A top Whyte & Mackay executive has insisted it is "business as usual" at the UB Group takeover target after the UK distiller announced a distribution deal for the US.

Tony Roberts, international commercial director at Whyte & Mackay, has told just-drinks that the Whyte & Mackay management has to focus on building its brands - despite the ongoing speculation surrounding the company.

"For us, it's really business as usual. We have to get on with building the brands; it really doesn't matter who owns the business," Roberts said yesterday (22 February). "Whatever will be, will be."

US importer Gemini Spirits & Wine is set to handle Whyte & Mackay's Scotch whisky portfolio across the Atlantic. Whyte & Mackay's brands have had a somewhat patchy presence in the US but Roberts hopes the deal with Gemini will boost the whiskies' standings in the market.

Gemini, Roberts said, will handle Whyte & Mackay products including its namesake blended whisky and Jura single malt.

He said: "Whyte & Mackay has not really had a presence in the US. We've flirted with a couple of trials but that's about it. This is the first time we've gone over there with a well thought out plan. The new packaging gives us a fighting chance to get it off the ground. The US is not the easiest market to launch a brand from zero and try and achieve some kind of critical mass."

Roberts said Whyte & Mackay is looking to increase the price of Jura to give it a more premium positioning. He said he hopes Jura would sell around 6,000 cases a year with Gemini's representation.

Roberts added: "We haven't been particularly successful in the US. Now, the US will be one of our top two or three priority markets."

However, the deal with Gemini does not cover Dalmore, a third flagship Scotch whisky in the Whyte & Mackay stable. Beam Global Spirits & Wine holds the US licence to Dalmore and handles the distribution of the brand.