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Issue 26 - Dave and Goliath

Whisky Magazine Issue 26
October 2002


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Dave and Goliath

Dave Broom speculate on the fate of the smaller whisky brands faced with today's globalised marketplace

The whisky industry is always rife with rumour, most of which is to be disbelieved. After a few drams, two and two often makes 25. Rival firms are in regular contact due to blending requirements, and just because two people lunch together, it doesn't mean an evil plan is being hatched. That said, the talk in Islay's bars this May was of how Bunnahabhain was up for grabs. I talked to Edrington, but they don't comment on rumours. Fair enough.

The trouble was, the story didn't want to go away. All of a sudden William Grant's suave head Patrick Thomas mentioned that the firm had approached Edrington in the past, but negotiations had fallen through. Surely the distillery is either on the market or, at least, Edrington is open to offers. Even though the cat was out of the bag, the firm's preferred line was which cat? Which bag?

So, let's assume what everyone believes to be true: that the Bunnahabhain sale, with Black Bottle attached, is on. Why would Edrington sell? Only last year the distillery was told to start operating at full-tilt. Why do you enter into negotiations to sell one of your biggest plants if you're racking up production?

By coincidence Edrington's annual report had arrived just before the Grant's angle had emerged. I took a proper look. This was what Ian Good says in its introduction: "The board believes the future of the Group is closely aligned to the success of our key brands ... For that reason we are concentrating our resources behind four key brands: The F...

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