Edrington has unveiled a 10 per cent rise in underlying annual pre-tax profits to £222.4 million but its chief executive emphasised the Scotch whisky distiller did not underestimate the challenges arising from the coronavirus crisis.

Scott McCroskie said: “We anticipate a significant decline in global sales and profits in 2020/21. Our immediate response has been to minimise cash outflow and control costs. We will continue to manage the business prudently whilst we adapt rapidly to our new situation and seek to capitalise on emerging opportunities.”

The Glasgow-based distiller flagged a strong performance from The Macallan single malt and its Brugal rum as it announced that core revenue, from Edrington branded products at constant currency, had risen by 6% to £699.6m in the year to March 31.

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Edrington, which is controlled by the charitable Robertson Trust, noted this 6% increase had outstripped 3% growth in volumes, declaring this reflected the “increased premiumisation of the portfolio”.

The group employs around 3,500 people, including about 1,000 in Scotland.

Edrington said it had fewer than 180 employees on furlough under the UK Government scheme.

It implemented a temporary shutdown of its bottling operations in March, pending clarity on Scottish and UK Government advice. This shutdown lasted for only about 10 days.

The distiller flagged a 13% rise in core contribution, defined as profits from branded sales and distribution after deduction of overheads, to £248.2m during the year to March 31.

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Mr McCroskie noted this represented four consecutive years of profit growth, and added that it “validates the consistent long-term investment in our brands”. Underlying pre-tax profits, excluding exceptionals, have also shown four consecutive years of growth, the company confirmed.

Edrington said The Macallan had “another outstanding year”, performing strongly in countries including the key US market.

It declared that the 12 months to March had been a “mixed year” for its Highland Park and The Glenrothes single malts in a “competitive category”.

Edrington noted competitive pressures faced by Highland Park in the likes of the US and Europe.

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However, it highlighted growth achieved by Highland Park in Russia and across Asia.

Edrington declared that Brugal “continued to premiumise”, with “exceptional growth” in its home market of the Dominican Republic and a focus on “key cities around the world”.

It added that The Famous Grouse had “cemented its position as Scotland and the UK’s number one whisky”. However, the distiller noted the “ blended Scotch whisky category continued its long-term decline”.

Edrington said that its Naked blended malt had “continued to appeal to existing and new consumers in the increasingly important contemporary whisky category”.

Mr McCroskie said: “It is important that we recognise that these results largely reflect a pre-coronavirus world. While our business is on a sound financial footing, we do not underestimate the challenges we will continue to face as we navigate the crisis and emerge into an uncertain new environment.”

He added: “I believe the business is well-equipped to respond to changes in both consumer preferences and the channels through which spirits are sold. Fundamentally, our capabilities are strong, and our brands are in good health and remain desirable to consumers..

“I am confident that we will navigate through this crisis and emerge fit for future growth.”