By Victoria Masterson

JAPANESE brewing and distilling group Suntory is buying a 10 per cent stake in Glasgow-based distiller Edrington for an undisclosed sum.

The agreement builds on an existing strategic partnership between the two businesses dating back to the early 1990s.

Suntory has a long-term shareholding in The Macallan, the most valuable single malt Scotch whisky in the world. Over the last 40 years, it has also been an important distributor of Edrington brands – which include Highland Park and Scotch whisky blend, The Famous Grouse – in several key international markets. These include Japan, Germany, Canada and South Africa. Suntory also distributes through joint ventures in the UK, Spain and Russia.

“Edrington has a successful long-standing strategic partnership with Suntory,” said Edrington chief executive, Scott McCroskie. “We share a similar ethos and the same passion for craftsmanship, innovation and quality in our brands. We look forward to cementing and building this deep relationship over the coming years.”

Edrington said the deal would provide an inflow of funds to its principal shareholder, The Robertson Trust, allowing it to give more to good causes across Scotland. The trust has donated more than £263 million to charitable causes in Scotland since it was set up in 1961 by sisters Elspeth, Agnes and Ethel Robertson to help Scotland’s people and communities realise their potential.

Edrington employs more than 3,500 people in its wholly owned and joint venture companies, 70% of them overseas. In the year to end March 2019, Edrington posted a 9% increase in core revenue from its branded products to £679.8m, with profits up 4% to £91.6m.

Shinjiro Torii, a wine producer, founded Suntory in Osaka in 1899 and distilled Japan’s first whisky in 1923. It has almost 39,500 employees worldwide and annual revenues of $20.4 billion. Its brands include Jim Beam, Lucozade and the Japanese whiskies Yamazaki and Hibiki.

“Scotch whisky is a robust and successful industry, but it does face increasing competition from other authentic spirit categories, leading to the 400+ trade barriers faced currently,” Mr McCroskie said in Edrington’s 2018 annual report. “Against this backdrop, we want our governments to create a climate where economic development and growth is actively encouraged and rewarded.” Despite geopolitical uncertainty, Edrington was confident about medium and long term prospects, Mr McCroskie said.