HUNTER Laing, the Scotch whisky blending and bottling specialist, has invested a "seven figure" sum in a whisky maturation warehouse in East Kilbride.

The investment comes with the company on course to declare a profit from its first year of operation - in spite of the costs involved in setting the business up.

Hunter Laing was set up by Stewart Laing after he and brother Fred split the assets of Douglas Laing & Co, the Glasgow-based blender and bottler, last year.

The 35,000 square feet warehouse, which has been acquired from Arndale Properties, boosts the company's existing storage capacity in the South Lanarkshire town.

It will be able to accommodate 15,000 casks, boosting the 2000 cask capacity it currently holds at the Premier Bond warehouse on Carron Place nearby.

While whisky maturation will be the key function of the warehouse, the company may open up some space for third parties to stock whisky on the site.

Hunter Laing, headquartered in Glasgow's Park Circus, said the site will streamline its operation by allowing it to hold the entirety of its stock under one roof for the first time. It currently holds stock in nearly 90 distilleries and warehouses around the country.

A plan to carry casks in a unit it owns next door to Premier Bond is also being considered. Currently used for storing dry goods, it could be turned into a bonded warehouse able to store a further 2000 casks.

Hunter Laing is hoping to move into the new building in January or February next year.

The acquisition has also brought it some land around the premises, giving it the option of building a further two units if the need arises.

The company, which inherited Premier Bond following the demerger from Douglas Laing & Co last year, has been backed in the investment by Clydesdale Bank, which previously supported Hunter Laing in stock acquisition deals.

Stewart Laing, who runs the business with sons Andrew and Scott said the site will allow it to be more responsive to customer requests, while significantly reducing the level of paperwork it handles.

He said: "This will allow us to store the majority of our own whisky for once in our own premises. At the moment our whisky is ridiculously in 87 different locations.

"You can imagine two things, one all the bureaucracy and paperwork that's involved with 87 different locations, but also when we require samples we have to request them from warehouses or distilleries. It can take a good number of weeks before we actually get the samples.

"In the future it's all going to be to hand. Instead of waiting four, five, six weeks, they shouldn't [have to] wait more than two days, which will be a delight for all of us.

"We will be masters of our own destiny in terms of having access to our own whiskies."

The investment comes as first full year of accounts for Hunter Laing are in the process of being audited. Mr Laing was unable to provide figures but indicated they would show a profit. "Let's just say I've got a smile on my face," he said.

Mr Laing and his brother split the assets held by Douglas Laing and Co, the company started by their father 45 years previously, to ease succession issues. Fred Laing continues to trade under the Douglas Laing name.

Hunter Laing has moved into positive territory in its first year by opening new markets overseas such as Vietnam and Mexico, joining established markets such as Scandinavia, Germany, Taiwan, Russia and China. Those markets have continued to buy brands such Old Malt Cask, Douglas of Drumlanrig and Old and Rare, inherited by Hunter Laing under the Douglas Laing demerger.

Stewart Laing said the business also benefited by merging Edition Spirits, the whisky company built by Andrew and Scott, into the new entity. "We have changed a lot with my sons Scott and Andrew having joined us. They had their own whisky company and brought not only stock but some very nice brands and very good customers. That has been a considerable benefit.'' He remains open to acquiring a distillery, noting that those outside the industry often struggle to understand why it does not have one.

"But equally there's a very hard commercial logical reason to have our own distillery," he added.

"I believe we would certainly want to look at it."

And while he personally does not have the appetite to build one from scratch, largely because of the long-term nature of such projects, his sons may take a different view.

But he added: "I have to say there are so many of these projects out and about at the moment and, without denigrating anyone in the whisky business, I'm not sure how many will be there in 10 years' time."

Asked whether the current high demand for quality Scotch around the world is affecting Hunter Laing, Mr Laing said the firm is "fortunate to have filling contracts, which over the years build up and become old whiskies".

He explained: "We have contracts, so it is a reasonable situation. Our single malts, that's a much more difficult scenario.

"Blends, pretty straight forward, but we have to keep the stocks going of our single malts, which is do-able and is being done, but still is nothing like what it used to be. It is much, much more difficult."