A leading French wine and spirits group has acquired the Tullibardine Distillery in Perthshire in a deal that underlines the appeal of Scotch whisky in international markets.
Picard Vins & Spiritueux bought the business from a group of private investors who brought the Blackford malt distillery back into production in 2003 after it had been mothballed under its previous owners for 10 years.
Owned by the eponymous family, Picard Vins & Spiritueux has bought Tullibardine to ramp up growth in the Scotch whisky business that it has developed in recent years.
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The company acquired the Highland Queen brand from Glenmorangie in 2008.
The sale, for an undisclosed sum, comes at a time when demand for whisky is booming around the world.
Gabriel Picard, managing director of Picard Vins & Spiritueux, said the new owners believe there is scope to achieve significant growth in sales of Tullibardine using the network developed by the group, which has a presence in 55 countries.
The acquisition will also help Picard Vins & Spiritueux deepen its understanding of the whisky business. The company has been buying whisky from Tullibardine for three years.
“For us, the rationale is to get a better and more integrated position in Scotch whisky,” said Mr Picard.
Mr Picard added that the existing management will remain in place at Tullibardine and there will be no redundancies following the deal.
While details of the trans-action were not published, the deal seems likely to have generated a good return for the shareholders who supported the £1.1m purchase of the distillery from Jim Beam Brands in 2003.
The four-man team included the chairman of Tullibardine, Alan Williamson and managing director Douglas Ross. Bruce Dingwall, who founded the Venture Production oil and gas business, invested in the firm subsequently.
They grew Tullibardine into a business that achieved profits of £430,000 on sales of £7.2m in the year to May.
Asked if shareholders were pleased by the returns the sale generated for investors, Mr Ross said: “Yes, but it goes beyond that, there’s a bigger picture here.” He said the sale would be good news for the distillery, for Perthshire and for Scotland.
With sales of whisky set to increase at unprecedented levels around the world, shareholders felt the time had come to pass control of the company to a firm that had the resources to maximise the growth potential.
“As a group of shareholders we recognised our limitations in terms of being able to invest further behind the distillery and the brand without taking significant investment from external sources,” said Mr Ross.
He added: “We felt we were custodians of the brand and it was time for us to hand the brand to others.”
Picard Vins & Spiritueux markets a wide range of wines which it produces on the estates the company owns in France.
These include the prestigious Chassange Montrachet estate in Burgundy where the company cultivates grapes like Pinot Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon.
It also produces French aperitifs and spirits like pear brandy.
The company had sales of €100 million in 2008.