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Overseas sales bring best profits for Isle of Arran Distillers

ISLE of Arran Distillers achieved a near-60 per cent hike in profits last year as it enjoyed success in markets including the US and Taiwan, its latest accounts have shown.

RESULTS: Euan Mitchell, managing director of Isle of Arran Distillers, wants to see another profit rise.
RESULTS: Euan Mitchell, managing director of Isle of Arran Distillers, wants to see another profit rise.

Euan Mitchell, the company's managing director, yesterday highlighted his expectation that the Scotch whisky distiller would achieve a further rise in profits this year.

Isle of Arran's latest accounts show it raised pre-tax profits by 58 per cent in 2013, to £549,639 from £348,513 in the prior 12 months, as turnover climbed to £4.56 million from £3.65 million. The distiller noted these were its best-ever annual results.

Chairman Michael Peirce, in his statement on the accounts, said that France remained Isle of Arran Distillers' biggest export market overall but had been overtaken by the US in terms of sales of single-malt Scotch whisky.

He says: "The USA has been a focus market for us over the past few years and it is gratifying to see this hard work bearing fruit and, encouragingly, there remains an enormous amount of potential for growth."

Taiwan was another success story for the distiller in 2013, with sales up 130 per cent on 2012 on the back of "soaring" demand for single casks and other limited-edition expressions of The Arran Malt.

Mr Peirce flags strong growth in the UK market last year, following a change of distributor in 2012, and cites particular success in the independent retail channel.

New markets for Isle of Arran Distillers in 2013 included Belarus, Vietnam and South Africa.

Mr Peirce also highlights the distiller's plans to expand distribution into Latin America, declaring it is a "region with huge potential for the future".

Isle of Arran Distillers employs 30 staff, in a mixture of full and part-time roles. Nine of these employees are based at the company's head office outside Stirling, with the remainder at the distillery at Lochranza.

Construction of the distillery started in December 1994, with first spirit flowing the following year.

Mr Mitchell noted that Leslie Auchincloss, a Scottish businessman who lives near Cork in the Republic of Ireland, was the majority shareholder of Isle of Arran.

Whisky industry veteran Harold Currie, who founded Isle of Arran Distillery, retains a minority stake in the company.

Mr Mitchell highlighted the company's £2 million investment programme at the distillery, which includes the addition of new warehouses, and highlighted plans to double production from half-a-million litres of pure alcohol (LPA) to more than one million LPA over about the next five years.

Highlighting Isle of Arran Distillers' relative youthfulness, Mr Mitchell said: "It is really pleasing to see that our approach and hard work is delivering results. We are something of an overnight success, nearly 20 years in the making."

While highlighting Isle of Arran Distillers' success in the US and Canada, Mr Mitchell said the company had seen the market in Ukraine grind to a halt amid the crisis in that country.

He also cited weakness of sales to Russia, largely as a result of the rouble's tumble against the pound.

However, he said: "Taiwan is doing well for us as we try to broaden the reach out more in Asia."

Mr Mitchell said the distiller's sales in China were "small but growing".

Commenting on the outlook, Mr Mitchell said: "We still see the market being buoyant. Whisky has been good for a few years. It will certainly continue [to be so] this year, and into next year. Thereafter remains to be seen."

He added: "We are starting from a low base. We still see the world [offering] huge opportunity for us."

Asked about the issue of Scottish independence, Mr Mitchell replied: "The two key issues are the currency and the membership of the EU [European Union]. The uncertainty there is not entirely helpful. Whatever happens, we will work with it. We will strive to continue to make it [the business] a success."

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