Chris Mercer

A Trip to Glenrothes

By: Chris Mercer - 14 October 2011 17:07

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The Glenrothes is the latest Scotch whisky brand that appears to be enjoying a vintage year. 

G20 finance ministers meeting in Cannes could do worse than lift their spirits with a dram or three of Scotch this evening. Scotch may be losing customers in its home market, but exports rose by around a fifth in volume and value in the first half of 2011.

I've just returned from a trip to The Glenrothes, the brand owned by Berry Bros & Rudd that contains spirit produced by The Edrington Group at The Glenrothes distillery. Between bouts of shooting and off-road driving, I learned that spirit production at the distillery is to increase to near its 5.5m-litre capacity next year. It is currently operating at around 1m hectolitres below this and on a five-day week.

I'm told that this decision was made prior to the significant amounts of whisky consumed by several journalists on the trip.

With the distillery feeding The Glenrothes single malt brand, and providing spirit for various blended whiskies, the plans to expand production offer another example of high confidence across the Scotch industry (although, to be fair, plans to up production are in part a response to Edrington's deal to sell its Tamdhu distillery to Ian Macleod Distillers earlier this year).      

Scotch is in a sweet spot. In the US, it is still heading in the right direction, while consumers in key emerging markets in Asia and Latin America have demonstrated a growing thirst for most things brown.

There is a degree of nervousness, however, about the global economic situation and, within this context, whether the momentum is sustainable. 

At the same time, and in contrast, the current pace of demand for premium Scotch could throw up supply issues. With such a long maturation period, it would have taken a confident soul to bet on such a high level of success for some of these brands. The Glenrothes is already running low on 1980s vintages (a bit lower after this media trip, by my reckoning) and there is talk of tight supplies over at Beam Inc's Laphroaig, too.    

The short-term, then, is not without its challenges. The long-term, meanwhile, continues to rely on a degree of crystal ball-gazing. Still, things could certainly be a lot, lot worse.

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