INVER House Distillers has suffered another dip in profit margins, a trend which the company has previously blamed on fierce competition in the market for cheaper blended whiskies.

However, the Airdrie-based firm remains pleased with the development of its single malt brands, and in particular the recent capture of a coveted industry award by flagship tipple Old Pulteney.

Formerly independent, Inver House has been owned since 2001 by Pacific Spirits (UK), part of the British Virgin Islands-based Great Oriole Group. Great Oriole is controlled by Thai entrepreneur Charoen Sirivadhanabhakdi, who has significant interests in the production of Chang beer and rum in his home country.

Sirivadhanabhakdi bought out four directors who had led an GBP8.2m management buy-out from Publicker Industries of the US in 1988. They built the business through the acquisition from United Distillers and Allied Domecq of five long-established distilleries in the north of Scotland, including the Pulteney at Wick and Knockdhu, Banffshire.

One of that quartet, managing director Graham Stevenson, stayed on board to run the business under its new owners.

Inver House also produces vodka and gin under the Kulov Imperial, Coldstream London and Golden Ice gin labels.

In calendar 2005, the company posted a 19per cent rise in sales, to GBP38.5m, but pre-tax profits were flat at GBP2.42m, compared with GBP2.39m in 2004.

Writing in the annual report, the company's directors said: "We consider the results for the year to be satisfactory and we expect operations for the year 2006 will result in a similar performance."

Inver House employs more than 140 staff, of whom about 80 work in distillation and warehousing. The company recently beat off stiff global competition from around the world to land the highest accolade possible - gold: best of class - for its flagship Old Pulteney 12-year-old single malt whisky at the 2006 International Wine & Spirit Competition.