By Scott Wright

THE spirits company that owns The Scotch Malt Whisky Society has underlined its expectation of continuing growth despite the cost-of-living crisis, as it reported a 25 per cent hike in first-half revenue to nearly £10 million.

Revenue rose at the Artisanal Spirits Company as it reported a 24% rise in global membership of the Society to 35,600 in the six months to June 30. And it said numbers have carried on growing in the second half, with the total now standing at more than 36,000.

Membership grew both at home and in key markets overseas in the first half, with the UK seeing a 31% rise to 17,700 and Europe by 33% to 3,900. The US remains the Society’s biggest overseas market, having seen membership grow by 15% to 5,500 in the six months to June 30, and there was a return to growth in China, up 15% to 1,600 by the end of the period.

Managing director David Ridley, who steered Artisanal through its stock market flotation in June last year, said no one was immune from the cost-of-living crisis but expressed confidence that the premium end of the spirits market that the company trades in would continue to grow. He cited the Society’s continuing growth in membership and recent comments from Alexandre Ricard, chief executive of Pernod Ricard, on the prospects for high-end spirits continuing to grow in a challenging marketplace.

Mr Ridley said the Pernod chief had stated that the “premiumisation trend will outpace reductions in purchasing power.” He noted: “People will not be completely immune from the current situation, [but] our target audience will be a lot more resilient, and their level of discretionary spend will allow them to continue in the premiumisation trend.”

The Scotch Malt Whisky Society provides members with the opportunity to acquire rare and collectible bottles of whiskies from the broad range of stocks it curates. The Society, which was established in 1983, sources whiskies and other craft spirits from more than 100 distilleries in around 20 countries.

Artisanal reported that first-half losses widened to £1.1m from £0.9m. That came as it invested in £2.4m in new spirit stock, taking its total number of casks to around 15,700, and the notional retail value of stock-in-cask to £455m, up from £430m on December 31.

The company continues to develop a new logistics hub and warehouse in Uddingston. Mr Ridley said work on the Masterton Bond was progressing on time and on budget ahead of operations beginning in the second half. Artisanal will employ an initial 10 people at the facility, though that number is anticipated to increase as the amount of volume passing through rises.

Meanwhile, Mr Ridley said the company had secured its first export deal for JG Thomson, its small-batch, blended malt whisky, with La Maison du Whisky in France. Talks are progressing well over a US deal. The company is also preparing to launch a company similar to the Scotch Malt Whisky Society but based on American whiskey for the US market next year.

Artisanal said it was on track to deliver a full-year performance in line with expectations. The current consensus on revenue for the year ending December 31, 2022 is £21.6m; last year the company achieved revenue of £18.2m.

Shares in Artisanal closed up 2p at 76p.

Mr Ridley said: “We are feeling good about the full year. We have very much got that continued tailwind in the market, despite cost-of-living increases.”

“We do believe that premiumisation will be ultimately much stronger over the course of the second half of this year.”