By Scott Wright

THE Glenturret Distillery in Perthshire is poised to break into the US and China as its French owner plots growth in export markets for the revitalised single malt whisky.

Lalique Group has invested heavily to reinvigorate The Glenturret since acquiring the distillery in Crieff from Edrington in March 2019, launching a brand new liquid and bottle design for the malt at the height of the pandemic in September.

And managing director John Laurie revealed the fresh focus placed on the brand had yielded a positive reaction from consumers, highlighting strong sales of its “legacy” spirit in the months immediately after relaunch.

“Many of our products sold out by February, March time, and we our down to our last couple of hundred cases of a 43,000-bottle production,” said Mr Laurie, who presided over the “reawakening” after staying with The Glenturret following the Lalique takeover. “Our target for this year is to go up to 70,000 bottle sales, of which 50 per cent is already pre-ordered.”

Mr Laurie highlighted strong growth last year through platforms such as Master of Malt, Whisky Exchange, Hedonism Wines and Royal Mile Whiskies, as the ability to sell direct to consumers in the tourism sector was limited.

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The UK was the main focus in the immediate months after the relaunch, in part because travel restrictions made it difficult for Mr Laurie to explore overseas markets in person. But now the distillery is looking further afield. Deals have been struck with distributors in the US and China, as well as a luxury player in the travel retail market in Dubai.

Mr Laurie said: “France is troublesome with exports. We still struggle to get some pallets of whisky into France, but Germany, Netherlands, (and) Switzerland have been great. This year, we open up America and China. That’s really where the demand is going to start to get interesting.”

He added: “It took us about a year to negotiate our distribution and export agreement to America. We were really cautious that we found the right partner in America. We don’t have lots of volume of Glenturret. It is a really boutique, bespoke product, so I can’t afford to make mistakes. We don’t have enough stock to make mistakes with.”

Fortuitously, Mr Laurie said the company was able to negotiate pricing terms with its US distributor, MS Walker, after Washington and London agreed to suspend import tariffs on single malt in America for five years in March.

“We were just in the right place in the negotiations at the right time,” he said.

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Mr Laurie hopes the first exports of The Glenturret will be on shelves in both the US and China in October. The Glenturret’s full range, including its core expressions and Decanter, will also be sold in travel retail in Dubai after a deal was struck with duty free operator Le Clos.

“Our longer term plans would definitely be to get into some of the key European airports, [and] certainly Singapore, but we will wait now,” Mr Laurie said. “The focus for the 12 months will be entirely on supporting the markets that we launched during Covid, getting out to America and China to start that relationship right with our new partners, and leave something as important as duty free until we can focus attention on it.”

The export drive follows a highly productive spell for The Glenturret, which until the Lalique deal was best known for providing the malt for The Famous Grouse blended Scotch.

Last month, a new fine dining restaurant was launched at the distillery, where malt enthusiasts can also observe how its hand-crafted whisky is made on guided tours. In its previous incarnation, the tour was known as The Famous Grouse Experience.

Mr Laurie said the tour has become increasingly popular since the distillery reopened in April, with 600 visiting in May followed by 1,100 in June and 1,700 in July.

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He said: “We are noticing that visitors are becoming more and more confident to come back and visit indoor attractions, like The Glenturret. That has a huge impact, because there is nowhere better to really understand what makes our distillery special than to come and visit the distillery itself.”

He added: “We make it by hand, therefore by the time our guests are finished their tour, they really understand what makes The Glenturret just that little bit different. They have seen it being made. They have seen the old mill used to grind the barley, they have seen the open-top mash tun that has been roused by hand, they have seen the old wooden wash-back, they have seen the distillery operators cutting the spirit by eye. They really understand the heart and soul that goes into it.”