Emerging markets are flying high for Famous Grouse

FAMOUS Grouse whisky distiller Edrington has seen a push into the US and Asian markets offset the downturn in debt-ridden European markets such as Greece and Spain.

Chief executive Ian Curle yesterday said the company had opened an office in New York to help improve its routes to market in America and that taking over the distribution firms it used in China and Hong Kong was already paying dividends.

Sales of the firm’s Macallan single malt rose by 5 per cent in the six months to 30 September, spearheading the push into Asia.

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Famous Grouse sales were up 7 per cent, driven by demand in Russia and other markets where the newly-wealthy middle classes are getting a taste for Scotch.

Highland Park, made at Scotland’s most-northerly distillery, on Orkney, posted a 4 per cent rise in sales.

Curle said: “Although we will encounter some challenging economies and markets, we’re looking forward to the second six months of the year and continuing to invest behind Edrington’s premium brands.”

He said the company had pumped £8 million into its operations on Glasgow’s Great Western Road to buy a vatting system for its blended drinks.

Edrington has continued to gain market share through the Cutty Sark and Famous Grouse brands in Greece and the Brugal rum label in Spain, although both countries’ markets have contracted amid the eurozone debt crisis.

Figures released yesterday showed group turnover edged up by 2 per cent to £278.7m, while pre-tax profits grew by 5.7 per cent to £69.9m thanks to the higher margins made in emerging markets.

The rise in profits lead to the company declaring an interim dividend of 7.4p, up from 7p at the interim stage last year. All of Edrington’s dividend is paid to the Robertson Trust, a social care charity set up by the three granddaughters of the firm’s founder.