A scotch whisky distiller, when asked recently if he made any blends, was gloriously sniffy and dismissive of blended whisky. It would have been interesting to see and hear what he would have made of the Johnnie Walker Directors Blends, which I got to taste last Thursday (November 28) in London.
The company’s brands include whiskies Balblair, Old Pulteney and Speyburn as well as Caorunn gin.
The financial results are summarised as follows:
• A 28% increase in turnover to £80.6 million (2010: £62.9 million);
• Operating profit up by 43% to £14.05 million (2010 £9.86 million);
• A 61% increase in pre-tax profit to £15.46 million (2010: £9.61 million);
• A total increase in volume across key brands of 28% from 2010;
• Sales value of the blend Hankey Bannister increased by 53% with a focus on emerging markets in Eastern Europe, Southern Africa and South America;
• Caorunn Gin, which was launched in 2009, increased sales by 312%, reaching number 3 in the UK premium gin category. The brand is now being rolled out in the US backed by “significant investment”;
• A 13% growth in sales of the single malt brand Balblair, which moved to vintages, rather than age statements, in 2007;
• Old Pulteney grew by 12% and the company rolled out a global brand marketing campaign in 2011 (Old Pulteney Row to the Pole);
• 10% sales growth of the single malt brand Speyburn with half of its volume being sold in the US; and
• 13% sales growth of single malt brand anCnoc.
Inver House’s portfolio is sold in 85 markets around the world.
Graham Stevenson(pictured), managing director of Inver House Distillers said: “Our commitment to our brands continues into 2012 and to date we have delivered a full refresh of Speyburn, the release of several new Balblair vintages, a striking anCnoc release designed by the illustrator Peter Arkle and a brand building programme for Caorunn in London with partners such as the V&A Museum and Liberty, to name but a few. We’re also celebrating Old Pulteney’s 21-year old being named as the ‘world’s best whisky’, and we are confident that we have another vibrant and exciting programme in place to continue to drive momentum for our business and our brands.”
Inver House Distillers operates five distilleries - Pulteney, Balblair, Knockdhu, Speyburn and Balmenach – from a base in Airdrie where there is also a bottling and warehousing facility. 181 people work for the company.
Inver House recently lent its Balblair distillery to film director Ken Loach for his film The Angel’s Share. Distillery manager John MacDonald said he anticipated more visitors to the distillery in the wake of the film. In November last year, the company opened a space for visitors to fill their own bottles and participate in tastings as well as learn about the brand.
In 2007, the Balblair brand switched to vintages rather than age statements and is currently set to bottle its 2002 vintage, to replace 2001 “at the young end”. The 46% whisky is to retail for £40 and go to the company’s core markets including France, UK and US. The distiller is also to release a second batch of 1975, though this time the whisky has been matured in 100% American oak ex-sherry casks, rather than the 2007 release, which was Spanish oak. The 46% abv whisky is to retail for £235 and there are only seven casks of it. It is the first time the company has bottled a vintage of this age for the US market.
Andy Hannah, brand manager said: “Balblair has become established as a favourite of discerning whisky drinkers worldwide. As well as being the only distillery solely releasing vintage malts, the contemporary packaging design sets it apart. The 1975 perfectly illustrates our philosophy of ‘Vintages Timed to Perfection’ which will be activated in key markets later this year.”
1969 is also about to be bottled, having spent 43 years in cask. The whisky is 44.2%abv and will retail at £1500.