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Issue 24 - Angus Stewart

Whisky Magazine Issue 24
July 2002


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Angus Stewart

Dave Broom brings a little sunshine to the world of whisky. Next issue

The news that Angostura is intending to buy Burn Stewart may strike many whisky drinkers as surprising. People forget Angostura is a huge rum distiller and its parent, CL Financial, is a Caribbean-based conglomerate whose interests include not just major rum producers (Angostura, Todhunter / Cruzan) but finance, sports, forestry and petrochemicals and that it already had a 28.3% stake in Burn Stewart.

Good timing? After all, wasn't it Burn Stewart which had just announced its first pre-tax profit for four years? OK, it was only £12,000 and was mostly down to a cut in interest rates, but the firm was seeing an increase in shipments to South Korea, its bottled sales in the UK were growing, Scottish Leader was the third-biggest Scotch in South Africa, while Taiwan appeared to be coming back.

Burn Stewart had moved away from a reliance on bulk shipments and was focussing on bottled sales. Bravely, it had put its prices up and though this meant losing business in Europe the strategy appeared to be paying off.

But look again. That £12,000 profit was on £20.2m sales. I'm no financial wizard but that doesn't seem too healthy. Those figures reveal the reality of life in the whisky industry at the moment. Burn Stewart were one of the firms supplying whisky to the commodity end of the market. Irony No1 is that Ian Bankier and his team turned in a profit after they turned their backs on this trade realising there's no money to be made at this end of the business. You can't make a...

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