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Issue 46 - The rise of the independents

Whisky Magazine Issue 46
March 2005

 

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The rise of the independents

A couple of years ago there was a spate of takeovers of Scottish distilleries and independent buyouts. What happened to them? Ian Buxton investigates

Once upon a time, almost all Scotch whisky was made by independent companies. Then, over time, the twin pressures of economics and competition forced rationalisation and, one by one, the independent companies merged, amalgamated or were taken over.

They, in their turn, were swallowed by other corporations and so the worldwide drinks giants were born. Globalisation brought us Diageo, and Bacardi (a rum distiller controlling some really fine Scotches), and Pernod Ricard (a pastis company with a superb Scotch portfolio).

All very well in its way, and it doesn't do to be parochial. As Aeneas MacDonald observed in 1930, only half in lament, “whisky now belongs not to the Scots but to the world at large.”

But if your Scotch whisky business is run from Amsterdam, your heart lives in exile from Cuba or your soul is French, then I can be forgiven for an occasionally sentimental and romantic backward glance to a supposed golden age.

However, the xenophobes amongst us can take heart: the independents are on the move and they march (mostly) to the skirl of the pipes.

In the last few years, rationalisation amongst the global giants has led to the disposal of some properties they regarded as marginal and the resurgence of the independent distiller has begun.

Among the recent changes have been Pernod's disposal of Edradour to Signatory; Edrington's sale of Glengoyne and Bunnahabhain (to the Peter J Russell Group and Burn Stewart respectively) and Allied's transfer of Glencadam to ...

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