SPEYMALT Whisky Distributors, the Elgin-based company which trades as Gordon & MacPhail, has hailed a “strong” financial performance as it lifted profits and turnover in an eventful financial year.

The venerable Scotch whisky specialist, which began life as a greengrocer in 1895, hiked profits by £7m to £17.4 million in the year ended February 28, new accounts show. Profits increased as turnover surged by 24% to £46.5m, boosted by strong sales growth of its Benromach brand and the release of Gordon & MacPhail Generations 80 Years Old, the company’s oldest single malt to date.

Sales of premium products such as Generations also benefited from a growing trend of collectors acquiring premium Scotch whisky as an investment.

The accounts cover a period during which Gordon & MacPhail opened its second whisky distillery, The Cairn in Cairngorm National Park, in October 2022. It acquired the Benromach Distillery in Forres in 1993.

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Ewen Mackintosh, the long-standing managing director of Gordon & MacPhail who will retire from the role in March 2024, said the results were “excellent, boosted by the ongoing sales of Generations”.

“Underlying that, we are really happy with the ongoing success of Benromach [and] the rest of the Gordon & MacPhail range,” he added.

“But I think that is only half the story. We are also just delighted with getting The Cairn opening done. The spirit has been produced for a couple of years, but getting the distillery open for visitors was a real milestone for the business.”

While The Cairn, which recently secured a five-star visitor attraction status, is open to the public, whisky lovers should not expect a single malt to be released by the Speyside distillery any time soon.

Some fledging Scotch whisky distillers have been rushing to bring new-make spirit or young single malts to the market, but Mr Mackintosh said Gordon & MacPhail is taking its time. The spirit produced by The Cairn will be 12 years old before the public can get its hands on it.

“Our long-term thinking is a 12-year-old single malt will be the first [whisky produced],” he said. “We are keen to stick to that principle. We don’t want to release anything too early – we want to keep all the stock until 12 years old.”

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Mr Mackintosh added: “We are lucky that we are building a second distillery on the back of a successful business, so we can use our existing business to fund the weight for that stock.

“Obviously, if you are starting from scratch, that is your business, so you have to make different decisions. Because we have done it as an existing business, we have been able to integrate the funding of The Cairn into our business model, so we can take the decision to wait longer, which really is the mantra for us. It is about long-term thinking.”

That philosophy of planning for the long term was behind another recent, major decision by Gordon & MacPhail. While the company built its reputation over many decades on its expertise in acquiring whiskies made by other distilleries before bottling them under its own labels, it announced in July that it would no longer fill spirit into casks from distilleries which it does not own.

However, given the amount of stock it holds, the firm will be able release whiskies under the Gordon & MacPhail brand for many decades to come.

Mulling the immediate outlook, Mr Mackintosh expressed caution over the effect of the cost-of-living crisis on consumer confidence. He also said the recent rise in interest rates have offered individuals avenues to invest other than premium whisky. “Yes, there are definitely more headwinds this year than we saw last year, with this set of accounts, but we just continue to play what is in front of us and take that long-term view,” he said.

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Meanwhile the company, which sells its whisky to around 40 global markets, is continuing work on a project to transform its premises on South Street, Elgin, into a major visitor attraction. It said the “spiritual home” of Gordon & MacPhail, which opened its doors in 1895, will offer a “unique” whisky experience to visitors from around the world, incorporating displays, tasting rooms and a liquid library of some of the world’s rarest whiskies when it re-opens in 2024.

Mr Mackintosh, who said the firm has appointed his successor without revealing the name, noted: “I look forward to him joining. The decisions we have made over the last few years in terms of completing The Cairn, third-party blends, and our move out of wholesale in the UK to really focus on our own brands and international growth… there is a bit of runway and clear direction ahead for us.”