Scotch Malt Whisky Society owner sees membership leap by quarter as demand soars

Scotch Malt Whisky Society owner Artisanal Spirits Company is on track to double revenue by 2024 after cheering a strong first-half performance and playing down supply chain concerns.

The Edinburgh-based group, which listed on London’s Alternative Investment Market in June last year, said it continued to invest in growing its holding of “outstanding whisky and other spirits”.

It currently has almost complete coverage to deliver growth through to the end of the 2028 financial year, with “substantial” stock for the following years, providing “additional comfort and a significant inflation hedge”.

During the six months to the end of June, membership of the Scotch Malt Whisky Society (SMWS) - seen as a leading indicator of future revenue growth - grew by around 24 per cent to over 35,500, year on year.

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There was strong trading with first-half sales up by some 25 per cent to almost £10 million, from £7.9m a year earlier, including a “stand-out” performance in China with revenue up by more than 50 per cent. That was despite the group warning in May that the Chinese government’s zero-Covid strategy was presenting “additional challenges for our business”.

Bosses pointed to a “healthy supply chain situation” and good stock availability across all markets.

The group is on track to deliver a full-year performance in line with market expectations. Analysts are looking at 2022 revenues of about £21.6m.

Managing director David Ridley said: “The first half of 2022 was another period of substantial progress from both a strategic and commercial perspective. Thanks to the drive of everyone across the business and the continued support of our loyal SMWS members around the world, we enter the second half well positioned, and confident in our ability to realise our ambition of doubling revenue between 2020 and 2024.

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The Artisanal Spirits Company is the owner of the Scotch Malt Whisky Society and a leading curator and provider of premium single cask Scotch malt whisky and other spirits. Picture: Mike Wilkinson

“The sales performance includes a stand-out contribution from China, where sales were up by over 50 per cent, reflecting the excellent membership growth delivered in 2021 and the fantastic work by our team on the ground despite the challenges posed by Covid lockdowns in April and May of this year.”

He added: “We continue to make good progress in fitting out our new multi-purpose supply chain facility at Masterton Bond [near Glasgow] in preparation for it becoming operational in the second half. Cask racking is now largely installed, and works are well underway on internal firewalls and electrical/mechanical installation.”

Chairman Mark Hunter said: “In the near-term, against a backdrop of inflationary pressures and consumer price sensitivity, we are insulated somewhat as we have stock cover at almost 100 per cent through to the end of 2028 and beyond and we offer a broad range of price points to members.

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“Longer-term, there is no suggestion the growth trajectory for high-end whisky and other spirits is abating, and we have a strong presence and clear, localised strategies in all the high value markets around the world to capitalise on it.”

Last November, the group launched JG Thomson & Co - inspired by its namesake, which was originally a wine and spirits merchant in Leith, in the 1700s.

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