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Comment: Why it is right to welcome Drambuie sale

Could Suntory be tempted to buy Drambuie? Picture: TSPL

Could Suntory be tempted to buy Drambuie? Picture: TSPL

  • by TERRY MURDEN
 

Another piece of Scotland has been put up for sale and one that comes with a rich back story

Drambuie is on the market and is likely to be snapped up by one of the industry giants, almost certainly – though not necessarily – foreign.

Should it be bought by an overseas player it will irk those minded to regret the loss of indigenous companies, though it should give the brand the sort of backing and greater exposure it requires in order to survive and grow.

It is the liqueur made famous by the legend of Bonnie Prince Charlie’s recipe and the crooner Frank Sinatra who popularised it alongside his fellow “rat pack” singers in the 1950s when it was used in a cocktail known as Rusty Nail.

The Mackinnon family has owned the rights since 1914 and has hired Rothschild to find a buyer. My understanding is that they are keen to crystallise some of their estimated £100 million fortune tied up in the business and, by selling it, allow it to prosper under the wing of a global drinks company.

The brand is known internationally, though its status and general popularity has faded somewhat behind a growing number of rivals which have had the resources to advertise more widely and build on new markets. These are not only in other territories, but in different categories, such as the growing cocktail sector.

Drambuie is manufactured by distiller Morrison Bowmore in Glasgow which is owned by the Japanese company Suntory, a link that must put it in pole position to acquire the brand. In January Suntory spent a whopping $16 billion (£9.5bn) of the US firm Beam, the maker of Jim Beam whiskey and is clearly in acquisitive mode.

However, it can be expected to face competition from Diageo and Pernod Ricard who are always on alert for opportunities. Few big brands come up for sale, the latest being Whyte & Mackay which was sold to Philippines company Emperador for less than expected. Drambuie, being at the luxury end of the market, might command a premium price.

 

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