By Scott Wright

THE managing director of the company that owns The Scotch Malt Whisky Society has stepped down with immediate effect, as the business declared it was likely to have exceeded revenue expectations for 2022 and confident of further progress this year.

David Ridley leaves the Artisanal Spirits Company having steered it through its stock market flotation in 2021, and following a year of membership and revenue growth.

Mr Ridley, who departs after six years with the firm, oversaw the development of a new supply-chain facility in Uddingston, which became operational in the fourth quarter of last year, the launch of the JG Thomson & Co spirits brand, and the establishment of the Society’s inaugural franchise agreement in South Korea. FJ Korea distributes products to more than 2,000 bars in the country. Last year also saw Artisanal form a partnership with Drinks Alliance in Malaysia.

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Andrew Dane, who joined in 2020, has stepped up from his role as finance director to become Artisanal’s first chief executive. Billy McCarter, formerly group financial controller, has been appointed interim finance director while the search for a long-term chief financial officer takes place.

The changes were announced as Artisanal declared that it expects to exceed revenue forecasts for 2022, amid continuing membership growth. It expects to report that revenue for the year ended December 31 showed growth of around 20 per cent on 2021, when it turned over £18.2 million. Artisanal said revenue would be slightly ahead of the consensus forecast of £21.6m.

Shares in the company closed the day up nearly 9% at 95p.

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Global membership of the Society, which has bases in Leith, Edinburgh, Glasgow and London and more than 100 partner bars around the world, grew by approximately 12% in 2022 to around 37,000, with the company highlighting the continuing recovery of venues and events following Covid.

The Society, which was established in 1983, provides its members with access to a broad range of rare single cask Scotch malt whiskies and other craft spirits from more than 100 distilleries in 20 countries. Artisanal said it was also continuing to work on the development of an American whiskey offer. The new venture will be similar to the Scotch Malt Whisky Society but based on American whiskey and dedicated to the US market.

The company said its Masterton Bond in Uddingston has had an “encouraging start”, noting that it has so far produced around 20,000 bottles, and delivered hundreds of casks and the first pallets from the site. Artisanal said operating margins will improve by around 2% when Masterton is fully operational.

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Mark Hunter, chairman of Artisanal, said the company was on track to meet its target of doubling revenue to £30m between 2020 and 2024. He said: “We have invested simultaneously in additional whisky stocks which continue to appreciate, and in advancing our infrastructure and global reach through the development of our Masterton Bond multi-purpose supply chain facility and, most recently, new distribution capability in South Korea and Malaysia.”

Mr Ridley said: “I have thoroughly enjoyed my time with ASC and am proud of the group’s success to date. There is demonstrable momentum in the business and following another year of strong growth, I feel the time is now right for me to seek a fresh challenge and hand over the reins for the next phase of ASC’s development. I wish Andrew and the wider team every success for the future.”