MORAY-based malt whisky specialist Gordon & MacPhail achieved a hike in profits in its last financial year and is enjoying strong growth in sales of its Benromach single malt at home and abroad.

The Urquhart family-owned Gordon & MacPhail business, which files its accounts as Speymalt Whisky Distributors Limited, raised its pre-tax profits to £3.03 million in the year to February 29, up from £2.36m in the prior 12 months. Turnover jumped from £20.4m to £22.3m.

The Elgin-headquartered business bought the Benromach distillery on the outskirts of Forres in 1993. It took five years to renovate the distillery, which had been closed for about 10 years, and in 1998 started producing a single malt which is now exported to 38 countries.

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Gordon & MacPhail describes Benromach as the "smallest distillery on Speyside".

Managing director Michael Urquhart said the size of Benromach meant there was a "hand-crafted" dimension to the production process.

He added: "Two guys make it (with) no computers."

Mr Urquhart cited 15% growth in total sales of Benromach in the year to February 29.

And he highlighted the fact that, in the new financial year to date, sales volumes of Benromach were up about 35% on a year earlier. Sales growth for Benromach in the UK so far this financial year is 17%.

Exports account for about 70% of total Benromach sales.

As well as distilling Benromach, Gordon & MacPhail continues with its traditional business of buying new spirit from the majority of distilleries in Scotland, filling this into its own casks, and bottling the whisky when it thinks the time is right.

Mr Urquhart noted that the business, which was founded in 1895, bottled whisky from about 80 different distilleries. These whiskies are aged between seven and 70 years.

In total, the Gordon & MacPhail business exports to more than 50 countries. It offers more than 300 presentations of own-bottled single malts, and has a stockholding of more than 700 whiskies.

The business, which employs nearly 140 people, highlighted its launch at Edinburgh Castle, back in 2010, of the world's oldest single-malt whisky in the form of Gordon & MacPhail Generations Mortlach 70 Years Old.

Gordon & MacPhail's total exports rose to £6.15m in the year to February 29, from £5.07m in the prior 12 months.

Mr Urquhart highlighted strong growth in sales to the US and Canada. He noted a slowdown in the Italian and Spanish marketplaces in the year to February 29, amid the ongoing eurozone debt crisis.

He said northern European markets had remained strong during the year to February 29.

However, he cited a slight slowdown in some northern European markets in the current financial year, while emphasising this was not across-the-board and noting the continuing strength of the Swedish market.

He also highlighted very strong markets in the Far East, including Taiwan, China, and Japan.

He said: "Taiwan is a very strong market. We are seeing good growth coming through in China. Japan has always been a consistently strong market."

Mr Urquhart, whose grandfather John started as an apprentice in the business at the age of 14 and became its sole partner back in the early 1900s, said of the differing fortunes of the business's various markets: "That is the benefit of being able to export to different continents. As an economy starts to slow down, you start to see sales of single malt slow down. Having that good geographical spread is beneficial."

Gordon & MacPhail is also a sizeable whisky, wine and spirits wholesaler in the UK, distributing to customers throughout the country from its duty-paid warehouses in Elgin.

It operates a whisky, wine, spirit and delicatessen outlet in Elgin and a visitor centre at Benromach Distillery.