BenRiach invests £25m as profits hit record levels

Entrepreneur Billy Walker has hinted at further acquisitions for the BenRiach distillery. Picture: Ian Rutherford
Entrepreneur Billy Walker has hinted at further acquisitions for the BenRiach distillery. Picture: Ian Rutherford
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WHISKY entrepreneur Billy Walker yesterday hinted at further acquisitions for the BenRiach distillery business he heads after it announced record results and revealed plans to invest more than £25 million.

BenRiach, which also owns the GlenDronach and Glenglassaugh single malt whisky brands, said pre-tax profits rose by 24 per cent to £11.1 million last year on the back on a 17.6 per cent rise in turnover to £41.5m.

Taiwan’s consumers have a taste for premium brands so it’a fit

Billy Walker

Growth in sales across markets such as Taiwan, Germany, Africa and the US helped drive the strong performance of the Newbridge business.

The expansion of the BenRiach business since Walker and his two South African business partners purchased it a decade ago has been accelerated through acquisitions of the GlenDronach distillery in 2008 and the Glenglassaugh distillery in 2013, and Walker yesterday said that further deals were possible.

“We’re open-minded and if something came up adding value and balance to the business, we would certainly consider it,” he said.

Walker, the firm’s managing director, said it plans to invest about £25m over the next two years to take advantage of the significant opportunities it sees for further growth.

“We continue to make significant strides in brand development where we are concentrating our efforts on the top end of market.

“We are an independent, boutique business and we see each distillery as having ‘Grand Cru’ provenance.”

Walker said the investment plans were being supported by the Royal Bank of Scotland, and he described the bank’s support in recent years as “magnificent”.

Export markets will be a key focus for the company’s growth plans.

Sales director Alistair Walker said the last 12 months had seen unprecedented demand for high-end brands such as those produced by BenRiach.

“We have a wide customer base and currently ship to over forty countries but there is still potential for growth in the likes of Hong Kong, Singapore, Korea and much of Africa and South America. So I believe the future for all our brands is tremendously exciting.”

Taiwan was described as a “huge” market for the company, and Walker said: “It’s part of the overall spirits boom in Asia and its consumers have a taste for premium brands so it’s a great fit with our growth strategy.”

Although there was growth across the company’s brands in 2014, Walker said the Glenglassaugh range in particular had significantly outperformed against the company’s forecasts.

“Another recent high point was the launch of our BenRiach ten years old single malt in 2015, the first core range expression to be produced predominantly from whisky distilled under The BenRiach Distillery Company’s stewardship.”

Billy Walker, a master blender, and his two South African partners Geoff Bell and Wayne Kieswetter, purchased BenRiach in 2004.

When the company posted its first full year’s figures in 2005, turnover was £4.62m, pre-tax profit was £241,716 and the company employed just 12 people. The firm currently employs 120 people across its four sites.

The record profits cap a highly successful year for the Newbridge-headquartered group, which was recently highlighted by the London Stock Exchange among a range of companies to inspire Britain.