer going into production following the Cannes Film Festival.
Film producer Iain Maclean gave a strong hint yesterday that finance may now be available to allow the film to be made.
Mr Maclean, from Lewis, said he and co-producer Ed Crozier met many financiers and backers at Cannes in a bid to raise finance for the remaking of the iconic movie.
"There was enormous interest in the film from all quarters of the industry," said Mr Maclean.
"Without going into specific detail, we had a very successful week, going from the response and feedback we have had from the studios and financiers. Our visit allowed us to talk to many distributors and agents who were interested in the remake."
A leading French film company has signed a deal with British production team Whisky Galore Film Ltd, which was set up by Maclean and Crozier for the purpose of remaking the movie.
Mr Maclean stated: "We have every intention of shooting the new Whisky Galore in the Western Isles and all is going well."
He said that, unlike the original, they did not intend to shoot the entire film on Barra, but were keen to use various locations throughout the Western Isles.
"We would film from Barra up to the west coast of Lewis. This would mean that the whole of the Western Isles would benefit as it would be a massive boost to the islands in terms of tourism," he said.
Whisky Galore is based on the true story of the sinking of the SS Politician which sank off the Outer Hebrides in 1941.
The ship was destined for the United States with a lucrative amber cargo on board - 50,000 cases of Scotch.
It was with this event in mind that Compton Mackenzie put pen to paper and wrote the novel, Whisky Galore.
Eight years later, the book was adapted to make the movie of the same name.
The new film will, like the original, be set during World War II. But Mr Maclean said: "We intend starting it off in the present day although mostly it will be set in the same time period as the original."
He said that at Cannes they had met Ron Halpern from Studio Canal, the executive who had signed off the options on Whisky Galore. He was very happy with the way the film was progressing.
Film star Sir Sean Connery has publicly endorsed the film. He said: "I welcome this project and wish the impressive creative team well in bringing it to fruition." Articles Courtesy of The Press & Journal
On the trail of whisky lovers JUDGES for the annual Scottish Licensed Trade Awards will be on the whisky trail over the next few weeks in search of Scotlands greatest ambassador for the national drink.
Sponsored by Isle of Jura Single Malt Scotch Whisky, the award will recognise the person who shows the most knowledge of, and passion for, whisky.
In previous years the award was presented to an establishment rather than an individual.
The whisky ambassador award will be presented at a ceremony at the Holiday Inn Glasgow on July 5. Articles Courtesy of The Scotsman
Whisky club says mine's a double WHISKYS movers and shakers will this week have another venue in which to enjoy the water of life as the Scotch Malt Whisky Society (SMWS) opens the doors to a new club in the heart of the capital.
The club was founded on the principle of convivial appreciation of the very finest whisky by a few friends meeting in a New Town kitchen. It has grown into an international society of nearly 25,000 members - including among other celebrities, Bob Dylan - and is to open a second capital club, in Queen Street, to accommodate its growing membership.
The new club opens in a five-storey Georgian town house at 28 Queen Street this Friday, following a £1 million refurbishment of the building. The society will retain its headquarters in Leith.
Richard Gordon, the managing director of the SMWS, said: "Pressure on the Vaults meant that we have had to find additional space and we are sure that Queen Street will be attractive to members who work in the city."
The new premises is housed in the former headquarters of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland. Set over three floors, the venue will boast a members dining room, a library, two conference rooms a members room and two society apartments with self-catering facilities.
Charles Maclean, the author of Scotch Whisky: A Liquid History, who is also the chair of the nosing panel at the SMWS, welcomed the move.
"I saw some of the early plans and it looks very impressive. It should do very well as it is bound to be more accessible to folk working in the middle of town."
Led by Pip Hills, an entrepreneur, the society evolved from a group of like-minded individuals in Edinburgh who enjoyed the delights of Scotch malt whisky from a single cask. The original plan was to buy a cask of whisky divide it up among themselves and bottle it in the kitchen.
The group grew and, in 1983, when it was decided to introduce these pleasures to a wider audience, the society was founded to search out interesting casks of whisky and bottle them.
From an initial membership of just a few hundred, it has ballooned into an international organisation with more than 24,000 members worldwide, many of whom use the club primarily as a supplier of fine and rare whisky.
The club bottles its own whiskies direct from individual casks from 113 distilleries across Scotland to give members the chance to buy bottles which come numbered but not named.
This is in recognition of a gentlemens agreement within the industry not to mention in print which distillery is which, as producers carefully foster their own house style which might be compromised by single casks, which can be erratic.
Tasting and comparing notes on different malts has become a global pursuit. The society now has associated branches in America, France, Italy, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Japan and Austria.
Its profile has been raised in recent years by the resurgence of Edinburgh. In 1999 it opened a tasting centre in London.
Earlier this year, Glenmorangie surprised the industry by splashing out £2.2 million for the Leith-based club.
A senior source within the Whisky Society said it was forced to sell to Glenmorangie after it could not raise enough capital and experienced difficulties in sourcing malt whisky for its members.
But the malt giant has injected new vigour into the club. Queen Street is understood to be the first phase of a plan to roll-out the society across the UK. Last week, Paul Neep, the chief executive of Glenmorangie, told The Scotsman that he saw the potential to grow the society while still very much retaining its independent remit.
He said: "[The society] opens a new venue later this month on Queen Street and after that we would like to explore other locations, in the UK and overseas." Articles Courtesy of The Scotsman
Islays first apprentice cooper for 38 years at Bruichladdichs new cooperage Bruichladdich has opened its own cooperage, so that casks coming in can be repaired on site. It is now one of only three distillery based cooperages in the whole of Scotland, the others being at Glenfiddich and Balvenie.
Jim McEwan, Production Director and a cooper by training, recently welcomed Mr William Taylor and Mr John Gaffney to the Distillery, respectively the President and Secretary of the National Cooperage Federation. They were visiting specifically to present Bruichladdichs new apprentice cooper, 21 year old Peter Mactaggart, with his tools of the trade worth £500 and also witnessed him signing his indenture papers for a four-year apprenticeship.
The last cooper to be apprenticed on the island was Ian Gillies in 1966. Since then there have been just four qualified coopers on Islay, one of whom is Bruichladdichs own Master Cooper, John Rennie, who will be training Peter, one of only seven apprentice coopers in Scotland.
It was a proud moment for Jim McEwan, who has been working in collaboration with Stewart Meikle, the Investor in People Adviser for Argyll & the Islands Enterprise, to re-write the training manual for coopers, which has been submitted to the Federation as a template for the future: When I started work 40 years ago, there were 1500 coopers working in the trade now there are only 214. We now have a traditional cooperage here at the Distillery, so Peter can also learn skills relevant to other parts of the production process. Speaking as a cooper, it is a great privilege to ensure the handing on the skills I learned myself.
. Article Courtesy of Bruichladdich
Glenmorangie raises a glass to £9.57m result GLENMORANGIE, the West Lothian-based malt whisky producer, today cheered a ten per cent surge in full-year profits but warned a number of factors could hamper growth in the months ahead.
The firm, responsible for the Glenmorangie, Ardbeg and Glen Moray single malt brands, said an uncertain global outlook and rising interest rates in the UK could hit economic performance and consumer spending.
It also pointed to the current weakness of the dollar, warning that if the situation continued, profits may be hit in what it described as "a key market".
Results for the 12 months to the end of March showed the distiller generated a pre-tax profit of £9.57 million, up ten per cent on the year before, on a six per cent rise in turnover to £68.8m.
Chief executive Paul Neep said the Broxburn-based group had enjoyed "another year of strong progress" as it focused its efforts on the development and growth of its premium malt brands.
He added: "The Glenmorangie brand continued to grow ahead of the category in nearly all its key markets. Ardbeg had another successful year and we were delighted by Glen Morays very strong performance in its focus markets.
"Overall, we remain confident that the group can continue to build stronger consumer brands and increase shareholder value." The distiller, which earns about 90 per cent of its profits from its three core brands, said annual volume shipments of its single malts rose 18 per cent compared to an overall malt whisky industry up only eight per cent.
The group benefited from the worldwide boom in single malts to key export markets such as the United States, Canada, Japan and Taiwan, while the overall scotch whisky industry, including malts and blends, grew just four per cent.
Mr Neep said the firm had seen the benefits of increased marketing investment, while sales and marketing partnerships with Bacardi-Martini and the Brown-Forman Corporation - whose main brands are Jack Daniels and Southern Comfort - continued to develop well.
Glenmorangie, famous for its Glen of Tranquillity distillery on the shores of the Dornoch Firth, posted a six per cent hike in operating profit to £11.7m, although as a percentage of turnover, operating profit was unchanged from last year at 17 per cent. Among the groups three key brands, Glenmorangie volumes grew 15 per cent, Glen Moray increased 44 per cent driven by reaching new markets in Germany and Denmark, and the Islay malt Ardbeg was up eight per cent. In the UK, the flagship Glenmorangie brand saw volumes up four per cent.
Some of the biggest gains came in the US where the Glenmorangie brand increased volumes 28 per cent in a market up four per cent, but the group warned that if the dollar stayed at current levels it would wipe £250,000 off this years profits. Articles Courtesy of The Scotsman
Grant snaps up record whisky medal haul WILLIAM Grant & Sons, the family-owned whisky distiller, has won a record 22 medals and seven seals of approval at the International Spirits Challenge, one of the worlds leading spirit competitions.
The company, which makes the worlds best selling single malt Scotch whisky, Glenfiddich, won three gold medals, nine silver, ten bronze and seven seals of approval.
The independent judging panel awarded the Banffshire-based distiller the gold medals for The Balvenie Vintage Cask 1972, The Balvenie 30 Year Old, as well as its blended whisky - Grants Rare Old 18 Year Old. Articles Courtesy of The Scotsman
First Graduates of the Bruichladdich Single Malt Academy The first set of students at the Bruichladdich Single Malt Academy have graduated with flying colours.
Five students, Ulf Bilting from Sweden, Marcel Braam from the Netherlands, Andy Curd from the USA, and Martin Diekmann and Werner Schirp from Germany attended the five-day residential hands-on course at Bruichladdich Distillery on Islay and took an examination before graduating on Friday 7th May.
During the week they studied all the processes involved in the production of single malt whisky and had practical experience of the traditional methods employed at the Distillery, which still uses much of its original Victorian equipment. They were also able to bottle whisky at Islays only bottling hall, which was opened at the Distillery one year ago.
The graduates were presented with a certificate and a specially labelled bottle of Bruichladdich to celebrate their achievement, by Master Distiller Jim McEwan, whose vision of a whisky academy on Islay had finally been realised. This Academy gives single malt fans the opportunity to come to the most famous whisky island in the world; to understand their passion more clearly by actually making spirit under the guidance of craftsmen distillers in a practical non-computerised way and to be part of something that until now was only a dream.
Marcel Braam, in accepting his certificate said As a chemist I thought I knew a lot about distilling before I came, but now I realise that two aspects are vitally important in the production of an extraordinary whisky the people and time.
Martin Diekmann summed up his experience on behalf of his fellow students, saying I feel like I am part of the Càirdean (family) now, not by heritage but by heart. Article Courtesy of Bruichladdich
Famous Grouse puts SRU fears to flight with new deal THE Famous Grouse demonstrated that it has not been put off by Scotlands results when the wraps were taken off a new, multi-million pound sponsorship deal with the national side at Murrayfield yesterday.
The famous Scotch whisky could also go on sale within the national stadium as early as the autumn internationals if Lothian and Borders Police and the Scottish Executive agree to lift the ban on alcohol at international games.
There were concerns earlier this season that the national team sponsor might end its 14-year association - the longest in world rugby - as the international side struggled to remain in the worlds top ten.
However, continuing the trend of attracting more sponsorship despite the on-field performances, the Scottish Rugby Union has sealed an improved deal - likely to be worth more than £1 million per year - covering the next three years up to the 2007 World Cup.
Coming on the back of a relaxation in the stringent licensing regulations by the City of Edinburgh Council, which allowed beer and wine to be on sale at the recent cup finals and is expected again at the Barbarians game on 22 May, Ken Grier, the brands manager for Famous Grouse owners The Edrington Group, said: "Obviously, given what has happened with the experiment at the cup finals with wines and beers we would like to see it extended to include spirits with the right consultation.
"What people dont realise is that a unit of alcohol is a unit of alcohol whether its wine, beer or spirits. Alcohol used in a responsible way can enhance the enjoyment, relaxation and pleasure of supporters at a game. There is a lot of work and proper research being undertaken right now, and obviously we have to work very closely with the police and local and central government, and other key agencies, because public safety and health is paramount, but we would be hopeful that we could do something before the next Six Nations.
"We are delighted to conclude this deal because we are retaining a partnership with Scotlands premier supported team. Watching a game and having a dram with friends is what we feel rugby is all about, but being a supporter of Scottish rugby is about the long-haul - the good times and the bad times. We know Scottish rugby is going through a transitional phase, but we are very, very optimistic about the good job the team here are doing and well be there to partner them through this period.
"In our time as sponsors Scotland have won the old Five Nations, the Calcutta Cup at Murrayfield, beaten South Africa, and France in Paris, so we take a long-term view and have terrific faith in the new team at Murrayfield. Were all passionate supporters and want to see the team winning, but its less about results and more about the long-term partnership and us, a Scottish company, wanting to put something back into the fabric of Scotland.
"But the degree of professionalism that has been shown by the team here and their understanding of brands is very much appreciated, and is a key part of this sponsorship."
The SRU has trebled its number of sponsors in the past four years and taken income from £750,000 to £3million, but keeping the most visible sponsor on board is a massive boost at a time when funds are being severely stretched. Articles Courtesy of The Scotsman
Scotch and wry You dont hear the F word much in the whisky glens these days. The whisky industry is a serious place. The master distillers talk in corporate clichés, peppering` their conversation with words such as tradition and mystic. Theres a lot about haggis, heather and bagpipes - and plenty of waffle about flavours. But when youre handed a glass to sniff, no one ever mentions the F word.
Except Jon, Mark and Robbo. They are three young guys who had an idea when walking the glens one day that whisky should be precisely about the F word - fun. Jon and Mark drink whisky, but Robbo actually makes it.
Six months on and their idea has blossomed into a company offering easy-drinking alternatives to the major whisky players; three whiskies they think are funky, fabulous, flavoursome and fun, which appeal to them and their young friends. There is a rich, spicy one for Robbo, a smooth, sweet one for Mark and a peaty, smoky one for Jon. Its all very nice, simple and direct.
The last time I heard of Robbo, he was called David Robertson. At the tender age of 30, he had a frightfully serious job as master distiller for Macallan, trussed up in a kilt and tuxedo, travelling the world selling the best whiskies. It is a job that many distillers would give their eye-teeth for. So what was he thinking of when he packed it in to start all over again?
I rang Robbo for a chat. I knew he didnt own a distillery, a bottling hall or a bank, so I half-expected him and his pals to be working from a kitchen table in the back streets of Perth, or a tumbledown cottage in the glens. As it turns out, I was wrong - Robbo hasnt quite packed it all in. The clever chap has convinced his former employer, the industry giant Edrington, to buy into his fun idea and give him an office, admin staff and a swish BMW to boot.
"Will they let me in?" asks Robbo when I suggest meeting in a local five-star hotel. Apparently he only wears T-shirts and jeans these days. We ended up in a much trendier place, a new bar in St Andrews, where the youngish clientele are dressed just like Robbo - casual, stylish - and watch plasma screens and listen to a throbbing beat as they quaff their chardonnays.
The market is flooded with new whisky labels, so who does Robbo think will buy his? "Not students," he says quickly. "They just want to get drunk. Our whiskies arent just for first-time drinkers, were aiming at the pioneers. Were not aiming at settlers or prospectors."
I ask him to describe a pioneer. I want to know what else a pioneer might buy - and if Im one. "Theyre people who have moved on from alcopops and tried wines," he explains. "They like active holidays, drive jeeps rather than cars. They are not status-driven, like prospectors, or stuck in their ways, like the settlers."
I have certainly tried wines and like skiing and climbing, but I drive a beaten-up Clio, so Im still not sure which group I belong to.
Robbo just wants people to enjoy the whiskies. "I dont mind if they add Coca-Cola or sparkling mineral water to them, whether they drink them in the bath, at breakfast or on the beach," he says.
It might sound like a canny marketing ploy, and it is. Its the same thing Tesco did for wines with its Monster Spicy Red range. Robbos whiskies may be blends of Scotch or Irish malts, but they are sold with names that say exactly what they taste like. Theyve steered clear of calling them after yet another tranquil glen.
So what happens next? Robbo reckons he can do the same for cognac, rum and tequila. Its a clever idea, as their labels are confusing and need simplification.
Then Robbo says: "Our next whiskies will be called Orange Orgasm, Vibrant Vanilla and Citrus Sensation."
These will be funky, flavourful blends of whiskies of different origins - Scotland, America, Japan, Ireland, wherever. "We tried our new mixed origin blends on 65 hard-nosed whisky aficionados at a whisky fair. We thought wed be drummed out of the room by the serious maltesers, but we got a standing ovation."
I think its a great idea. Im always suggesting people should mix up their wines in the glass if they find themselves with a tart, austere white. Blending in a bit of ripe New World fruit should soften it and liven it up. You never know until you try.
What Im curious to know is how Robbos going to get away with bottling these mixtures, avoiding labelling restrictions and not upsetting the likes of the Scotch Whisky Association.
But he doesnt seem to care. He says he just wants to put the F back into our whisky culture, and have some fun. Articles Courtesy of The Scotsman
Chivas sells off Benriach distillery CHIVAS Brothers has sold Benriach distillery to a consortium of South African businessman led by former Burn Stewart director, Billy Walker, in a deal believed to worth about £5.4 million.
Walker, together with partners Geoff Bell and Wayne Kieswetter, who run Intra Trading, a business specialising in the drinks and tobacco trade in southern Africa , plans to revitalise the distillery and target new markets.
The distillery lay silent from 1900 to 1965 when it was revived by the Hill Thompson Company. Walker said: "Our plans are modest but robust, and thanks to significant private investment and enthusiastic support from our bank and business advisers, Benriach will soon be finding its way to specialist outlets around the globe." Articles Courtesy of The Scotsman
DISTILLERY POOLS RESOURCES FOR GREEN AWARDS A Small island distillery that heats a local swimming pool as it makes whisky has been nominated for a coveted green award.
Bowmore Distillery, on Islay, saw off competition from across the continent to make the final 12 shortlisted for the European Awards for the Environment 2004.
The distillery was one of only two British companies to be nominated for the honour.
Among its green credentials, Bowmore provides free energy for the local swimming pool by reusing heat from the distilling process.
Four winners will be selected from the shortlist for the awards, which will take place in Brussels on June 1.
EU Environment Commissioner Margot Wallstrom, who will present the awards, said Bowmore was one of a growing number of firms placing a green agenda at the heart of its business.
Bowmore's director of production Andrew Rankin said: "This nomination is testament to the excellent work done by Bowmore Distillery staff in maintaining the environment in which we work.
"Our distillery has been here since 1779 and we're keen to ensure our environment is protected for a further 225 years at least."
It is the latest environmental accolade for the single-malt whisky maker, which was judged to be British Green Champion in the National Green Apple Environment awards in February.
The distillery beat giants Scottish and Newcastle and Schweppes in the food and drink category of the competition.
And in 2002, Bowmore was the world's only distiller to be awarded two quality awards for environmental practice. Articles Courtesy of The Press & Journal
Whisky workers scoop £2.4m on Lottery SEVEN workers at an Edinburgh whisky plant were today toasting their success on the National Lottery after scooping almost £2.4 million.
The syndicate members, who work at Chivas Brothers bottling plant at Newbridge, matched six numbers on the Lotto draw on Saturday.
The group, dubbed the Lucky 7s, were due to toast their prize money, which amounts to £341,893 each, with a dram at the Newbridge site today. Six of the winners are from West Lothian and the other is from North Lanarkshire. All of the syndicate work in the production department.
They are syndicate organiser CarolAnne Fraser , 37, of Livingston; Jean Brown, 41, from Eliburn; Gillian Millar, 36, from East Calder; David Robertson, 56, of Pumpherston; David Lewis, 40, of Broxburn; Rory Haddow, 34, also from Broxburn, and James Hendry, 58, of Shotts,
The winning ticket was bought from Tesco in Linlithgow and the numbers were 5, 6, 10, 15, 27, 49. The winners are going to spend their winnings on cars, including a Jaguar, new homes and at least one holiday to Las Vegas.
The groups win does not come close to the best ever by a syndicate. The biggest Lotto Jackpot won was £42m in 1996, shared by three ticket holders.
The biggest winners willing to publicise their win were Paul Maddison and Mark Gardiner, from East Sussex, who scooped £22.6m in June 1995. Articles Courtesy of The Scotsman
Low spirits at Pernod Ricard PERNOD Ricard, the worlds third-largest spirits group, today reported a 1.2 per cent decline in first-quarter wine and spirit sales.
Turnover fell to £474 million, from £480m a year ago but higher than analysts forecasts of £468.7m.
The Paris-based producer of Chivas Regal whisky and Havana Club rum said sales rose 5.4 per cent on an underlying basis, which strips out the effects of currencies, acquisitions and divestments. Articles Courtesy of The Scotsman
THOUSANDS GET INTO THE SPIRIT OF SPEYSIDE Thousands of visitors enjoyed whisky-fuelled fun in Moray at the weekend as one of the area's biggest tourist events got into full swing.
The Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival, featuring more than 100 events dedicated to the water of life, got under way on Friday and ends today.
Whisky connoisseurs and novices alike have been touring distilleries, tasting rare malts, taking part in nosings and learning secrets of the ancient art of distilling.
Some of the major players in the whisky industry launched new malts to coincide with the festival.
Yesterday, many family events were held throughout Moray, including trips on the Keith and Dufftown railway, a family fun day at Benromach Distillery at Forres, Highland dancing exhibitions in Dufftown and cruises from the Moray Firth Wildlife Centre in Spey Bay to spot Whisky the dolphin.
The main thrust of the festival, however, was Speyside's whisky-making tradition.
Whisky merchant Gordon and MacPhail was offering a nosing-and-tasting course on straight-from-the-cask whiskies, led by its retail manager, and Keeper of the Quaich, Ronnie Routledge.
Visitors also had a unique opportunity to retrace the footsteps of whisky smugglers of the past, uncovering their network of secret trails on a six-mile hike to the Carn Daimh summit.
Glenfiddich Distillery in Dufftown and Glen Moray in Elgin were both offering tours conducted by their managers.
Previous festivals have brought an estimated £150,000 into the local economy and drawn about 3,000 visitors to Speyside and Moray.
Fiona Murdoch, owner of the Whisky Shop in Dufftown, said the weekend had gone "brilliantly". "We have been at full capacity in Dufftown throughout the festival," she said. "It has been mobbed. There are a lot of people having a lot of fun and a lot of whisky."
She said the whisky fair, which ran in the village for the first time this year, had been a great success.
For those who wanted a break from whisky, visitors to Dufftown were treated to a beer party last night. Articles Courtesy of The Press & Journal
MP'S PLEA TO HELP WHISKY INDUSTRY Shadow secretary of state for Scotland Peter Duncan yesterday urged the Government to increase the compensation available for distilleries affected by the new whisky tax stamp burden.
Conservative MP Mr Duncan made the call during a visit to Oban Distillery, where he discussed the implications and the financial burden of the tax stamp with the management.
Hitting out at the Government's "disastrous proposal" to inflict a tax stamp on Scotland's whisky industry, Mr Duncan said: "I am very disappointed that the Government has seen fit to implement what is a measure totally contrary to the interests of one of Scotland's premier industries.
"Not one trade union, industry group or independent observer has given their backing to the strip stamp proposals."
The proposal was passed as part of the Finance Bill which went through Parliament on Tuesday. Mr Duncan called for distilleries to be allowed to apply the stamp to existing labels and pressed for a greater compensation fund to be established, to help distilleries with the additional costs of adhering to the proposal.
He added: "In my own constituency, in Galloway and Upper Nithsdale, it is costing the Bladnoch Distillery £220,000, but the government's total budget so far is £3million for compensation - which is a drop in the ocean when you consider the number of distilleries."
Mr Duncan said though distilleries employed relatively small numbers of employees in urban terms, they were important to the economy of fragile rural areas such as Oban, where the distillery employs 12 -15 people.
He said: "The Government say they are losing £600million a year on duty fraud but the reality is that they did a fraud operation in London, visiting 300 retailers, and identified 140 who were selling non-duty alcohol, why weren't they prosecuted?
"The financial burden is being placed on the distillers, but the fraud is happening further down the supply chain. It's unacceptable, given the importance of the industry to Scotland.
"It is plainly obvious that this tax stamp will attack the distillers, local jobs and a proud national industry, not the fraudsters." Articles Courtesy of The Press & Journal
JUDGES HAIL RECORD ENTRY FOR SCOTS FOOD AND DRINK AWARDS Scotland's leading food and drink award scheme has attracted a record entry this year - indicating that more companies are now realising the promotional and commercial benefits of winning awards.
Shortlist judging for the Scottish Food and Drink Excellence Awards has just been completed, with more than 50 products sampled and tasted by a panel of industry experts.
The awards, which recognise innovation, enterprise and quality, will be announced at a gala dinner at Stirling Castle on May 12.
Total entries for the 2004 awards were 130 in 16 categories, and a feature this year was the number of new food and drink firms entering.
Categories include retail, foodservice, export, children's product, direct marketing and a new section - healthy eating - with an overall supreme award going to the most outstanding product.
The awards are organised jointly and co-sponsored by the Royal Highland and Agricultural Society of Scotland and Scottish Food and Drink in association with Scottish Enterprise. Other major sponsors include The Grocer magazine, Scottish Development International and the Scottish Executive's healthy living campaign.
Maggie McGinlay, director of Scottish Food and Drink, said: "The awards give us the chance to give credit to those companies whose performance in a variety of disciplines has been particularly outstanding.
"There is a real climate of innovation and flair within the industry at the moment."
Among the products and companies shortlisted for awards are:
Wild Scottish smoked salmon - Halliday & Lloyd, St Cyrus.
Whole loin of Scottish wild venison - Highland Game, Dundee.
Burns truffles - Simon Howie Butchers, Dunning, Perthshire.
Islay smoked beef - Islay Fine Food Company, Bruichladdich.
Orange and passion fruit Vibrant - Mackie's of Scotland, Rothienorman.
Luxury dairy apple crumble ice cream and luxury dairy marmalade cheesecake flavour ice cream - Orkney Creamery, St Ola, Orkney.
Scottish fruit preserve range of shortbread - Dean's of Huntly, Huntly.
Clootie dumpling and steamed sponge dessert puddings - Tilquhillie Puddings, Banchory.
Citrus and mixed fruit juices and yoghurt smoothies - Get Juiced, Cupar.
Benromach traditional single Speyside malt Scotch whisky - Gordon & MacPhail, Elgin.
Thai ginger fish brochettes and salt and vinegar fish fries - Trawlpac Seafoods, Aberdeen
Jamaican seduction and chocolate mudslide - Macphie of Glenbervie.
Savoury type biscuits with different herb flavours - McKenzie Biscuits, Turriff.
Ready to cook en-croute dishes - Donald Russell Direct, Inverurie.
Cask conditioned ales and bottled beers - Cairngorm Brewery, Aviemore.
Reduced fat children's beefburger - GAA, Glenbervie.. Articles Courtesy of The Press & Journal
Whisky centre plan is nipped in the bud AMBITIOUS plans to transform an Edinburgh tourist attraction have been ditched after objections from one of the citys top restaurateurs.
The owner of the upmarket Witchery restaurant, James Thomson, hit out at plans submitted by next-door neighbour the Scottish Whisky Heritage Centre to add a further 174 seats to its newly opened Amber restaurant at Castlehill on the Royal Mile.
Whisky chiefs also wanted to build two conservatories with de-mountable canopies which would overlook Johnston Terrace to the rear of the building.
Mr Thomson says the plans would create a "visual clutter" and comprise inappropriate design and materials for a B-Listed building. He also feared people dining in the conservatories would be able to peer into the Witcherys sister restaurant the Secret Garden - its seclusion is a huge attraction.
Mr Thomson, a recent Company of the Year winner, has also incorporated £250-a-night hotel rooms above his restaurant which were once described by Dannii Minogue as the "perfect lust-den".
He said the proposals would also upset his guests by generating "unacceptable" noise and nuisance.
The Witchery, celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, boasts a star-studded guest book signed by such famous diners as Matt Groening, creator of TV cartoon anti-heroes The Simpsons, as well as actors Ewan MacGregor, Michael Douglas, Catherine Zeta Jones and Pierce Brosnan.
Despite having already received planning permission and being recommended for Listed Building Consent by planners, the centre said the expansion was no longer on the cards and that they were looking at alternative ways to freshen up the visitor centre.
The row had threatened to create a rift between Mr Thomson and heritage centre managing director Alastair McIntosh, who have worked closely together for years.
Both are leading figures in Edinburghs tourism industry and have worked closely as fellow board members on the Edinburgh Tourism Action Group.
They are also key members of the Castlehill Partnership and played leading roles in the establishment of Castlehill Christmas in 2002, a plan to increase tourism in the area at a traditionally quiet time of the year.
Mr Thomson, a former pupil of George Heriots school, is one of the leading players in the hospitality industry after becoming Scotlands youngest licensee when he opened the Witchery at the age of 20 with a staff of three. He also owns the Capitals celebrated Tower restaurant.
Mr McIntosh, who until recently was the chairman of Edinburgh Tourism Action Group, has agreed to dump the proposals and look at alternatives.
Neither Mr Thomson nor Mr McIntosh were available to comment on the row today.
Susan Morrison, general manager of the Whisky Centre, said: "We dont have any further plans to develop that application and its probably not on the cards any more."
Despite this, the application for Listed Building Consent will still go before councillors on May 5 for approval.
Alan Henderson, the councils head of planning and strategy, dismissed Mr Thomsons objections, saying the proposals did not have an adverse impact on the character of the building and the conservatories could only be seen from Johnston Terrace. He also said the design and finishes were appropriate.
A council spokesman said the heritage centre, if given full approval, had five years to change its mind about the plans. He said: "Not all applications necessarily go ahead, but they have this timescale if they want it."
Articles Courtesy of The Scotsman
Brown ponders U-turn on 'reckless' whisky move THERE were signs last night that the Treasury was on the verge of accepting a compromise over plans to impose tax stamps on the spirits industry.
The prospect of a deal emerged after an all-party group of MPs said the plans were ill-thought through and would do little to beat fraud.
Gordon Brown, the Chancellor, announced in last months Budget he would proceed with the implementation of the tax, brushing aside complaints from the whisky industry. But in a strongly-worded report, the MPs said it was "reckless" of the government to introduce the stamps without accurately assessing the level of fraud.
However, a compromise could be struck whereby the stamp would be incorporated into the label rather than being pasted over the bottle neck. Such a move would significantly reduce the cost to the industry.
Irene Adams, the chairman of the Scottish Affairs Committee, said she believed the Treasury and the industry were "not that far apart" in finding a solution.
The Treasury later insisted it was going to press ahead with the stamps, but it indicated that ministers were willing to listen to concerns.
"We are now working closely with the industry on the implementation of tax stamps, and ways to reduce the costs for companies. We will consider the committees report in this context," it said.
Officials indicated that no final decision had been made on what form the stamps should take. Articles Courtesy of The Scotsman
Whisky stamp will not cut fraud, say MPs PLANS to impose strip stamps on spirits would do little to counter fraud and could lead to job losses across the whisky industry, an all-party group of MPs said yesterday.
The damning report by the Commons Scottish affairs committee coincided with reports that the Treasury was on the verge of a deal designed to alleviate the cost of imposing the tax.
In its report, the committee said it was "highly questionable" whether the stamps were the best method of tackling fraud.
In last months budget, Gordon Brown, the Chancellor, announced he would proceed with the tax, brushing aside complaints that the additional costs would have severe implications for the whisky industry.
But the MPs said it was "reckless" of the government to introduce the stamps without accurately assessing the level of fraud in the industry.
The report said the Customs and Excises estimate that the trade in counterfeit spirits was costing the Exchequer some £600 million a year could not be accepted as accurate.
"For any government to introduce important measures which could have major implications for industry and employment, based on what could be inaccurate figures, might be considered precipitate to the point of being reckless," said the committee.
The MPs said that strip stamps would be easy to counterfeit, while the additional cost imposed on the smaller distillers would almost certainly lead to redundancies.
" The government appears to be reacting in response to what is an unconfirmed level of fraud, with the possibility of major implications for the industry.
"We are convinced neither that strip stamps would be the best way to tackle such fraud, nor that the government has exhausted all possible alternatives," said the report, The Proposed Whisky Strip Stamp.
However, a compromise could be struck whereby the stamp would be incorporated into the label rather than being pasted over the neck of the bottle. Such a move would reduce the cost to the industry of changing their bottling plants in order to attach the stamps.
Irene Adams, the chairman of the Scottish Affairs committee, said she believed the Treasury and the industry were "not that far apart" in finding a solution.
In a statement, the Treasury said it intended to press ahead with stamps.
But it indicated ministers were willing to listen to concerns over how the stamps were implemented. "We are now working closely with the industry on the implementation of tax stamps, and ways to reduce the costs for companies. We will consider the committees report in this context," it said.
An announcement could be made today when the Finance Bill is debated in the Commons. The Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) welcomed the report, saying it was a strong message to the government that tax stamps should be reconsidered.
Gavin Hewitt, the chief executive of the SWA, said the report made it clear that tax stamps were not the way forward in tackling spirits fraud.
"Further work must be done so that we can all - government and industry - agree on measures that tackle fraud in a proportionate manner. We agree that if forgers have no difficulty reproducing passports, tax stamps will not present the counterfeiter with a problem."
Fiona Moriarty, the director of the Scottish Retail Consortium, echoed calls for a rethink on proposals.
"The stamps will place an extra financial burden on retailers and will do very little to combat the serious issue of duty fraud," she said.
Articles Courtesy of The Scotsman
MPs attack whisky stamp duty plan WESTMINSTER MPs today savaged Gordon Browns proposals to put special duty paid "strip stamps" on bottles of whisky and other spirits sold in Britain.
The House of Commons Scottish Affairs Committee is urging the Chancellor to think again and scrap the controversial plan.
A report due to be published today tells Mr Brown there has to be a better alternative to the stamps, which the Scotch whisky industry claims will cost it millions of pounds and reduce its competitiveness.
The stamps are intended to provide physical proof duty has been paid on each bottle. But the industry says it will just increase costs and do little to tackle spirits fraud as the strip stamps will be easily forged.
The all-party group of MPs say "they are far from convinced" that the Government has fully considered all possible alternatives to tackle fraud. It has proposed a guarantee system instead.
Mr Brown claims that fraud on spirits duty, especially through cross-Channel smuggling, costs the Treasury £600 million a year. The Scotch Whisky Association has disputed this figure. Articles Courtesy of The Scotsman
It's whisky galore all over the world WHISKY has been the national drink of Scotland for as long as anyone can remember, sober or otherwise. But now it seems the wee Scottish dram has become the worlds tipple of choice, outselling other countries national drinks abroad by, presumably in some cases literally, staggering levels.
In France, for example, more Scotch whisky is sold to drinkers in a month than the amount of Cognac sold in an entire year, according to the most recent figures, and the Spanish too are happy to forsake sangria for Scots spirit... Click here for full story Articles Courtesy of The Scotsman
Allied Domecq lifts glass to profits DRINKS group Allied Domecq is cheering a four per cent rise in first-half trading profits after seeing steady sales growth in its core brands, which include Ballantines whisky.
The group, whose burgeoning portfolio also includes Beefeater gin and Malibu coconut rum, said a strong recovery in the Spanish market helped it boost its European trading profits by ten per cent.
It added that good trading in North America had driven growth in its spirits and wine business, which saw sales rise by three per cent to £1.3 billion at constant exchange rates and trading profits up five per cent. The worlds second-biggest spirits company posted a four per cent rise in overall trading profits to £337 million.
However, sounding a sour note, Allied said overall drink volumes had grown just one per cent in the first half, and it warned that the weakness of the dollar and the euro against the pound could cut deeper into its annual profits.
Chief executive Philip Bowman said the sparkling performance in the US and the strong recovery in Spain more than made up for subdued trading in Latin America and the Asia Pacific region.
He added: "Although there are many uncertainties in todays operating environment, we remain confident that we are on track to deliver earnings growth in line with market expectations for the current financial year."
James Williamson, an analyst at SG Securities, said: "The numbers overall are in line with our estimates. However, some may find organic net sales growth of just three per cent for their spirits and wine division a tad disappointing."
The Bristol-based group, which employs some 1500 people in the UK and 12,500 globally, said it had seen good growth in its nine core brands - Ballantines, Beefeater, Canadian Club, Courvoisier, Kahlua, Makers Mark, Malibu, Sauza and Tia Maria - while its wines division had racked up double-digit growth.
It added that its restaurants division, which includes Baskin-Robbins ice-cream and Dunkin Donuts, had grown trading profits by £11m to £34m.
Chief financial officer Graham Hetherington described the interim figures as "excellent". "Weve started the second half well and were set to meet market expectations for the year."
Last year, Allied failed in its bid to take over Australian wine business Peter Lehmann Wines. Mr Hetherington said the group was continuing "to keep its eyes open for opportunities" to gain a foothold in the region.
He said the firm had "no plans for significant acquisitions" in the wine sector in general.
A drive by wholesalers to cut their stocks had previously affected the groups Spanish business, but Mr Hetherington said Spanish buying levels had now recovered, with volumes growing by 14 per cent and net turnover surging 23 per cent. Articles Courtesy of The Scotsman
Spirits high as Scotch exports rise to £2.4bn EXPORTS of Scotch whisky rose four per cent to £2.4 billion last year, according to the latest industry figures.
The increase in exports to the second-highest figure on record came despite a ten per cent fall in exports to France - the largest overseas market for Scotch in terms of volume sold.
David Williamson, of the Scotch Whisky Association, said: "France is still the biggest market by far, with 134 million bottles, and the market remains healthy.
"The reduction in volume of whisky sales is indicative of a fall in all alcoholic drinks consumed in France last year. This is partly as a result of a health drive by the French government, which was focused on alcohol."
But whiskys most valuable market, the United States, enjoyed a nine-per-cent rise in sales to a record £329 million.
Malt whisky continued to drive growth, with a rise of more than 13 per cent in value, breaking through £300m worth of exports for the first time. Exports of blended whisky also rose, up 3.5 per cent to £1.87bn.
SWA chairman Ian Good said: "Value and volume growth for Scotch, both malts and blends, is a major achievement in the face of difficult economic conditions around the world.
"New markets are emerging where consumers are discovering Scotch for the first time. Todays figures highlight Scotchs important contribution to the balance of payments."
Scotch whiskys popularity surged ahead in Taiwan, up 41 per cent to £81m, and Thailand, up 17 per cent to £44m.
However, South Korea and Japan experienced a drop in exports amid tough economic conditions in parts of the Far East. In Japan, sales dived 35 per cent to £75m, while South Korea saw sales dip three per cent to £181m.
Figures for the UK also showed a decline, with Scotch sales down one per cent in volume to 113.7 million bottles. But malts were up three per cent to nearly 11 million bottles sold.
The whisky business faces what it sees as a major challenge in the face of Chancellor Gordon Browns plans to force producers to attach a tax stamp to every bottle of Scotch in a bid to prove that duty has been paid.
Mr Good said: "Any damage to the industrys competitiveness will have a knock-on effect across the wider economy.
"That is one of the reasons we continue to oppose the introduction of tax stamps in the UK - a measure that will tie up companies capital that would be better spent promoting Scotch around the world."
He said distillers have been "trailblazers" in exporting to Eastern Europe ahead of the imminent enlargement of the European Union, with exports to the ten accession countries up 32 per cent in value on 2002.
In Hungary sales soared 56 per cent, and by 31 per cent in the Czech Republic.
"Exports are also increasing to key emerging markets, such as India, which saw a 47-per-cent increase to £13.5m, and China, which increased 142 per cent to £9.3m," Mr Good added.
"As trade barriers are gradually removed, there will be significant commercial opportunities."
Articles Courtesy of The Scotsman
Allied looks set to be in high spirits as profits rise to £270m THE looming prospect of a rise in US interest rates will cast a long shadow over the market this week. Few FTSE bluechips will escape the downturn in the London market if the Federal Bank, as widely expected, raises rates.
Drinks giant Allied Domecq is set to shake off the impact of the weak US dollar and post a rise in pre-tax profits to £270m for the six months to the end of February, compared with £256m a year ago.
The company still trails Diageo in the Scotch whisky stakes, and speculation that it is seeking a merger with a rival have been flying round the City for months.
Shares in Diageo, the worlds biggest distilled drinks firm, jumped 4.2% or 31p at 768p on Friday as Credit Suisse First Boston repeated its "outperform" stance and said Diageos US growth initiative appeared to be delivering significant benefits.
Allieds shares followed suit, closing up 2.4%, or 11p, at 475p.
Allieds half-year results on Thursday should contain news of how its major brands are performing. In January, it reported that Makers Mark, Stolichnaya vodka and Sauza tequila were all showing good organic growth in the US. Articles Courtesy of The Scotsman
Whisky stamps fraud The suggestion that the Scotch Whisky Association and its member companies (Business in Person, 16 April) have not offered an alternative anti-fraud solution to the proposed tax stamps is absurd.
Before the Budget, the industry presented a package of 17 alternative solutions, covering every link in the supply chain, which would have hit directly at the fraudster. It would have been more enduring than tax stamps, which can be easily forged, and deliver more revenue to the Treasury, more quickly.
To considerable disappointment, given the cross-party opposition to the proposal, the Chancellor chose not to em-brace this package. Without in any way reducing our opposition to tax stamps, we are now committed to ensuring the government honours its promise to mitigate the heavy costs facing distillers and that tax stamps are implemented in the least damaging way possible.
Public Affairs Manager, SWA
Articles Courtesy of The Scotsman
Porta's challenge of the Chivas Life CHRISTIAN Porta knows full well the size of the job ahead of him - to rejuvenate and grow sales of some of Scotlands most recognisable and successful products, without diluting any of their traditional image and appeal. At the same time, he must fight his corner in possibly the most competitive sector of the drinks industry amid growing government interference in the way the products are sold.
There lies the challenge of running Chivas Brothers - the venerable Scotch whisky house now owned by Pernod Ricard - which controls a stable of top brand names, but which some analysts argue have been starting to cry out for a modern facelift... Click here for full story Articles Courtesy of The Scotsman
It's whisky Bangalore at new distillery INDIA will join the first family of whisky this summer when a Bangalore distillery starts to export its own brand of single malt to the British market.
The man behind the drink, Rakshit Jagdale, has won European trade clearance to export Amrut single-malt whisky into the UK, and plans to launch the drink in Glasgow this August... Click here for full story Articles Courtesy of The Scotsman
Chivas bids to make The Glenlivet number one CHIVAS Brothers, the Scotch whisky division of Pernod Ricard, is preparing a global marketing blitz in support of The Glenlivet later this year as it seeks to close the gap on the worlds top selling single malt, Glenfiddich.
It is expected that several million pounds will be spent improving The Glenlivets packaging, and on a global marketing and branding campaign for the whisky will begin in the second half of the year.
Christian Porta, the new chairman and chief executive of Chivas Brothers, wants to turn his company into the worlds leading Scotch whisky business, and will spearhead these efforts, in part, using The Glenlivet.
Porta said: "The Glenlivet is a brand in which we are going to invest more and we have ambitions in the US, in Europe and also in Asia."
Glenfiddich, which is owned by William Grant & Sons, is the worlds best-selling single malt whisky, selling around 775,000 cases each year.
Sales of The Glenlivet grew by 7% last year to just under 400,000, ranking the malt third in global sales behind Chivas Brothers other single malt whisky, Glen Grant. However, Glen Grant is not classed as a premium malt by Chivas Brothers because it is sold at a lower age, typically five years.
Because Portas ambition is to turn Chivas Brothers into the worlds top premium whisky group, the company is promoting The Glenlivet over Glen Grant.
Porta, who took over the top job at Chivas Brothers in January, wants to increase sales in Asia, where single malts are growing in popularity. He also wants to improve sales among younger drinkers.
Chivas Brothers spent £26m on marketing its premium blended whisky, Chivas Regal, last year which resulted in a 7% increase in sales. This year, that figure is expected to rise to £29m.
A spokesman for Chivas Brothers said: "This is about challenging the top players. We think that theres significant growth with brands that werent being invested in in the past."
A spokesperson for William Grant & Sons declined to comment on Chivas Brothers plans. Articles Courtesy of The Scotsman
Smugglers' trail leads way to whisky celebration VISITORS to the annual Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival are to be given an insight into the secret world of Scotlands illicit whisky trade next month.
A special tour to the hidden glens on Speyside, once used by smugglers and for clandestine stills, is being organised for 2 May as one of the highlights of the celebration of Scotlands national drink.
The smugglers tour will take visitors on a trip to a number of secret sites used in the 18th century to hide consignments of whisky from the prying eyes of the Exciseman.
Leading the tour will be Alan Winchester, an expert from the Glenlivet Distillery, and Andrew Wells, a ranger on the Crown Estates Glenlivet Estate. The six-mile trek will take visitors along an old smugglers trail to the 570-metre summit of Carn Daimh, the highest point on the Speyside Way, and then across to Tamnavoulin.
A spokeswoman for the whisky festival said: "It will be a fascinating trip around illegal locations once used for stashing the precious malt whisky from the government tax man.
"The visitors will learn how the illicit whisky distillers smuggled their spirit between the glens along a network of secret trails.
"It will give everyone a chance to enjoy some fresh air and the views over Speyside as well as a delicious dram of The Glenlivet at the same time."
It has been estimated that in the late 18th century 300,000 gallons of whisky were crossing the Border into England every year without any duty being paid.
By the 1820s, despite the fact that as many as 14,000 illicit stills were being confiscated every year, more than half the whisky consumed in Scotland was being swallowed without a penny of duty changing hands.
The smugglers tour is one of more than 100 events in a packed programme of whisky-themed activities being planned for the four-day festival being staged at various locations on Speyside from 30 April to 3 May.
Whisky lovers will be able to sample the "water of life" at more than 70 whisky nosing and tasting sessions.
Special visits to some of Scotlands best-known distilleries, giving visitors the chance to see parts of the plants not normally open to the public, are also being planned.
The festival will also feature a range of traditional music, song and dance events, and a gourmet dinner inspired by classic single malts.
Children and families are also being catered for at the festival with railway journeys through some of Speysides most spectacular scenery, boat trips to see the bottlenose dolphins in the Moray Firth at close quarters, and craft fairs among the range of events being staged.
Wendy Clements, the secretary of the Moray Tourism Forum, said: "It was very important for us to devise a programme which included all ages for what is a festival which celebrates the best of Speyside.". Articles Courtesy of The Scotsman
Distillery gifts silver bowl to Ambassador When First Minister Jack McConnell visits Washington this week as part of Tartan Day celebrations, he will be taking a piece of the north-east with him.
Glenfiddich Distillery owners William Grant and Sons have commissioned a handcrafted silver bowl as a gift for the British ambassador to the US to commemorate Scotland's presence at last year's high-profile Smithsonian Festival.
Representatives from the Dufftown distillery were among several craftsmen from across Scotland to participate in the festival's first exhibition on Scottish culture, which showcased whisky-making and encouraged Americans to visit the area.
The bowl was created by Graham Stewart of Dunblane, who exhibited at the Smithsonian festival. Made of solid silver, it features stalks of barley to symbolise the whisky-making process.
It will be presented to the ambassador by Mr McConnell at an embassy reception on Wednesday.
Peter Gordon, of William Grant and Sons, said: "We commissioned the bowl on behalf of all the Scots who participated in the Smithsonian as a thank you for the invaluable support provided by the British Embassy.
"The Washington embassy contains only a few pieces of contemporary Scottish art and we hope all its visitors will now enjoy this fine example of Scottish craftsmanship." Articles Courtesy of The Press & Journal
Former whisky bottling plant to become a thriving £35m site AMBITIOUS plans to transform a former whisky bond in Dumbarton into a thriving business and residential area have been unveiled.
The £35 million development at the former J&B Strathleven bottling plant will house business units, tourism facilities and houses as well as a hotel and conference centre.
The organisations behind the development hope it will bring tourists into the area, capitalising on the existing proximity to the A82 which connects Glasgow with Dumbarton and Loch Lomond.
In 1999 the area suffered a massive jobs blow when the Diageo-owned bottling plant closed with the loss of 450 jobs.
The Strathleven Regeneration Company (SRC) was set-up to provide solutions for the 100-acre site. BBC Scotland was one of the first companies to utilise the site, building a £10 million studio and set complex for its soap River City. The production also brought 120 jobs into the area.
Dumbarton MP, John McFall, chairman of the SRC, said that the plans would bring hundreds of new jobs into the decaying site.
He added: "Normally the only legacy a multinational leaves when they shut a factory and pull out of a town is a padlock on the gates of their abandoned premises.
"Here, hard work, persistence and determination to succeed in these negotiations has achieved considerable goodwill and financial benefits for this community, which was devastated by the closure."
The regeneration company has worked with Diageo and property developers the Walker Group to finalise the plans. The drinks company has donated £500,000 to help breathe new life into its former site.
Included in the plans are 20 acres of housing on the edge of Dumbarton Golf Club, 35 acres of business space and ten acres of roadside tourist facilities. Articles Courtesy of The Scotsman
Executive and Tories unite to oppose whisky stamps THE rift between the Scottish Executive and Westminster over the introduction of tax stamps on bottles of whisky to tackle fraud deepened yesterday.
The Executive joined forces with the Conservative Party to urge Gordon Brown, the Chancellor, to ditch plans to make whisky producers put the so-called strip stamps on bottles.
Murdo Fraser, the Tories enterprise spokesman, said that the plan - announced in Mr Browns recent Budget - was "unacceptable" and would unfairly penalise Scotch whisky producers.
He called on MSPs to support a Conservative motion urging the Treasury to reverse its decision or provide more cash to help pay for the stamps.
However, Mr Fraser said he would also accept an Executive amendment urging the Treasury to hold further talks with the whisky industry with a view to overturning the decision.
"I am pleased that the Executive has come over to our position and will be uniting with us in defence of our whisky industry," Mr Fraser said.
Lewis Macdonald, the deputy enterprise minister, said the Chancellors decision was "disappointing" and insisted Treasury ministers had been made aware of the Executives views. Articles Courtesy of The Scotsman
Whisky firms who are drinking to their strong, silent role in cinema TOM Cruise walks into a billiard room, a doorman takes his coat and his host offers him a drink. "Scotch?" Cruise takes a sip from the crystal tumbler, "Um, this is nice, what is it?"
"Twenty-five-year-old," replies the host, the camera pans across the room to the drinks cabinet, tucked behind the crystal decanters is a bottle of J&B Rare.
In the business, this is called set dressing. Ever since Joan Crawford first poured a tot of Tennessee whiskey in the 1945 film Mildred Pierce, drinks firms have been aware that getting a glamorous star to drink their product can enhance sales.
After Mildred Pierce, Jack Daniels optimised its product placement in film to portray glamorous "hard-drinking" messages around its brand.
Today, the art is big business, with product-placement agencies receiving up to £20,000 a film to go through scripts and find a sponsor for every possible prop. The largest product-placement deals can be worth £2 million for films such as Minority Report, but more commonly, a brand will supply their products to use as props.
John Perry, the director of Propaganda Entertainment Marketing, which places The Macallan and Famous Grouse whisky in films, said: "If one thinks of a major movie that has been shown around the world for a few years, that will have been seen by hundreds of millions of people.
"But I wouldnt call it advertising, because we dont pay for it and we dont have control once the creative process has been set in motion."
The potential for Scotch was first seen in 1973 when The Macallan was featured in the famous sex scene in Dont Look Now with Donald Sutherland and Julie Christie.
But even then, product placement had not properly evolved because Christies body kept getting in the way.
"Every script represents an opportunity," says Dave Newton, the president of Toronto-based Premier Entertainment Services, which places Glenfiddich for William Grants.
"We will probably review about 100 to 120 film scripts every month, not all of which will make sense for any one client."
Placement, or entertainment marketing, as it is now known, came to the UK in the mid-Eighties. Since then, it has ballooned. The Oscar-winning film Lost in Translation was based round plugs for Suntory whisky, advertised by Bill Murrays fading Hollywood star.
"It is a very targeted approach," adds Mr Newton. "Obviously, we need to police the brand very carefully so, for instance, if somebody is abusive with the product that is something we do not want to see;i if somebody is under-age we dont want to see that; if somebody is having a Scotch and in the next scene they are driving a car we dont want to see that.
"I have just turned down a film today because the character was taking a painkiller. We will identify the opportunities that make sense and negate the ones that do not."
The Macallan has appeared in contemporary films such as Brown Sugar, starring Queen Latifa.
Scotlands best-selling whisky, Famous Grouse, has made guest appearances in Bridget Jones 2 and Pride and Prejudice in the past year alone and also earned prime time in the Madonna film Swept Away, directed by her husband, Guy Ritchie. A bottle of Glenlivet popped up in the opening scene in the Robin Williams movie, The Bird Cage.
"I have put them in the hands of Matthew Perry in The Whole Nine Yards," says Mr Newton. "I have put them in Michael Caines hands."
He added: "I would imagine William Grants are very, very satisfied with the return they are getting. For example, what is it worth to have Cruise put on a pair of Ray-Ban sunglasses?
"When he did the film Risky Business 20 years ago, nobody knew who he was. He does a small film with Rebecca de Mornay; the only person who has worn Ray-Ban sunglasses before that was Roy Orbison. All of a sudden Tom Cruise puts them on and they become a fashion statement, and it takes a company that was in bankruptcy solvent." Articles Courtesy of The Scotsman
Bruichladdich - distilling organic spirit Bruichladdich Distillery has distilled its first batch of spirit from organic barley grown on a farm near Inverness.
Mark Reynier, CEO said We have conducted a few distillation experiments and the results have been sensational - if only we could grow everything organically! There isnt that much organic barley being produced in Scotland, so we are lucky to have found a supplier. Its part of our strategy to be 100% Scottish in every area of production.
Jim McEwan, Master Distiller and Production Director of Bruichladdich, is enthusiastic about the quality of this new spirit: Its quite green and herbaceous with flowering currant, geranium and mossy riverbank notes, but theres a balance of fruit in there, which youd expect in new spirit - soft pears and sweet stewed apple. The middle cut was different from our regular Bruichladdich. We ran the distillation even more slowly than normal, to preserve the creamy texture of the spirit, which has a wonderful spring-like quality to it.
The Distillery is also working towards environmentally friendly methods including the use of renewable power from the wave generator at Portnahaven and using recyclable packaging materials, where possible. There will be annual organic distillations and plans for 2004 include sourcing bio-dynamic and Islay grown barley. Article Courtesy of Bruichladdich
MPs' 'betrayal' on whisky LABOUR MPs were last night accused of betraying the Scotch whisky industry after they backed plans to impose strip stamps on bottles to combat fraud.
The move has been angrily opposed by whisky producers, who say it will do little to stop fraud, but may push smaller distilleries out of business.
The Treasury estimates that it loses up to £600 million a year in revenues from whisky because of a flourishing trade in bootlegged whisky.
It has said that it will help distilleries with the start-up cost of introducing the strip stamp scheme - strips of paper which indicate to both supplier and consumer that duty has been paid - in an effort to stop any companies going out of business.
The Scottish National Party yesterday attempted to embarrass Labour MPs into rejecting the government scheme, by forcing a vote on the issue during a Commons debate on the Budget.
However, the SNPs motion in opposition of the strip stamp scheme was defeated by 309 votes to 205.
While the Labour MPs on the Scottish affairs select committee abstained in an effort to maintain the impartiality of their investigation into the Treasury proposals, the majority voted with the government.
Alex Salmond, the SNP leader at Westminster, last night branded the Labour MPs a disgrace and accused them of a "betrayal" of the whisky industry.
He said: "Such a betrayal of the whisky industry will not be forgiven or forgotten in their constituencies come the next election."
Meanwhile, MSPs were accused yesterday of selling Scotland short by not making Scotch whisky one of the drinks automatically offered at official Parliament functions.
The complaint was aired when the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) gave evidence, along with other Scottish food and drink producers, to an inquiry into how Scotland is promoted overseas. The SWA told MSPs on the European and external relations committee it had made "some headway" after writing to the Presiding Officer, George Reid. Articles Courtesy of The Scotsman
Whiskey spells disaster for SNP Key points
SNP repeatedly refers to Scotch "whiskey" in a statement on the industry
Statement hurriedly corrected and the error blamed on an American spell-checker Key quote: "Its not how you spell it, its how you look after it that is important." Spokesman for the Scotch Whisky Association. Story in full: IT IS a crime akin to the Irish misspelling Guinness or the Italians misspelling spaghetti. Since the 15th century, Scotch whisky has become inextricably woven into the fabric of Scotlands history, culture and customs to become its most important export product.
But it appears the leader of the Scottish National Party has difficulty spelling the name of Scotlands national drinkAt a time when the industry is at loggerheads with the government over the Chancellors controversial strip-stamps scheme to enforce duty payment, the SNP announced that John Swinney, MSP, was due to meet "whiskey" bosses to discuss the industrys future.
Seemingly unaware that in Scotland whisky is spelt without an e, as opposed to the Irish and American drink which is spelt with one, the nationalists referred to the nations favourite tipple as whiskey no fewer than seven times.
The announcement quoted Mr Swinney referring to the "Scotch Whiskey Association"; Westminster treating "Scotch Whiskey" as a cash cow and calling on the First Minister, Jack McConnell, to move beyond his disappointment and start to campaign for "the Scotch Whiskey industry".
Noticing a potentially seismic political gaffe, the SNP hastily amended its statement. An embarrassed press officer at SNP headquarters refused to admit responsibility for the blunder, blaming a computer spell-checker for suggesting the American and Irish spelling.
Mark Reynier, owner of Bruichladdich distillery, hailed it as a schoolboy blunder.
"Its a bit naughty, you would have thought the nationalists know its not Irish whiskey but Scotch whisky."
MPs at Westminster reacted with amazement at Mr Swinneys blunder.
Peter Duncan, the shadow Scottish secretary, said: "John Swinneys MPs at Westminster will be ashamed of their leader - he claims to speak for Scotland but it turns out he cant even spell for Scotland."
Charles Maclean, the author of Scotch Whisky: A Liquid History, said: "It is pretty daft. One would think that the nationalists of all people would know how to spell their national drink. But it reflects that vodka is Scotlands national drink nowadays as there is more vodka drunk than whisky."
At its peak, there were 400 distilleries in Ireland. Today only three distilleries are left, with Finland and Iceland being the only countries where Irish whiskey outsells Scotch.
Of the campaign to stop strip stamps, Mr Reynier added: "It is a waste of time anyway because the Chancellor has already made his decision.
"But there is a serious point. Getting us to do the governments job just so he can sack 11,500 custom officers and wrap it all up in fraud prevention is laughable.
"Any fraudster worth his salt is going to forge strip stamps because they cost a minimum of £5.50 each."
A spokesman for the Scotch Whisky Association said: "Its not how you spell it, its how you look after it that is important." Articles Courtesy of The Scotsman
Patience is a virtue when it comes to a vintage like this THERE was a surprise for Patience Gould's long-serving devotion to the whisky industry last week when the editor of Drinks International was presented with a specially produced bottle of vintage Glenfiddich by Tony Hunt, deputy managing director of distillery owner William Grant & Sons.
Hunt handed over the bottle following a dinner for the media in the Speyside distillery's Robbie Dhu hospitality suite, named after the burn that supplies its water.
As guests at the event had just heard about the four and five-figure prices being paid at auction for rare bottles, Gould will no doubt treasure the potential windfall from her limited edition marked "1 of 1". Articles Courtesy of The Scotsman
Whisky industry bands together to tear a strip off Chancellor THE bar of the Craigellachie hotel in Speyside is as comforting a watering hole as exists anywhere; just the place to enjoy a rest and a dram from among the 500-plus bottles of single malts lining the walls.
Tuesday, last week, and a sense of indignation was palpable in the communities that live and breathe the whisky trail around these parts. Many may commute these days to the oil firms further north, but whisky, shortbread and Baxters soups continue to be the main providers for the people of this largely unchanged corner of Scotland. The distilleries that pepper the landscape give it a distinct flavour, a link with the past and, hopefully, a role in the future.
But what of the son of Fife? What misery was he about to bring to the quiet hills and glens? More specifically, would he impose a further tax on an industry already soaked in duties? The dreaded strip stamp, an attempt to tackle fraud, has become the cross on the door of the distilleries.
In his Budget the following day, Gordon Brown confirmed that he would indeed impose his new tax, effectively nullifying the benefit of eight successive budgets in which he has frozen the taxes paid on a bottle. The industry was outraged, the workers worried. A ripple of concern spread through Speyside which could do without this additional cost. How could one of Scotlands own sons do this to a Scottish industry contributing £2.3bn of annual manufacturing exports, but fighting to remain competitive in a tough global drinks sector?
Tony Hunt, deputy managing director of William Grant & Son, is adamant that the Treasury has got its sums wrong when it claims £600m is being lost to fraudsters. Over dinner last week at the famous Glenfiddich distillery he insisted it was nothing like that and the Chancellors decision will add an unnecessary burden to the industrys costs, not least through a need to install new devices at bottling plants. But the industry is not taking this one lying down and will fight its corner.
This weekend, there is expected to be an exchange of frantic phone calls among the industrys leaders, considering what they should do next to fight Browns deeply unpopular tax. As one source told me: "Nobody in the industry likes what he is doing".
But nor does anybody want to make any rash decisions. It is not the way of the whisky industry. However, the Scotch Whisky Association will be expected to respond decisively once its members have agreed a course of action. It is well-respected as a lobbying force, but it almost fell apart over the Cardhu pure malt crisis, and although it remains the industrys best hope of persuading the Chancellor of the error of his ways, there should be no surprise if individual companies take it upon themselves to take up the cause. There is simply too much at stake.
Brown should not underestimate the strength of feeling on this issue. Scottish politicians, led by Jack McConnell, the First Minister, are already onside and at war over a proposal the industry thought it had defeated last year. Other countries that have taken the strip stamp route to combating this problem have failed and, as seems likely, so will the UK. The fraudsters are expected to have counterfeit measures in place within weeks of the first stamps being attached at British bottling plants.
Browns announcement was accompanied with no details of how he intends to implement his plans, aside from an offer of cash to support capital costs and cash flow. It would be comforting to think he is playing no more than a game of bluff with the whisky companies, privately sharing their scepticism about strip stamps while forcing them to come up with a convincing alternative.
Lets drink to that. Articles Courtesy of The Scotsman
Whisky industry rejects Gordon Brown's £3m offer THE Scotch whisky industry has rejected Gordon Browns offer of £3 million to help implement the controversial anti-fraud tax stamps.
The Chancellor appeared to have offered the industry a lifeline when it emerged that the Treasury will not require up-front payment for the stamps and will set aside a £3 million fund for assistance with capital investment, targeted at the smallest firms, to offset costs.
But James Espey, chairman of international business development at Whyte & Mackay, described the sum as derisory and said the whole policy was ludicrous and misguided.
He said: "It is politics of the worse kind. It is a false gesture, and to have the audacity to say that part of the concession is that they are not going to raise duty ... well, what right do they have to raise duty anyway?
"Strip stamps will not tackle effectively the fraud that does take place. They have been tried, tested and rejected as unsuitable and ineffective in a number of other countries. In Russia, the levels of fraud got worse after strip stamps were introduced."
Mike Keiller, the chief executive of Glasgow-based Morrison Bowmore Distillers, said: "For my little company it will cost me £500,000 to implement, and the government are offering a straight grant of £100,000. The measure will also put our production costs up by 30 per cent." Articles Courtesy of The Scotsman
Anglers set to raise glasses over new team competition DURING 2004 Scottish anglers will have the opportunity to fish in a brand new four man team bank fishing event called the Glen Garioch Challenge Trophy.
The appropriately-named competition is to be sponsored by Glen Garioch Highland Single Malt Scotch Whisky in association with www.flyfishingscotland.com, will promote and organise the event.
The whisky is part of the Morrison Bowmore Distillers portfolio, who last year sponsored the highly prestigious European Fly Fishing Championships on Islay through their Bowmore Islay Single Malt Scotch Whisky brand.
The qualifying heats will be held across May and June at ten venues throughout Scotland, with one team qualifying from each for a place in the final. Heats start at Markle (East Lothian) and Newton Farm (Fife) during the weekend commencing May 14. The grand final will take place over a full day session at Howwood Fishery on the August 21.
Matthew Mitchell, Marketing Manager of the Glen Garioch brand, said: "We are delighted to sponsor this inaugural four man team event, the first of its kind to be fished nationally in Scotland. Glen Garioch are already proud sponsors of the Scottish International Rivers Team so this new Stillwater event will be an excellent addition to our involvement with competitive fly-fishing."
Every entrant will receive a momento in the form of a miniature Glen Garioch 12-Year-Old Highland Single Malt Scotch Whisky with any junior entrants receiving a selection of fishing flies.
The cost of entry is £20 per team, with the cost of the fishing ticket at the qualifying event being extra.
Participating fisheries: Loch Insch, Aberdeenshire; Newton Farm, Fife; Swanswater, East Stirlingshire; Carbeth, West Stirlingshire; Allandale, West Lothian; Markle, East Lothian; Lawfield, Renfrewshire; Howwood, Renfrewshire; Burns, Ayrshire; Broom, Dumfriesshire.
For further information or details on how to enter, go to www.flyfishingscotland.com Articles Courtesy of The Scotsman
UPDATE AS WHISKY GALORE IS RENEWED A New version of one of Scotland's finest films, Whisky Galore, is to be shot in the Western Isles, it has been confirmed, and the producer will be a Lewis man.
Leading French film company Canal Plus has signed a deal with the British production team Whisky Galore Film Ltd, which was set up last year by Iain Maclean and Ed Crozier for the purpose of remaking the movie.
Lewis man Mr Maclean, from Leurbost in Lochs, said yesterday: "We have every intention of shooting the new Whisky Galore in the Western Isles, and everything is going well."
He said that, unlike the original, they did not intend to shoot the entire film on Barra, but were keen to use various locations throughout the Western Isles.
"We would film from Barra up to the west coast of Lewis. This would mean that the whole of the Western Isles would benefit as it would be a massive boost to the islands in terms of tourism."
The idea to remake Whisky Galore came from Iain himself and he approached a friend working in London's west end shows.
Respected UK film producer Stephen Evans became involved. He has been responsible for 13 films which have received 11 Academy Award nominations, including two Oscars.
His hits include The Madness of King George, Wings of the Dove and The Luzhin Defence.
Most recently, he was executive producer of Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, directed by George Clooney.
The original Whisky Galore movie made in 1949, is based on the true story of the sinking of the SS Politician off the Outer Hebrides in 1941, while she was destined for the United States with 50,000 cases of Scotch whisky on board. Islanders made sure that the cargo did not go to waste - and there are still bottles of the famous whisky around.
Compton Mackenzie subsequently wrote the novel Whisky Galore, and eight years later an adaptation of the book was made into a movie.
The new Whisky Galore will, like the original, be set during the war years.
But Mr Maclean said: "We intend starting it off in the present day although mostly it will be set in the same time period as the original. We hope to start filming within the next year." Articles Courtesy of The Press & Journal For information on the range of Whisky Galore Scotch Whiskies visit: www.thewhiskygalore.com
MCCONNELL SNUBS SNP WHISKY TAX PLEA First Minister Jack McConnell last night flatly refused to put himself at the head of a national campaign against Chancellor Gordon Brown's plans to force whisky distilleries to accept a strip-stamp tax system to curb fraud.
He came under attack in the Scottish Parliament after he rejected a plea from SNP leader John Swinney to head the fight "to reverse this hammer-blow to this flagship industry in Scotland".
Mr McConnell said the Scottish Executive was disappointed by the decision but claimed "guerrilla action" would damage the industry.
He proposed instead to continue discussions with the Treasury and claimed to have already received assurances that the original proposals would be amended to ease the burden of compliance.
The row erupted as Economic Secretary John Healey promised to pay every company in the industry a grant of the maximum 100,000 euros (£67,000) allowed under EU trade rules towards the cost of machinery to stick the stamps on bottles - estimated by the Scotch whisky industry at £250,000 per machine.
The decision to press ahead with the proposal was announced by Mr Brown in his Budget.
It is intended to reduce fraud, which Customs claim reached £600,000 last year, by providing visible proof that duty has been paid.
Mr Swinney branded the move a catastrophe and accused the Treasury of dismissing alternative proposals.
He said Mr McConnell had failed to act when the chancellor imposed a tax on the oil and gas industry two years ago, failed to stand up for the fishing industry and was now failing the whisky industry and the 40,000 jobs it supports.
"Three great Scottish industries treated with contempt, and three times the First Minister has been posted missing," said Mr Swinney.
"Why won't the First Minister start fighting for this industry and lead a campaign against this hammer-blow and for an industry that is under threat?" But Mr McConnell replied: "It would be very dangerous for us in Scotland to lead any kind of campaign that sought to run down the image of the whisky industry, which is strong today and will remain strong."
He added: "Regardless of what steps are to be taken to reduce tax fraud, it needs to be promoted by this parliament and not involved in some sort of guerrilla action against the Government."
Meanwhile in London, Mr Healey revealed the grants and aid he was considering offering the distillers.
He promised the Treasury would pay for the printing and distribution but left a question-mark over how long distillers will be allowed to defer paying for the stamps.
Bottling for the Christmas market also happens months before the cost can be recovered from sales to consumers.
Scotch Whisky Association government and public affairs director Campbell Adams said there had been no talks on security costs, which could cripple smaller distilleries.
He said the proposed grant came nowhere near the cost of installing machinery to add stamps to bottles.
Moray SNP MP Angus Robertson dismissed the proposed grants as "an insult". Articles Courtesy of The Press & Journal
MSP's criticise whisky-tax stamps Msps labelled Gordon Brown's introduction of whisky-tax stamps as arrogant and discriminatory yesterday .
Moray MSP Margaret Ewing has nearly half of Scotland's whisky industry in her constituency. She was unimpressed by the freeze on spirit duty, saying it meant only that the taxation would remain high.
She said: "Duty overheads and whisky-strip stamps are a double whammy against a key Scottish employer, and prove that Chancellor Gordon Brown does not put Scotland first when making his decisions."
North-East Conservative MSP Alex Johnstone said: "The chancellor's arrogant decision to impose whisky-strip stamps is disgraceful and threatens jobs in this vital sector.
"Gordon Brown hardly mentioned the oil and gas sector in his Budget and this speaks volumes about his commitment to an industry whose importance to this area cannot be overstated. The industry will be bitterly disappointed that the chancellor ignored their calls for him to look at tax relief on decommissioning of infrastructure."
Gordon MSP Nora RaDistiller Company Ltd (DCL)iffe said: "I'm very disappointed about the whisky strips. I totally fail to see how it's going to be effective." On the planned dispersal of civil service jobs, and cuts in Customs and Inland Revenue posts, she added: "Job dispersal is something the executive are trying to do, so this is only fair. But Customs people are very thin on the ground as it is and we have had bad experiences in customs controls - BSE, for one. I think we may find this is a bit of a false economy."
Green finance spokesman Mark Ballard was heartened by the proposal for a consultation on land-value tax, claiming there was a "growing interest" in it as an alternative to local government finance. Articles Courtesy of The Press & Journal
Whisky industry left high and dry SCOTLANDS whisky distillers were nursing a multi-million pound Budget hangover this morning after Gordon Brown pressed ahead with unpopular proposals for tax stamps aimed at combating spirits fraud.
The Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) said it was "bitterly disappointed" that the Chancellor had ignored its alternative anti-fraud proposals by introducing so-called "strip stamps" on spirits, including whisky, from 2006.
Gavin Hewitt, chief executive of the SWA, said: "Tax stamps will impose financial pain on legitimate businesses, particularly smaller enterprises, but will not defeat the fraudster.
"We are bitterly disappointed that the Chancellor has not joined with us and taken advantage of the very real benefits of our alternative anti-fraud package, which offered the Treasury an effective solution to fraud, and more money, more quickly, than tax stamps."
He estimated that the initiative will cost the spirits industry £25 million to set up, and set the spirits supply chain back another £60m-£70m per year.
The measure is designed to claw back as much as £160m of the £600m lost through spirits fraud every year. However, the National Audit Office last week questioned the reliability of statistics used by HM Customs and Excise to estimate the level of fraud.
There are concerns that strip stamps would have an adverse affect on the whisky industry, which accounts for about £2.3 billion of Scottish exports annually.
Irene Adams, chair of the Scottish affairs committee and Labour MP for Paisley North, wrote to Gordon Brown advising him against the move.
SNP MP Angus Robertson, vice-chairman of the all-party scotch whisky industry group, said: "The Chancellor has ignored independent advice, and is treating the whisky industry as a cash cow by targeting legitimate businesses with a damaging and expensive new burden.
"Gordon Brown has launched an attack on one of Scotlands key industries and everybody who works in it. Over 40,000 Scottish jobs are dependent on the production of scotch whisky, and this is a direct threat to their livelihoods."
The Tories added that Brown had "sold out Scotlands whisky industry".
William Grant & Sons, whose brands include Glenfiddich, vowed to fight the proposals. A spokesman said the Chancellor had made an 18th century response to a 21st century issue that would encourage fraudsters rather than tackle the issue.
John Healey, economic secretary to the Treasury, described tax stamps as an "effective and practical response" to tackling the problem.
He added: "I agree with last weeks NAO report that estimating fraud is inherently difficult, but this is not an argument for taking no action."
The industry found little comfort in the Chancellors decision to freeze duty on scotch and other spirits for the seventh year running, a measure that will cost the Treasury £175m up to 2007.
Brown is setting up a £3m fund to provide grants to offset the cost of tax stamping equipment, targeted at the smallest spirits producers. No details of promised additional funds to meet ongoing printing and distribution costs were given.
Dermot Gaffney, indirect tax partner at KPMG, said: "The industry has always been against this measure. The £3m fund will not go far in alleviating their concerns over the inevitable costs of the disruption to their bottling and packaging processes.
Hewitt at the SWA added: "The government must now honour its promise that it will minimise the costs to the industry, and ensure tax stamps are introduced, in consultation with the industry, in the least damaging way possible.". Articles Courtesy of The Scotsman
Darling refuses to join lobby against whisky tax strips Scottish Secretary Alistair Darling was accused of "sitting on his hands" last night after refusing to join last-minute pleas to Chancellor Gordon Brown not to impose a strip-tax stamp system on the Scotch whisky industry.
The charge was levelled by shadow Tory Scottish secretary Peter Duncan after Mr Darling repeatedly refused to speculate on what Mr Brown might announce in connection with the controversial system in his Budget speech today.
Mr Darling was repeatedly quizzed on the issue, despite insisting: "As the Budget statement is just 24 hours away, it would be best to see what the chancellor proposes."
Mr Darling accepted the report from the National Audit Office that said more work was needed to come up with reliable figures for duty lost on spirits as a result of diversion fraud.
He said: "Having spoken to the Scotch Whisky Association myself, they agreed fraud was a problem."
The issue of strip-tax stamps being used to prove whisky duty had been paid was raised by SNP MP Pete Wishart, who said: "I still get a very strong sense that the chancellor intends to pursue the introduction of these costly and fraud-prone strip stamps."
Mr Duncan insisted the spirits industry's proposals for a crackdown without having to introduce strip stamps, had been presented to Mr Brown in plenty of time for him to consider them and back down.
Falkirk East Labour MP Dennis Connarty warned the proposal would add £4million to the cost of setting up a new whisky bottling plant in his constituency, and urged Mr Brown not to increase the tax burden on the industry.
Scottish Lib Dem spokesman on Scottish affairs John Thurso said: "Strip stamps will not raise the revenue promised and will threaten the 68,000 jobs reliant on the Scottish spirits industry."
He added later: "Instead of steam-rolling the industry into this decision the Government should resume meaningful discussion to find a solution that does not threaten jobs and is workable." Articles Courtesy of The Scotsman
New restaurant proves a dram come true WHISKY lovers normally look forward to the end of a meal when they can pour themselves a dram of the water of life, but an Edinburgh restaurateur has launched the worlds first whisky restaurant where enthusiasts can enjoy matching their favourite tipple with their meal.
Amber, which will open its doors to the public at the end of this month, will be the worlds first restaurant to offer guests a whisky sommelier to help choose from more than 270 different varieties to accompany each course of their meal.
The concept is the brainchild of Alastair McIntosh, the managing director of Edinburghs Scotch Whisky Heritage Centre. He said that from the trials they have conducted so far, the combination of food and whisky has proved very popular with guests who would never usually drink whisky with a meal.
Mr McIntosh said: "Its a first and we are very excited about it. We have identified that there is a demand for this, the menu will have dishes which relate to Scotch whisky derived from traditional Scottish food.
"Whereas most restaurants will go for a sommelier which will be an expert in wine, or wines on their wine list, our restaurant will have whisky experts who will be able to advise guests on the different characteristics of both single malts as well as blends."
The restaurant, situated in the Scotch Whisky Heritage Centre, at the top of the Royal Mile, will open three nights per week. The head chef is David Neave, whose recipes use whisky whenever it is appropriate to enhance a dish.
Mr Neave said: "I might put a splash of Island whisky with shellfish or scallops, and Ive used an Orkney whisky with organic beef."
Mr McIntosh stresses that diners who wish to have a bottle of wine will be allowed to, but will be encouraged to match their food with whisky.
Charles Maclean, the author of Scotch Whisky: A Liquid History, said matching food and whisky makes for a really interesting exercise in concentrating on what you are smelling and tasting.
Mr Maclean said: "One of the marriages made in Heaven is Lagavulin and Roquefort cheese, which is absolutely spectacular.
"It is a very interesting concept, if you can choose correctly, and by that I mean whiskies which can display to advantage characteristics in the food and vice-a-versa; it focuses that attention on both in a most engaging way which allows conversation and dispute.
"Another example is that if you freeze lighter whiskies, for example Dalwhinnie, and serve them with ice in a chilled glass like a martini - that with chocolate pudding or a rich creamy pudding like sticky toffee pudding is absolutely delicious and is a wonderful palate cleanser and works fantastically well.
"Talisker and Highland Park are whiskies that go best with most sorts of food like haggis and seafood. Some of the Islay malts accompany smoked food very well."
Food critics say choosing the appropriate whiskies to match dishes requires exactly the same efforts as with wine. One needs to have some knowledge about the drinks but it is possible to match whisky with just about any British or French food.
The idea, however, is not to wash the food down, but to sip a whisky with food and let the flavours mingle.
As a rule of thumb, when choosing whisky to accompany a dish, the aim should be to balance the weight of the whisky and food evenly, so that one does not overwhelm the other.
The first consideration when choosing whisky to accompany a dish is usually the weight of the food - the ingredients involved, how they were put together, cooked and sauced. Poaching, steaming and stir frying, for example, produce lighter results than braising, roasting or conventional frying. Marinading meat, game and poultry gives it richer, more intense flavours.
But Mark Reynier, the chief executive of Bruichladdich Distillery, on Islay, said he thought one would have to be fairly hardy to handle it and that perhaps the concept was a step too far.
Mr Reynier said: "There is a time and a place for everything, and trying to manipulate or create a demand for whisky with food is not a priority. If you look around the world people that drink spirits with food, like the Russians and the Poles, have extremely heavy, extremely fatty food where alcohol is used to cut through the fat and the richness.
"Any country that has a civilised cuisine, and I include Scotland in that, should drink wine with their food. Whisky should be left to before and after the meal." Articles Courtesy of The Scotsman
Macleod to push dram fine malt IAN Macleod, the West Lothian-based distiller, is to embark on a £150,000 marketing campaign to develop its Glengoyne single malt brand in the UK.
The company, whose other brands include London Hill gin and Isle of Skye whisky, acquired the Glengoyne distillery, just north of Glasgow, last April from drinks giant Edrington.
Iain Weir, head of marketing at Ian Macleod Distillers, said: "There is one true element that differentiates Glengoyne single malt whisky from its competitors - its taste.
"This new campaign aims to position Glengoyne in a class of its own, at the opposite end of the whisky spectrum from the rugged Highland malts and heavily peated Islays."
Mr Macleod added: "Glengoyne is a malt with high appeal to both novices and experts alike.
"It isnt just a product of the place but is a testimony to the skills and commitment of the people who have made whisky-producing their lifes work. We wanted to develop a campaign to support and reflect that."
The advertising campaign, which will appear in trade and consumer magazines from next month, is aimed at positioning Glengoyne as the authentic taste of malt whisky "untainted by peat smoke".
James Young, founding partner of Designate Design Consultancy, the company behind the campaign, said: "We have developed two different advertising campaigns. The trade advert has the tagline no smoke without fire and is deliberately light and airy, echoing the smooth, fresh taste of the whisky, while the consumer adverts have the tagline glad to work in a smoke-free environment." Articles Courtesy of The Scotsman
Brown's Budget is likely to disrupt Blair's euro plans THE whisky industry was last night applying intense eleventh-hour pressure on the Chancellor to abandon proposals to introduce tax stamps bottles of Scotch in a bid to cut down of fraud, writes Andrew Murray-Watson.
The Scottish Whisky Association believes the plan to put "strip stamps" on Scotch would cost the industry millions of pounds and be an ineffective deterrent to customs & excise fraudsters.
The industry received support on Friday from Irene Adams MP, the chairman of the Scottish Affairs select committee. She wrote to Gordon Brown, highlighting last weeks National Audit Office report that cast doubt on C&Es calculations that spirits fraud cost the exchequer £600m per year.
In her letter, she says: "I urge caution in making any announcement in your forthcoming Budget Statement on ways to tackle fraud in the spirits industry which might be in reaction to uncertain data.
"My Committee was not totally convinced by the assessment made by either the industry or by Customs of the level of fraud, an uncertainty now clearly shared by the NAO."
A spokesman for the Treasury declined to comment. Articles Courtesy of The Scotsman
Brown's spirit fraud figures 'unreliable' GORDON Brown came under pressure yesterday to shelve plans for whisky tax stamps after the National Audit Office questioned the reliability of statistics used by Customs and Excise to estimate the level of spirits fraud.
A report by the National Audit Office said the Customs claim that the Chancellor lost £600 million last year through spirits fraud was not reliable.
The findings are embarrassing for Mr Brown, who had cited the Customs and Excise data as the main case for the introduction of strip stamps.
He has said he will use next weeks Budget to announce the implementation of the stamps unless the industry comes forward with an alternative way of reducing fraud.
The whisky industry has long contested the extent of the counterfeit market and claims the introduction of tax stamps would have a debilitating effect on the industry, costing jobs and reducing investment.
Calls for Mr Brown to rethink his policy in the light of the NAO report were led by two senior backbenchers.
Irene Adams, the chairman of the Scottish affairs committee which is conducting an investigation of strip stamps, said she would be writing to Mr Brown urging him to proceed with caution. "I think these figures are very flawed," she said.
She added that the Customs officials who gave evidence to her committee earlier this week "were undoubtedly the worst witnesses I have ever seen. They seemed to be plucking evidence out of the air".
Edward Leigh, the Tory chairman of the public accounts committee, also criticised Customs and Excise, saying the current estimates of spirits fraud were "riddled with uncertainty".
"While I welcome the fact that Customs have produced fraud estimates to help them tackle the illicit alcohol trade, the National Audit Office has highlighted the extent to which current estimates of spirits fraud are riddled with uncertainty," he said.
In its report, the NAO said the methodology used by Customs - using survey data to estimate consumption levels - carried an inherent uncertainty.
It said it had presented its estimate for the cost of fraud as a single figure whereas statistically it fell within a range of uncertainty.
"Customs figures on spirits fraud in 2001-2 could be estimated to be between £330 million and £1,080 million as opposed to the single estimate of £600 million presented by Customs," added the report.
Likewise, the NAO calculated that the Scotch Whisky Associations estimate of £100-£150 million lay between £10 million and £260 million.
Angus Robertson, the SNP MP for Moray and the vice-chair of the all-party whisky group, said it would be electoral suicide for the Chancellor to press ahead with plans for the stamps. "Plans to introduce fraud-prone strip stamps should now be shelved. The case to introduce them in the first place by Customs and Excise was based on statistics which have now been proven to be unreliable," he said.
"Days still remain for Gordon Brown to take this new and independent evidence into account before the Budget, and drop any plans to introduce costly strip stamps."
Despite the report, John Healy, the Treasurys economic secretary, refused to rule out the introduction of strip stamps. "Where there is fraud, there will always be uncertainty about its scale. Measuring illegal activity is inherently difficult, but this is not an argument for doing no analysis, still less an argument for taking no action to combat criminals," he said.
"We are clamping down successfully on criminal attacks in other regimes such as tobacco, oils and VAT, and must do so on spirits." Articles Courtesy of The Scotsman
Diageo set for Edinburgh Park expansion GLOBAL drinks giant Diageo is believed to be creating up to 50 human resources jobs at its Scottish headquarters at Edinburgh Park on the outskirts of the city. A spokesman for the company behind brands such as Baileys liqueur, Johnnie Walker whisky and Guinness, confirmed a company-wide review is taking place but refused to add further details last night.
"At any time, there can be a number of reviews taking place and pending a particular review, it is always our priority to inform employees first," she said. Diageo currently has 180 staff at its office in Edinburgh Park already handling some of its payroll, pensions and share registration, as well as controlling many of the companys production worldwide. Articles Courtesy of The Scotsman
Forgers beat whisky tax with holograms CRIME LORDS in China and Eastern Europe are preparing to make millions of pounds from selling duty-free whisky in the UK after cracking a new security system designed to prove the tax has been paid.
The warning comes in a leaked letter from a leading security consultant to HM Customs and Excise, which reveals international gangs are gearing up to mass-produce imitations of the planned whisky duty strips.
It says the security strips, which would be used to prove the duty had been paid, could be copied within three weeks, effectively making them uselesss... Click here for full story Articles Courtesy of The Press & Journal
Dossier sent to Treasury The drinks industry submitted a formal dossier to the Treasury last night outlining its alternative to Government plans for so-called tax strip stamps to crack down on fraud.
The 80-page document was from a body representing the Scotch Whisky Association, other spirit manufacturers and other groups in the supply chain. But a spokesman said: "There has been daily dialogue on these issues since the pre-Budget report and so the Government is already well aware of what is contained in the submission."
It contains 17 proposals aimed directly at fraudsters.
The move follows intensive lobbying to persuade Chancellor Gordon Brown to drop his threat to bring in pre-paid tax stamps in a bid to reduce so-called diversion fraud. This involves gangs redirecting duty-free supplies intended for export back on to the home market. Articles Courtesy of The Press & Journal
Distiller makes it a double GLENMORANGIE, the West Lothian-based malt whisky producer, today toasted a pair of awards after being named distiller of the year, while its Ardbeg Distillery on Islay was named best whisky visitor attraction.
Dr Bill Lumsden, master distiller at Glenmorangie, said: "These awards are a real testament to our companys focus on malt whisky and total commitment to quality.
"It is the passion and hard work of our employees that creates such great malts, a view clearly shared by consumers around the world."
Votes were cast by readers of monthly magazine Whisky. Editor Dominic Roskrow said: "No other Scotch whisky distiller has shown more innovation in creating and marketing whisky while staying true to the history of the product.
"Also, in Ardbeg Uigeadail, launched this year, it has created a truly great whisky, reinforcing Glenmorangies reputation as one of the malt worlds heavyweights."
The distiller recently announced an eight per cent rise in first-half profits to £4.2 million, on turnover three per cent higher to £31.6m.
Articles Courtesy of The Scotsman
Two more awards for Bruichladdich Bruichladdich, the Islay Distillery, has won the Innovator of the Year award at the Whisky Icons Dinner held in London on Thursday 3 March 2004, voted for by readers of Whisky Magazine.
Marcin Miller, Publisher of the magazine explained that the distillery had come out as a clear winner, because the team had embraced the best of traditional Islay and given it a remarkably fresh spin. The stylish and modern packaging the emphasis on Islay and the willingness to adapt to the modern world, with the use of the internet for online tastings and education (are) truly impressive.
Mark Reynier, CEO of Bruichladdich was delighted. Its been our aim from the start to operate in a different way and this award recognizes the validity of our philosophy. Just because the industry has adopted particular production, distillation and marketing methods doesnt mean that they are the only option. We have insisted on traditional methods of distillation - hand-crafting our whisky, utilising the skills of the distillery workers, bottling on site with local spring water: its ironic that this should be perceived as innovative! The truly innovative ways we have been getting our message across, via the internet, have been hugely enjoyable. After our first live web broadcast, we had an email from someone on a ship in mid Atlantic saying how much he had enjoyed it how cool is that?
The Distillery is continuing its ground-breaking progress, having recently carried out experiments with different types of barley and malting, culminating in its first distillation of organic spirit at the end of the 2003 season. Plans for 2004 include sourcing bio-dynamic and Islay grown barley.
Jim McEwan, Bruichladdichs Master Distiller, was also thrilled to be honoured with the title Personality of the Year. I consider it a great honour, he said, to be chosen by the readers of the Magazine, who act as ambassadors for our whiskies throughout the world and I am hoping that many of them will spend time with me and my team at the Bruichladdich Academy of Islay Single Malt, which opens in May this year. In the citation, Whisky Magazine stated Jim has excelled at every level of the whisky trade and has truly taken on an iconic status. It was felt to be a fitting award with which to celebrate his 40th year in the business and the global role he has taken on promoting Single Malt Scotch, Islay Malts in general and specifically Bruichladdich. Articles Courtesy of Bruichladdich
Hibs land £1m sponsorship deal HIBS today clinched the most lucrative sponsorship contract in their 129-year history, a deal which will be worth a minimum of £1 million to the Easter Road outfit.
Whyte and Mackay, one of Scotlands biggest whisky distillers, will have their name on the green-and-white shirts of Hibs for the next five years, replacing brewing giants Carlsberg.
The deal, which will run from July to the summer of 2009, was hailed as "one of the most comprehensive packages" negotiated in recent times with an SPL club outwith the Old Firm.
It will involve up to 75 sales and marketing staff from the distillers moving into offices in Easter Roads South Stand - which houses away fans - and which will now be renamed the "Whyte and Mackay Stand".
Hibs had been aware for some time that Carlsberg, their shirt sponsors since 1996, would be bringing their relationship to an end, the news sparking an intensive search for a new backer.
Local, national and international companies were involved in detailed negotiations before Hibs and Whyte and Mackay brokered todays record-breaking deal, believed to be the best enjoyed by any club other than Celtic and Rangers.
Although the sum involved is similar to that paid by Carlsberg, some £200,000 a year, additional payments will be made depending on success on the pitch, while the length of the deal will give Hibs a degree of stability and ability to plan for the future.
Todays news will be seen as a major coup for Hibs at a time when Scottish football is facing huge financial problems and difficulties in attracting money into the game.
Hailing the announcement, Hibs chief executive Rod Petrie said: "This is a very positive agreement both for Hibernian Football Club and Whyte and Mackay. We are delighted to be associated with a global brand.
"It is a challenging time for Scottish football with all areas of revenue under pressure. We are therefore delighted to secure such an innovative deal that involves the three elements of shirt sponsorship, office rental and stand sponsorship."
Whyte and Mackay are in the first season of a three-year sponsorship deal with English Premiership outfit Leeds United, which has sent sales soaring in England, and were keen to agree a long-term tie-up with Hibs whom they see as having great potential given the youth of Bobby Williamsons side.
Their international marketing manager David Pattison said: "Hibernian Football Club has a rich heritage and high profile in Scotland.
"We see this sponsorship as an excellent opportunity to build a relationship that will benefit Whyte and Mackay, Hibernian and the clubs supporters.
"The club has one of the largest fan bases of any Scottish football club and we believe that it is well positioned to develop its stature even further within the Scottish game. This sponsorship is part of our major investment campaign to promote and develop the brand throughout the country.
"It will build on the whiskys record sales performance last year and ensure that Whyte and Mackay retains the number one position in the Scottish retail sector and develops further sales in the on-trade sector."
The Hibs deal is a further extension of Whyte and Mackays backing of Scottish football, the company having, for almost 30 years, operated one of the longest running sponsorships in UK football, the West of Scotland Whyte and Mackay Cup while the brand also backs the East of Scotland Super League. While Carlsberg are ending their eight-year long shirt sponsorship of Hibs, their name will remain on the jerseys until the end of this season, including the CIS Cup final against Livingston a week on Sunday.
And they are keen to retain an association with Hibs, even if it will be less high-profile in future.
A spokesman for the brewers said: "Following an extensive review of the current position, Carlsberg-Tetley Scotland has decided not to renew the shirt sponsorship at the end of this season.
"We are keen to maintain a close association with the club through a beer supply agreement and will continue to develop marketing programmes in association with Hibernian FC." Articles Courtesy of The Press & Journal
Cheers to village that never was A MISTAKE by council officials has led to an Aberdeenshire village being renamed after a malt whisky.
Residents in Kennethmont, near Huntly, have long campaigned for speed restriction signs at the entrance to their village. But when the new signs finally arrived, it became apparent that council planners had decided Ardmore, a drink which is made locally, was a better name for the area.
David Grant, the chairman of the community council, said: "When I saw the sign I just couldnt believe such a huge mistake had been made.
"The fact is Ardmore just doesnt exist. We cant believe the stupidity of the council. You cant go renaming places on a whim.
"They certainly havent done their homework here so the signs are now totally useless. Theyll only help people looking for the distillery."
Kennethmont, which is located near Huntly, is mentioned in official documents dating back as far as 1285. The village has a rich history, and because of its unusual name it is thought to have links to the burial place of Kenneth, the Scottish kings.
But it is most famous for the local Ardmore distillery, which makes a whisky of the same name.
The distillery is located at the entrance to Kennethmont, and some locals have been known to refer to that part of the village as the Ardmore end.
This appears somehow to have confused the planners from Aberdeenshire council.
Mark Skilling, the man in charge of signage at the council, admitted: "It was all my fault.
"When we put the new signs up beside the distillery I didnt think that was part of the main village.
"I was pretty sure that area was called Ardmore, but I was wrong. Several locals have been in contact with us to tell us about the mistake."
The council is planning to change the signs soon. The transformation will not be too costly because only the lettering has to be changed.
Articles Courtesy of The Scotsman
Shares in spirits firm on a high Shares in the world's second largest spirits group Allied Domecq hit a 20-month high yesterday as talk of a merger between the UK drinks giant and French group Pernod Ricard resurfaced.
Allied's shares closed at 452.75p after earlier hitting 457p, valuing the owner of brands including Ballantine's whisky and Beefeater gin at close to £5billion.
The company said it had not received an approach from Pernod Ricard, which has several times in the past been mooted as a bidder for Allied, although Allied is larger.
But it re-iterated its belief that consolidation in the drinks industry was likely - although without quoting any specific timing.
The latest speculation follows news of privately-owned Bermuda-based Bacardi planning to issue a second class of shares to raise money, bringing it a step closer to a public listing and positioning it for a possible acquisition.
Analysts say the fundraising and potential flotation would heighten competition in the drinks industry, where there are only a small number of leading players behind world number one Diageo.
They also believe consolidation to achieve the industry's key factors of scale and marketing power is probable, although who links-up with whom remains to be seen. Articles Courtesy of The Press & Journal
North British Distillery 'monitoring' S&N decision SCOTLANDS biggest whisky distillery - in central Edinburgh - could join the exodus of manufacturers from the city after the managing director admitted he shares the concerns of Scottish & Newcastle about high costs of operating in the city centre.
David Rae, managing director of the North British Distillery, said he had been "watching with interest" the decision by S&N to close its Fountain brewery with the loss of 170 jobs after claiming that rates and water costs in the capital were 10 times those at another site in England.
Rae, whose distillery employs more than 100 people in Gorgie, said: "I would share the comments [S&N] made about the high costs of water and of effluent treatment. That is an increasing problem. We have been watching what has been happening this week with interest."
NB, a joint venture between the distilling groups Diageo and Edrington, makes grain whisky used in blends such as Johnnie Walker, the Famous Grouse and Bells.
Rae said NB had "no immediate plans for relocation" from the site which it has occupied for more than 100 years. But he said the company was monitoring the situation.
Last week Edinburgh council issued a draft plan for the area, which also includes Tynecastle stadium, setting out what would happen if both the distillery and the Hearts ground were sold off.
Rae said: "We have not had any participation in the preparation of this document. We have not been consulted. It went out for consultation today [Thursday]."
A spokesman for Edinburgh council said the authority was not trying to plan the distillery out of existence. He said: "This does not commit the council, Hearts or the distillery to any course of action. We are quite happy for them to stay but we have to plan for a what if? scenario."
According to Rae, NB might put a small piece of land adjacent to its distillery, currently used as a football pitch, up for sale.
The company is in the process of moving its bonded whisky warehouses, which are also in Gorgie, to Addiewell in West Lothian. One site has been sold for housing while another, on Westfield Road, is to be the site of a supermarket.
Rae said the high costs associated with manufacturing at the site had forced NB to cut costs over the past few years. "We are now up there as one of the most efficient distilleries in Scotland," he said.
Unlike S&Ns Fountain Brewery, which was operating at around half its capacity when its closure was announced last week, NB operates at almost full capacity.
The need to produce a consistent flavour of whisky could make relocating the distillery difficult, Rae said. "If you move the distillery to another site you will potentially produce a character of spirit which will not be the same."
Articles Courtesy of The Scotsman
Hibs distillery plan raises fans' spirits ONE of Scotlands biggest distillers is set to move into Hibs Easter Road stadium.
Whisky-makers Whyte and Mackay, which announced the closure of its Leith bottling plant in Salamander Street last year, is preparing to move up to 70 sales and marketing staff into vacant offices in the South Stand of the ground.
The company today would not comment on rumours that it was hammering out a lucrative sponsorship deal with Hibs, but denied suggestions the clubs traditional home could be renamed the Whyte and Mackay Stadium. As it stands, the office rental deal will come as a huge boost to the cash-strapped football chiefs and is likely to net the club, which is £14.6 million in debt, around £150,000 a year.
The newly refitted offices have been lying largely unused since the now defunct satellite channel Edinburgh Live TV! stopped operating there around five years ago.
Whyte and Mackay, which also produces Vladivar, Isle of Jura, The Dalmore and Glayva, admitted it was in discussions with the Easter Road board over a long-term lease, which would retain a presence for the distiller in Leith where it has been based for almost 60 years.
And fans groups, which bitterly opposed moves for the club to leave Easter Road and share a purpose-built stadium at Straiton with rivals Hearts, today welcomed the news as a signal of its continued support for remaining at its historic home.
A spokeswoman for Whyte and Mackay said no decision had been made.
She added: "Whyte and Mackay has been seeking suitable office accommodation for its sales and marketing team in Edinburgh. The company is considering Easter Road Stadium.
"The company is impressed with the facilities available at Easter Road, but as yet no decision has been made.
"Should discussions come to fruition, there is no question of Easter Road becoming the Whyte and Mackay Stadium."
A spokesman for Hibs said: "We can confirm there are ongoing discussions with Whyte and Mackay.
"It wouldnt be appropriate to say much beyond that at this moment, except that there are no plans to rename the ground."
But Hibs supporters groups say they would have little problem with the stadium being renamed, so long as they remain at Easter Road.
Trevor Hannant, editor of online fanzine Hibs.net, said: "Leasing the office space was something the club talked about at the launch of the Stand Up and Be Counted campaign, and the fact theres movement on that is obviously welcome news."
Frank Dougan, spokesman for the Hibs Supporters Association, added: "Anything that benefits Hibernian must be looked upon with a positive attitude."
Whyte and Mackay sparked outrage last September when it announced that 220 workers faced the axe from its long-standing Leith bottling plant.
The Salamander Place plant is one of two bottling factories which bosses want to "consolidate" into a new high-speed plant in Grangemouth.
Pat Rafferty, T&G Scotlands regional industrial organiser, said the proposed Easter Road move was good news for some workers, but that many still faced an uncertain future. Articles Courtesy of The Scotsman
Bankier toasts his new role IAN Bankier has packed a lot into the past 13 months. The former corporate lawyer with McGrigor Donald has sold a struggling distiller for £50 million, effectively saving it. He has splashed out £10m on two of the most high profile brands in the whisky industry. He has lost a prime chief executives job. And he has spent £1.5m of his own cash on a chain of shops... Click here for full story Articles Courtesy of The Scotsman
New Islay malt will bring Scotch home HISTORY records that Agnes, daughter of Cú-maige, Baron of Ulster, arrived on Islay eight centuries ago, a fine woman, accompanied by a physician named MacBeth and his recipe for the water of life.
Margaret married Angus Og, the Lord of the Isles, whose summer residence overlooked Machir Bay at Kilchoman.
If ever a man received a finer dowry than the wife-doctor-recipe deal, then the Scots have not found it.
Agnes, "Young" Angus, and MacBeth pioneered the production of Uisge Beatha on the island that became its premier producer.
Now, nearly a millennium on, in the place where the cratur was born, a farmer and a businessman are creating the first distillery on Islay since 1883.
And the unique production of Kilchoman single malt, the first bottle of which will not be drunk for a decade, will owe more to the 13th century than the 21st.
Mark French will grow the grain, harvest the crop and produce whisky on Rockside farm, to make Kilchoman the only distillery of its kind.
His partner is Anthony Wills, who runs a single cask malt bottling company in Argyll.
The £1 million distillery is due to open in time for the islands whisky festival in May.
The start-up cash came from private investors with a Argyll and Islands Enterprise grant of £150,000.
Mr French, who has been farming on Islay for 28 years, said: "Were committed to traditions which made Islay so famous.
"The whisky will be hand-made, produced, bottled and bonded. Residue will feed cattle and waste will go on the land."
Mr French has won international accolades for his smoked beef and he hopes to soon produce a version marinated in Kilchoman whisky. He added: "Its long term. We wont see a bottle of whisky for eight years and we will produce tiny quantities compared to our neighbours."
The partners are especially pleased that the new whisky is to be made in the birthplace of Scotch.
"Agnes and MacBeatha [MacBeth] brought with them the recipe," said Mr French. "That will figure large in our promotional literature."
It is envisaged that the distillery and a visitor centre could employ up to eight local people.
Mr Wills, who has a long family association with Islay, said: "It is taking production back to its roots, to when it was part of the farming year, growing and malting the barley, and maturing the whisky."
Work on renovating farm buildings begins soon and Mr Wills added: "An official opening, its hoped, will take place during the whisky festival."
Kilchoman will produce in small quantities - 25,000 litres a week - compared with, for example, 70,000 litres produced by the islands bigger, more famous, distilleries.
The whisky fraternity is excited by Scotch coming "home".
Alex Kraaijeveld, a historian, who studied the MacBeatha Hypothesis, said: "Clifford Jupp, in his History of Islay, states that in the 13th century, Angus Og married Agnes, who brought to Islay a group of 140 Irish fighting men.
"Among the names she is said to have introduced is MacBeatha. Traditionally, the MacBeathas settled in Kilchoman and remained hereditary physicians to the lords."
The MacBeathas had vast medical knowledge and an ability to distil spirits.
Mr Kraaijeveld added: "There is something inherently pleasing about Islay being the cradle of distilling.
"Could it be Uisge Beatha does not mean "water of life" but "water of MacBeatha", the magical water of the clan?"
Articles Courtesy of The Scotsman
Diageo spirits high as profits surge SPIRITS giant Diageo today said first-half operating profits had risen to £1.6 billion, from £1.16bn a year ago, despite a dip in turnover following the sale of fast-food chain Burger King.
Diageo sold Burger King for £947 million in December 2002 to focus on its drinks division, where sales of its premium brands such as Smirnoff and Captain Morgan rum rose three per cent in volume terms during the first half.
Chief executive Paul Walsh said: "Diageo, focused as it is now on premium drinks, continues to deliver growth with improvement in key measures of performance in this first half." Burger King was sold to a group of venture capitalists - led by Texas Pacific and including Bain Capital and Goldman Sachs Capital Partners - for £947m after seeing a previous £1.5bn deal with the same consortium fall through.
Mr Walsh today said investment in marketing, including a number of prominent advertising campaigns for its largest brands, rose by eight per cent during the half-year.
Volumes of Bells whisky dropped three per cent, although that was partially offset by volume growth of Gordons gin, up four per cent.
But growth of Baileys Irish cream liqueur was boosted by increased advertising, as well as the successful launch in June 2003 of Baileys Minis, which delivered five per cent of Baileys volume sales.
Operating profit in the UK rose by £11m, driven by the strong volume performance of spirit and wine brands.
Smirnoff increased its share of the growing vodka category, boosted by the "if Smirnoff made" advertising campaign.
Guinness volumes dropped three while net sales fell one per cent, which the firm said reflected declines in the pub trade.
Archers performance continues to be "disappointing", Mr Walsh said, with volumes falling 12 per cent and net sales down 27 per cent.
In the United States, Johnnie Walker Red Label volume sales increased by five per cent and Johnnie Walker Black Label climbed seven per cent. Jose Cuervo remained the number one tequila in North America, but lost some market share as a result of price competition.
Smirnoff sales in the US fell by one per cent for the period, but operating profit rose overall from £397m to £416m.
Mr Walsh said: "Looking forward, the trends that we have seen in the first half are expected to continue despite the uneven recovery in Europe, although the current exchange rate volatility will impact reported results. Articles Courtesy of The Scotsman
McCroskie joins W&M leavers WHYTE and Mackay finance director Scott McCroskie has been unveiled as one of three senior managers to be leaving the whisky giant, after he jumped ship to join drinks distributor Maxxium.
McCroskie will join the Netherlands-based company in April as finance director of its UK & Ireland region. Also leaving W&M are UK sales director Alan Lowndes and bulk sales director Nick Swan, who will both be joining rival William Grant & Sons.
Swan and Lowndes will take on roles at William Grants self-labelling division QSI, which makes own-brand whiskies for supermarket chains.
The reasons for their departures remain unclear, but the news follows a period of extensive restructuring at the firm and a clear-out of its board room by chief executive Vivian Imerman.
Former directors Brian Megson, Ian Palmer, Alan Mackie and Douglas Reid are among those to have left in the past year. They were all involved in the £200 million management buyout of the company from Jim Beam Brands in 2001.
A spokeswoman for Maxxium confirmed to The Scotsman that McCroskie would be joining the firm in April, after he serves his notice at Whyte and Mackay. She could not say if the move was a step up for him in status or salary.
Maxxium is 25 per cent owned by Highland Distillers, and specialises in the sales, marketing and distribution of the groups brands, which include Famous Grouse.
Whyte and Mackay insisted last night that it was not in fresh crisis, saying its ongoing restructuring process was "progressing well", while its £50m brand investment programme was "bearing fruit".
It added that Christmas sales at its two flagship brands, Whyte and Mackay and Vladivar vodka, both saw volume gains on the previous year.
In the four weeks to 27 December, Whyte and Mackay volumes in supermarket chains increased by 63 per cent, while in the same period Vladivar grew 138 per cent.
The company added that it had hired Stewart Lawrie as director of UK and international accounts from Proctor & Gamble, and industry veteran James Espey as a senior executive. It declined to say whether the new recruits were replacements for Swan, Lowndes or McCroskie.
Articles Courtesy of The Scotsman
Dram clever device to spot dodgy pub whisky A DEVICE designed to crack down on the sale of counterfeit whisky in pubs and restaurants was unveiled today.
Edinburgh-based drinks giant Diageo has developed the Scotch industrys first spectroscopic portable testing kit, the authenticator.
The innovative £100 million product uses ultra-violet technology to test the authenticity of the companys drams.
At present, the industry relies on laboratory-based analysis - a process which can take up to two weeks.
But the Diageo authenticator has been designed to work in the field and cuts the screening process down to less than a minute.
Allan Burns, joint executive director of Diageo Scotland, described the authenticator as a "very significant development".
Gavin Hewitt, chief executive of the Scotch Whisky Association, also welcomed the development.
He said: "Scotch whiskys international success means that others seek from time to time to trade illegally on its reputation.
"This device provides a new weapon to complement the existing work undertaken to defeat counterfeiters, and will give consumers even more confidence that the industry is doing all it can to ensure the quality of Scotch is maintained." Articles Courtesy of The Scotsman
£1m distillery will be the first for more than a century The first new distillery to be built on Islay since 1883 is to open during the island's annual whisky festival in May.
The ambitious project, which is costing almost £1million, is the idea of Argyll businessman Anthony Wills who says the new Kilchoman Distillery will initially create around four full-time and four part-time jobs.
Mr Wills is planning what he claims will be the only distillery in Scotland which will grow and malt all its own barley and produce and mature its whisky on the same site.
Kilchoman Distillery will also be one of the country's smallest distilleries and will aim to produce just 90,000 litres of pure alcohol per annum, once it has been up and running for a few years.
It has taken entrepreneur Mr Wills three years to get the funding in place for his new venture.
The distillery will be based in renovated traditional stone farm buildings at Rockside Farm, on the western coast of Islay, near the beach of Machir Bay.
The £975,000 project has attracted a £150,000 grant from Argyll and the Islands Enterprise and £600,000 from private investors.
Mr Wills, who currently runs a whisky company called Liquid Gold Enterprises, at Colintraive, Argyll, specialising in single cask malt bottlings, intends to move to Islay in the spring to run the distillery business.
He said: "The idea is to take whisky production back to its roots, to when production was part of the farming year, growing and malting the barley and producing and maturing the whisky all on site."
The spirit will be bottled as a single malt but Mr Wills said: "We won't be bottling any for five years and in year six we will be selling some of our production."
Mr Wills, who has a 20-year family connection with Islay, said yesterday: "We will be starting to renovate the farm buildings in two or three weeks.
"If all goes according to plan an official opening will take place during the whisky festival at the end of May," Mr Wills said.
A cafe, shop and visitor centre, which will include a small museum to tell the story of the farm distilleries which operated on Islay in the 18th century, will be opened as part of the project and the whisky will be sold at these outlets.
Mr Wills said: "We are going to sell 25% of our production in cask to private customers. The rest of the income will come from the shop and cafe, we will be selling various products."
The farm buildings, where the distillery will be based, are being rented to Mr Wills from Islay farmers Mark and Rohaise French, and Mr French will grow all the barley for the whisky.
Mr and Mrs French already run the award-winning Islay Fine Foods company. Smoked meat, which they are producing on the farm, will go on sale at the distillery shop. Articles Courtesy of The Scotsman
Gordon needs to show some bottle and lower drink duty THIS week I secured a debate in the Scottish Parliament to discuss Gordon Browns latest attempt to penalise our drinks trade.
Two years ago he tried to introduce strip stamps on spirits such as whisky, gin and vodka. You will recognise them as those printed bits of paper that are stuck over the top of bottles of spirits that you buy when on your hols in Italy, Portugal or Spain.
The idea is that only those bottles that have come from a legitimate supplier that has paid the excise duty carries the official strip stamps. Its meant to make fraud easier to combat. Needless to say it doesnt work. The profit from smuggling drink in from the continent is so great that counterfeiters will have a field day printing their own strip stamps and applying them before they ship the booze over.
Dont believe me, think Im being too cynical? Last year strip stamps were introduced in the Ukraine and within a week of the scheme starting counterfeit stamps - even with a hologram - were found on smuggled vodka.
Last time, Chancellor Brown eventually backed down after the distillers mounted an impressive campaign to point out the impracticality and high costs of the scheme. Indeed more countries, such as the USA, have abandoned the strip stamp than are introducing it. This time he seems more determined, or should I say more stubborn. You see his finances are in a mess and someone in Customs and Excise has convinced him this will help him raise his revenues.
Of course, there is a simpler way to deal with the problem - lower the duty on our booze. The reason smuggling is so attractive in Britain is because of the gulf between our tax and that of our neighbours. Take away the huge difference and smuggling becomes less attractive and not worth the risk.
When you cut taxes on booze two things usually happen; the sales tend to increase and the proportion of fraud drops, both of which lead to higher tax revenues that are often greater than the original loss of income to the Treasury. Come on Gordon, scrap the strip stamp idea and cut the duty instead, then even Ill raise a glass to you.
Articles Courtesy of The Scotsman
Whisky company's profits slump Signatory Vintage Scotch Whisky, which owns Scotland's smallest distillery, made pre-tax profits of £500,407 in the year to end-March 2003 on turnover of £3.21million, according to latest accounts released by Companies House.
The Edinburgh firm, which also selects and bottles fine single malt whiskies for sale to export and domestic markets, had pre-tax profits of £710,304 on sales of £3.1million the year before.
The fall in profits is accounted for by interest payable on bank loans and overdrafts, which increased from a mere £888 previously to £236,274 in the year to March 31, 2003.
Signatory, founded by Scottish businessman Andrew Symington in 1988, bought Edradour Distillery at Pitlochry in 2002 for £5.4million from French drinks giant Pernod Ricard. The distillery, which has just three full-time employees, produces only 12 casks of whisky a week - equivalent to about 360,000 bottles a year.
The company, controlled by Mr Symington, also lists Graham Cox as a director. Directors' emoluments for the year, including a £10,000 pension contribution for one director, were £120,818 against £91,333 the previous year.
Meanwhile, Loch Lomond Distillery Company, which is based at Alexandria, near Dumbarton, returned to profit in the year to March 31, 2003, latest accounts from Companies House show. The company made pre-tax profits of £377,755 on sales of £9.09million in the period compared to pre-tax losses of £87,487 on sales of £11.03million the year before. It lists five directors, whose emoluments for the year, including a £3,240 pension contribution for one director, were £119,724 compared to £106,876 the previous year.
Loch Lomond, owned by chairman Sandy Bulloch and his family, produces the Loch Lomond single malt, Loch Lomond blend and Inchmurrin 10-year-old single malt.
The company also owns Glen Catrine Bonded Warehouse, the largest independent bottling plant in Scotland. Its other principal business is wholesale wine company Wm Morton Ltd. Articles Courtesy of The Press & Journal
Distillers ask msps to oppose plan Whisky bosses have urged MSPs to back their fight against Government proposals to put tax stamps on whisky bottles.
Chancellor Gordon Brown is planning to impose the measure on the whisky industry as a means of curbing tax fraud, which the Government claims costs nearly £600million a year. But the industry insists it would be costly and has been proved not to work in other countries.
The Scottish Parliament will debate a motion tonight urging the executive to oppose the plans of the UK Government. The motion, by Tory MSP Brian Monteith, states that tax strips would be "an ineffective means of combating fraud and illicit trade, while imposing substantial costs and practical problems on the industry, particularly in relation to labelling and storage".
The chief executive of the Scotch Whisky Association, Gavin Hewitt, said the industry had ideas of its own for dealing with tax fraud. He said there suspicions the extent of fraud was being exaggerated, and called for MSPs' support tomight. Articles Courtesy of The Press & Journal
Aim to complete scotch whisky review before budget Chancellor Gordon Brown has conceded an independent "review" of Customs and Excise claims that alcohol excise duty fraud soared to £600million last year.
The National Audit Office move was announced by Treasury economic secretary John Healey at a meeting with MPs on the back-bench, all-party group concerned with the Scotch Whisky industry at Westminster last night.
He told MPs that he hoped the review could be completed before the Budget in six weeks' time, in which Mr Brown intends to announce that he will legislate for the new tax system in this year's Finance Bill.
This will require distilleries to stick stamps on bottles to show tax had been paid.
The decision to seek audit office verification of the figures - four times greater than those conceded by the industry - was welcomed by MPs, including group chairman John McFall, Labour MP for Dumbarton. He said: "The Government have a responsibility to make sure they get their figures right, while we have a responsibility to the industry to ensure we reduce fraud."
Moray SNP MP Angus Robertson believed an independent probe would show the Government's figures were inflated, undermining the Treasury's case for the change. Articles Courtesy of The Press & Journal
Bowmore distillery proves a fine malt can be green THE Islay malt whisky distillery Bowmore has beaten fellow drinks giants Scottish and Newcastle and Schweppes to be named as one of Britains greenest operations.
The distillery, which sits in the main village of the island, lying on the edge of the great sea-loch that almost divides Islay in two, has won in all categories in the coveted National Green Apple environment awards.
Judges were impressed by its policy of improving the island environment by transferring re-used heat from the production process to provide free energy for the local swimming pool.
Robert Wylie, the companys distilleries manager said the award recognised the work and effort of the distillery staff in maintaining the local environment and contributing positively to the island community.
Mr Wylie said: "During distillation the largest source of waste heat is transferred into water which is usually transported to a nearby river or a cooling tower. We have a system where we transport all of the hot waste water to the local swimming pool where it is used to heat the building."
Glasgow-based Morrison Bowmore, which was taken over by Suntory of Japan in 1994, slipped into the red last year after a disastrous distribution venture in South America. The joint venture with Sociedad Anonima and the Uruguayan government cost the firm more than £700,000. The company has now quit that business entirely.
Sales of single malts have been at the forefront of the industrys expansion in recent years, with the peat-rich Islay malts one of the fastest-growing categories. Bowmore is Morrisons biggest seller, both in terms of volume and value, with its main markets in the UK, duty free, the US and France.
The Green Apple Awards are organised by The Green Organisation, an independent, non-profit environment group dedicated to recognising and promoting environmental best practice.
Articles Courtesy of The Scotsman
Whisky galore as Bankier buys up top retailer IAIN BANKIER, the former chief executive of CL World Brands, has bought the Whisky Shop retail chain for a "seven-figure sum".
Mr Bankier bought the six-outlet chain, the biggest independent whisky retailer in the UK, from current owner Michael Cantlay using his takeover vehicle Glenkeir Whiskies Limited.
Mr Cantlay, who is deputy chairman of tourism body VisitScotland and the main shareholder in kilt and bagpipes firm Hector Russell, is retaining a minority stake in the new business which has outlets in Edinburgh, Glasgow, Inverness, Fort William, Oban and Callander. Mr Bankier said: "Our goal will be to take the Whisky Shop chain into high streets right across the UK. We have already identified a number of town and city centre locations for expansion."
He added: "I believe that this business is poised to move forward strongly.
"The premium Scotch market is buoyant, particularly in the single malt sector which grew 15 per cent between 2001 and 2002. This is where all the interesting action is."
Mr Bankier is a veteran of the Scotch industry, having been chief executive of the Trinidad-based global drinks group CL World Brands, the international drinks group that owns Burn Stewart distillers - makers of Black Bottle and Bunnahabhain whiskies - in Scotland.
He has also been a director with leisure group Stakis.
On divesting the bulk of his interest in the Whisky Shop, Mr Cantlay said: "This is a great opportunity for me to remain involved in a business which Ive thoroughly enjoyed building and I believe has enormous future potential.
"Whats more, I will now have more time to devote to developing other business opportunities both in Scotland and North America.". Articles Courtesy of The Scotsman
Allied Domecq clears its headache with scotch, tequila and gin PHILIP Bowman, the chief executive of Allied Domecq, was in remarkably chipper mood at yesterdays annual meeting given that he had just been forced to admit that the weakness of the US dollar would wipe £25 million from profits. He and Sir Gerry Robinson, his chairman, even responded with good humour to those annoying complaints from shareholders about the lack of sandwiches and cakes.
The reason the duo were in such good cheer was that trading in the first four months of the current financial year has got off to a fizzing start. Its nine core brands products like Beefeater gin, Ballantines Scotch whisky and Sauza tequila delivered growth of more than 6 per cent both by volume and value. That is an impressive performance given the still subdued consumer environment in many of its core markets, which include France and Germany.
Of particular note were the strong performance in the highly competitive US market and the return to normal trading in Spain. Both regions have caused Allied a headache in the recent past due to destocking by wholesalers, but yesterdays trading update shows that the impact of that destocking has been mitigated.
Allieds focus on the premium end of the market also served it well in the wine business, where US and Australian wine producers in particular have been sent reeling by a grape glut. Given Allieds exposure, there had been fears it might be affected, but Mr Bowman was able to report reasonable revenues and profit growth.
Ironically, the best-performing division is the one that plays the smallest role in its strategic thinking: fast food. While McDonalds and Burger King continue to wage a vicious battle against each other, Allieds Dunkin Donuts and Baskin-Robbins franchises have delivered strong like-for-like sales and a useful increase in the number of stores. The business will doubtless one day be sold to fund a big drinks acquisition, for the time being it is throwing off oodles of cash for reinvestment in supporting its key wine and spirit brands.
All of which means that, notwithstanding the £25 million currency hit, Allied expects to report decent earnings growth for the full-year. The shares, which have recovered from last Februarys profit warning, added a further 4p to 439¾p, valuing the stock on a multiple of less than 13. That looks niggardly. Buy.
. Article Courtesy of The Times
Hotel staff learn to be whisky ambassadors Eighteen staff of hotels from Aberdeen to Speyside attended the latest session of the Scotch Whisky Tourism Initiative's whisky school at the Glenfiddich Distillery at Dufftown yesterday.
They were there to learn more about Scotch and become "whisky ambassadors", with the aim of promoting Scotland as a quality visitor destination.
Staff from the Marcliffe at Pitfodels in Aberdeen, the Craigellachie Hotel, and Muckrach Lodge at Dulnain Bridge, where writer Iain Banks stayed while writing his bestseller Raw Spirit, were among those tackling the one-day training course.
Chris Conway, who was responsible for marketing Whyte & Mackay's malt whiskies before becoming Scotch whisky tourism development manager last September, said the aim initially was to establish "whisky embassies" in around 40 Scottish hotels.
It is then planned to roll out the training programme to retail outlets.
Meantime Mr Conway is also working with established distillery visitor centres to help link tourism and whisky - two of Scotland's most important industries - more closely.
The training programme is being delivered by the Scottish Whisky Heritage Centre, best known as a leading visitor attraction on the Royal Mile in Edinburgh.
Courses have already been delivered in Nairn, Edinburgh and Perth, and a further course will take place in Glasgow later this week.
Mr Conway said: "We already have 1million people visiting Scottish distilleries during the course of a year.
"We believe there is considerable potential to boost this number. Whisky is a great product which is recognised globally. We are working on ways to promote whisky and make Scotland an even more successful visitor destination."
The initiative also aims to encourage establishments such as hotels, restaurants, and shops to provide information and advice on whisky-related activities, including visiting distilleries.
Another intention is to persuade hotels and restaurants to make greater use of whisky as a key ingredient in food, and as an accompanying drink.
The Scotch Whisky Tourism Initiative is being supported by Scottish Enterprise, Highlands and Islands Enterprise, VisitScotland, but is being led by the private sector, including the Scotch Whisky Association and Scottish Whisky Heritage Centre.
Tourism is worth £4.5billion annually to the Scottish economy and is the fourth largest employer north of the border, employing 193,000, or 8% of the workforce.
Around 90% of Scotch whisky is exported, reaching millions of people across the world. It is shipped to more than 200 countries worldwide, and over a billion bottles per year are sold. Articles Courtesy of The Press & Journal
Spirit of Scotland No one can persuade an Ardbeg or a Macallan drinker that own-label whiskies deliver the same flavours. And theyre right. Neither distillery can make enough to satisfy their branded markets, let alone provide spirit for big retailers own-labels. There are distilleries out there with surplus stocks, though, and an astute spirits buyer will organise a whisky that at least offers similar flavours and quality - and costs considerably less.
Once, when the stores name was emblazoned on the packaging, it was easy to tell an own-label. Now, though, to be more discreet and add authenticity, retailers have introduced sub-brands, created individually for them. Examples include Glen Crannog for Threshers and Blue Hanger for Berry Bros & Rudd. The buyers have more control over the taste and bottling, arent required to include a hefty marketing budget, and, like for like, can still sell more cheaply than the big brands with their huge advertising costs. Own-labels should always be cheaper, but in the past, greedy buyers cut down quality for excessive profit margins and seriously short-changed their customers.
Wine drinkers who intend to drink whisky tonight - Burns Night - should consider their taste preferences. If the favourite wines are assertive and pungent, such as sauvignon blancs from New Zealand, dry rieslings from Germany or old-style clarets and Barolos, then try the more assertive own-label whiskies from Islay and the islands. If the preference is for the New Worlds soft overt fruit, own-label whiskies from the Highlands and Speyside will be more palatable.
Own-labels may well offer a taste more reliably typical of the region. Islay is renowned for peaty flavours, but there are exceptions. Bunnahabhain, for example, is so gentle in peat that it could almost be a soft Speyside. Some Highland and Speyside distilleries can also produce uncharacteristic flavours. Dont get burnt on Rabbies night. An own-label dram could well go down better than a big brand - and certainly more cheaply.
Articles Courtesy of The Scotsman
Sir Sean nips into Scotland SIR Sean Connery has for the first time agreed to promote his countrys most famous export - Scotch whisky.
The Edinburgh-born film icon has agreed to feature in an advertising campaign for Dewars whisky, which is owned by Bacardi.
Sir Seans participation in a campaign for its Dewars 12-year-old blended Scotch is a major marketing coup for the company. Articles Courtesy of The Scotsman
MPs stamp on bid to cut whisky fraud THE Treasury came under pressure yesterday to prove its assertion that the spirits industry was losing £600 million a year through fraud.
The call came as MPs from all sides of the House called on Gordon Brown to withdraw plans to introduce tax stamps on Scottish whisky and other British spirit manufacturers.
The Chancellor is threatening to introduce the strip stamps in this Springs budget unless the spirits industry can come forward with alternative suggestions for tackling fraud - which the Treasury has estimated costs the taxpayer £600 million a year.
But a succession of MPs yesterday contested the scale of the problem and the suggestion that the strip stamps were the most effective way of combating fraud.
Alan Reid, the Liberal Democrat MP for Argyll and Bute, said if the government estimates were correct then 200,000 bottles of spirits would be disappearing each day.
"The Scotch whisky industry believes these figures seriously overestimate the scale of fraud in the UK, and that the trend is downwards not up.
"No-one in the trade sees the market disruption that would result from fraud on anything like this scale. Where is the governments evidence that the fraud is on this scale?" he said in a Westminster Hall debate on the issue.
Mr Reid said countries such as the United States and Greece had abolished tax stamp schemes and pointed out that in those countries such as Poland which persisted with the stamps, there had been no noticeable reduction in the black market for spirits.
Labour, Conservative and SNP MPs all backed Mr Reids call for the tax to be withdrawn.
John Healey, the economic secretary, refused to address questions about the Treasurys figures but promised he would visit Scotland next month to hold talks with representatives of the whisky industry.
Mr Healey also insisted that Mr Brown was still willing to consider alternative proposals put forward by the industry.
A spokesman for the Scotch Whisky Association welcomed the cross party support for its opposition to the stamps.
Articles Courtesy of The Scotsman
Holyrood is given drink licence fit for a Queen THE Queen is set to become a landlady after applications for a pub and off-sales licence were granted for Holyrood Palace.
The city council licensing board granted both applications yesterday without objection and paved the way for the Palace of Holyroodhouse to become the first royal residence to sell alcohol.
The off-sales licence will allow royal-branded bottles of wine or whisky to be sold from the gift shop. The public house licence could see the palace selling alcohol in its new cafe, which is under construction.
Palace officials hope to copy the success of the Scottish Parliament where visitors have snapped-up branded whisky and wine at the gift shop off George IV Bridge.
A Palace of Holyroodhouse spokesman said royal staff were still considering the possibilities of selling alcohol at the palace gift shop.
He said: "We applied for an off-sales licence, but not with any specific plan in mind. The main aim of applying for the licence is to give us the flexibility to plan for the future.
"We were glad to hear the news that our applications have been granted. But at the moment, there are certainly no plans to begin selling liquor from the shop."
The Holyrood Palace licence application was made in the name of Royal Collection Enterprises, the commercial arm of the trust responsible for the upkeep of all royal property open to the public.
Any profits from royal alcohol would therefore be ploughed back into looking after royal properties. Articles Courtesy of The Scotsman
Chivas toasts new chairman WHISKY distiller Chivas Brothers has confirmed the appointment of Christian Porta as chairman and chief executive.
Mr Porta replaces Georges Nectoux, who retired from the post in December after 33 years with Chivas Brothers French parent company, Pernod Ricard.
"My priority is to continue building on the dynamic strategy developed over the two years since Chivas Brothers was formed and reinforce our position as the leader in Scotch whisky," Mr Porta said.
Until late last year, he was chairman and chief executive of drinks group Orlando Wyndham, where he was responsible for the groups spirits marketing activity in Australia and New Zealand, as well as the international growth and development of the Jacobs Creek and Wyndham Estate wine brands.
Articles Courtesy of The Scotsman
Team signs up for film
Plans for a remake of the classic film Whisky Galore have taken a step forward, with a British production team signing up to the project.
Whisky Galore Film Ltd, comprising the people behind films such as the Madness of King George and Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, could be making the Outer Hebridean island of Eriskay famous again as the backdrop of the now-legendary Compton MacKenzie tale.
It was revealed last year that French film company Canal Plus, which now owns all the Ealing Comedy rights, was planning to remake the 1949 classic. It is understood the remake is to be shot in Scotland.
A statement from the production company read: "Whisky Galore Film Ltd can confirm they have optioned from Studio Canal the remake rights of Sir Compton MacKenzie's book Whisky Galore. We are in the early stages of development, but will hopefully soon be in a position to formally release full details on the project." Articles Courtesy of The Press and Journal
Aficionados' whisky club swallowed up THE SCOTCH Malt Whisky Society has been forced to accept a buy-out by Glenmorangie because it cannot raise enough capital for its own survival and has difficulties in sourcing malt whisky for its members, The Scotsman has learned.
A senior source at the Leith-based club has admitted it had no other option but to accept the £2.2 million offer because it could no longer meet the financial commitments of expansion.
The source conceded the deal would effectively consign the exclusive society, to being "just an arm of a bigger company". He said: "The amount of money that is required to run the society is enormous. At the end of Easter we will expand into additional premises on Queen Street - that is costing us £1 million just to get it in order.
"We dont run at a huge profit, we never have, and it would take us years and years to pay off a bank overdraft... Click here for full story Articles Courtesy of The Scotsman
Chancellor's whisky duty plan 'would not prevent excise fraud' GOVERNMENT proposals to introduce tax stamps on bottles of whisky were undermined yesterday after official figures revealed that prosecutions for excise fraud in Scotland were almost non-existent.
According to Scottish Executive statistics, there have only been five prosecutions for offences related to excise since the beginning of 2000.
When the Chancellor, Gordon Brown, introduced the proposal last year, he claimed duty was not being paid on one in six bottles of whisky.
George Lyon, a Liberal Democrat MSP for Argyll and Bute, said the figures "made a nonsense" of Mr Browns plans.
"It is anticipated that this proposal would cost the whisky industry £280 million a year, harming the competitiveness and productivity of this vital sector," he said.
"Experience overseas shows that this scheme would be both ineffective and inefficient.
"The low level of prosecution for excise-related crimes makes it extraordinary that the Chancellor should come forward with this proposal."
Mr Lyon, who uncovered the figures in a parliamentary answer, suggested the Treasury drop the proposal, rather than threatening to penalise an industry on which so many Scottish jobs depended.
Last night, his comments were echoed by the Scottish Whisky Association.
A spokesman said: "These figures support what we have been saying all along - that the Chancellor has dramatically overestimated the amount of fraud.
"We are resolutely opposed to the introduction of these duties because of the damage they would do to the competitiveness of the industry both at home and abroad.
"If the government wants to embark on a policy as controversial as this, it needs to have the facts on its side." Articles Courtesy of The Scotsman
Darling backs plans to stamp out whisky con IT would be "grossly irresponsible" to Scotlands whisky makers if the Government failed to tackle the industrys £600 million fraud problem, Scottish Secretary Alistair Darling has told MPs.
But MPs called for the plan to stamp whisky bottles to tackle duty evasion to be abandoned as it could cost the industry up to £280m.
At Scottish Questions yesterday, Edinburgh Central MP Mr Darling said he was "acutely aware" that spirits market fraud had been growing and insisted the Government had to tackle it.
The plans would proceed if the industry was unable to produce alternative proposals that would be as effective.
But shadow Scottish Secretary Peter Duncan urged the Government to encourage "one of Scotlands most successful industries" and asked why he had not vetoed the proposal.
Mr Darling replied: "The industry is of crucial importance to Scotland. But if there is fraud we have to do something about it. To ignore it would be grossly irresponsible."
The Treasury wants bottles to be stamped to help consumers, traders and customs officers to identify those on which UK duty has been paid and plans to legislate for tax stamps next year.
Liberal Democrat Alistair Carmichael said the Scotch Whisky Association had estimated stamping would cost industry around £280m. He added: "Can you get him [the Chancellor] to think again on this?"
But Mr Darling said one in every six bottle of spirits was evading duty, amounting to fraud of around £600m, despite a freeze in spirit duty for the past six years. Articles Courtesy of The Scotsman
Whisky industry in fight to prevent new tax stamp plan The Government will be urged tomorrow to reconsider plans that will require bottles of Scotch to be sealed with a tax stamp, guaranteeing that duty has been paid.
Orkney and Shetland Liberal Democrat MP Alistair Carmichael will press Scottish Secretary Alistair Darling to urge Chancellor Gordon Brown to drop the idea. He is due to raise the issue during the first Scottish questions session in the Commons this year.
Mr Carmichael will warn that the tax strip will involve the industry in huge, upfront costs - but would be an ineffective way of cracking down on tax fraud. He said last night: "The way to stop fraud is to make the system more effective by deploying more excise officers - not by introducing more costly controls which experience elsewhere has shown to be ineffective."
Mr Carmichael said: "The US and Greece have both recently abolished duty strips because they were ineffective.
"The Government is seeking to add extra burdens on to the industry, trying to make companies into tax collectors but with a system that is not ultimately likely to be effective."
Today, the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) is joining with other spirits' industries in a meeting with Customs and Excise and senior officials at the Treasury to state its case.
SWA director of government and consumer affairs Campbell Evans said: "We are delighted that this issue is being discussed in parliament, as the industry remains deeply surprised at the level of fraud suggested by the Customs and Excise.."
The tax-strips proposal follows a huge diversion fraud scandal in which alcoholic drinks intended to be exported free of duty ended up on the domestic market, costing the Treasury hundreds of millions of pounds, and Customs' failure to stem the import of lesser-taxed spirits from the continent for resale in shops in the south in such huge quantities as to de-stabilise the licensed trade. Articles Courtesy of The Scotsman
SWA: Indian whisky duty cut not enough SCOTLANDS whisky makers welcomed a cut in Indian import duties, but warned tariffs still remained at "exorbitant" levels.
The cut was announced in a mini-Budget by the Indian government after the industrys complaints about tax and duty levels were raised earlier this week during a visit by UK trade minister Mike OBrien. India has cut its basic import duty from 166 per cent to 150 per cent, two months earlier than expected.
It has also eliminated a special additional duty. The Scotch Whisky Associations international affairs director Tim Jackson said: "The overall federal duty burden on Scotch and other imported spirits will still be exorbitant, ranging between 213 per cent and 525 per cent." Articles Courtesy of The Scotsman
Whisky group urges India to abide by law of the spirit THE Scotch Whisky Association is sending a delegation to India later this week to lobby government officials over "excessive" taxes imposed on Scotch.
Bottled Scotch whisky and other imported spirits are effectively denied access to the Indian market due to a federal duty burden of between 246 per cent and 592 per cent.
Indias duty and tax regime has been deemed to be in breach of World Trade Organisation (WTO) regulations on four separate counts.
Accompanying trade minister Mike OBrien on the trade mission to India is Tim Jackson, SWAs director of international affairs, who will be highlighting industry concerns about the federal duty burden levied on whisky to Indian government officials, as well as the differing fiscal treatment of imported and locally-produced spirits.
Speaking before his departure, Jackson said: "The Scotch whisky industry is not seeking any favours, just fair market access. We recognise the Indian government has taken steps in the right direction by reducing the federal duty burden in the last two budgets.
"However, the overall duties levied on Scotch whisky are excessive by international standards, and more favourable tax arrangements apply to local than imported spirits."
Scotch whisky currently accounts for less than 1 per cent of the spirits market of 70 million to 80 million cases a year, which until April 2001 was closed to imported bottled spirits.
Following pressure from the WTO, India eased tax tariffs, but they remain punitive, making Scotch unaffordable to most Indians. The last two Indian budgets have seen basic customs duty fall from 188 per cent to 166 per cent, which the Scotch Whisky Association sees as "steps in the right direction".
India is potentially a huge market for Scotlands whisky industry. Latest figures show that Scotch whisky exports to India in 2002 were worth £9.2 million, and accounted for 681,108 cases.
Last year, Whyte and Mackay announced a tie-up with local Indian brewer Shaw Wallace, and is beginning to build a distribution network for its Whyte and Mackay blend on the premise that the market will liberalise in ten years.
David Williamson, of the SWA, says improved market access in India is now its number one priority.
Williamson said: "The basic import tariff on bottled imported spirits [166 per cent] is excessive by international standards but is due to be reduced on 1 March, 2004.
"We are urging India to reduce the tariff from 166 per cent to 150 per cent in accordance with its Uruguay Round commitments," he added.
Leonard Russell, the managing director of the Glengoyne distillery, which has a foothold in the Gulf with the King Robert blend, drunk primarily by Indian expatriates, said he was excited about the possibilities in the market: "With the World Trade Organisation, the Indian government has to change the spirit market into a level playing field," he said.
"Inevitably, when India does do this, there will be a massive opportunity for Scotch Whisky sales in India." Articles Courtesy of The Scotsman
Spirits high at whisky businesses THE whisky industry has welcomed the abolition of restrictions on importing spirits in Scandinavia.
The Scotch Whisky Association said it was a "perfect start" to 2004 for distillers north of the Border and called for a further cut in duty on spirits.
Denmark, Finland and Sweden have removed the strict limits on the number of bottles of spirits, including Scotch, which Scandinavians can bring into the country from abroad.
The lifting of the restrictions should see an increase in demand for Scotch from Scandinavia, which was worth £40.5 million to the economy in Scotland in 2002.
Gavin Hewitt, chief executive of the Edinburgh-based Scotch Whisky Association, said: "The removal of these restrictions on the import of Scotch to Scandinavia is the perfect start to 2004 for distillers, and is the result of hard work by the industry in recent years to persuade Denmark, Finland and Sweden to comply with EU rules.
"Ahead of these restrictions being lifted, we have also seen an encouraging trend of spirits taxes being cut across Scandinavia to remove the incentive for cross- border shopping or illicit trade.
"Following on from Denmark halving its spirits tax in October, Finland has also announced it will cut the duty on Scotch by 44 per cent on 1 March.
"We believe there will now be increasing pressure for Sweden to follow suit." Articles Courtesy of The Scotsman
Scandinavian boost for distillers SCOTLANDS distillers were looking forward to increased trade in Scandinavia yesterday as the abolition of alcohol import restrictions in Denmark, Sweden and Finland came into effect.
As of 1 January, Danes, Swedes and Finns were allowed to take home unlimited booze from trips abroad. The legislation, following lengthy lobbying by the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA), ends decades of restrictions in the countries where alcohol is vastly more expensive than elsewhere in Europe.
Gavin Hewitt, chief executive of the SWA, said: "The removal of these restrictions is the perfect start to 2004 for distillers and is the result of hard work by the industry in recent years." Articles Courtesy of The Scotsman