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May 21, 2014 10:32 pm
Drambuie, the Scottish liqueur that kept up the spirits of Bonnie Prince Charlie, is to be sold for the first time in a century.
The MacKinnon family that owns the brand, can hope to capitalise on the booming cocktail market and a thirst for heritage brands from Asian companies looking for international expansion.
A sale of the liqueur would follow the recent £430m sale of Whyte & Mackay Scotch to Emperador, the Philippines-based brandy group, and January’s $16bn acquisition by Japan’s Suntory Holdings of Beam, the US maker of Jim Beam whiskey.
Drambuie can trace its heritage back to 1746 when Prince Charles Edward Stuart was on the run, after defeat at the Battle of Culloden ended his hopes of restoring the Stuarts to the British throne.
Bonnie Prince Charlie gave the secret recipe for his personal liqueur to John MacKinnon as thanks to the Scottish clansman for aiding his escape from the Isle of Skye.
More recently, Drambuie had a role in popular culture when it became the main ingredient for the “Rusty Nail”, the 1950s signature cocktail of “Rat Pack” singers, Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jnr.
Although Drambuie has been stocked in the cellars at Buckingham Palace and New York cocktail bars, its profile has diminished in the face of stiff competition and the growing importance of China to spirits sales.
The six largest groups by net sales in the $117bn spirits market – Diageo, Pernod Ricard, Bacardi, Suntory and Chinese Baijiu groups Wuliangye and Moutai – account for 10 per cent of volumes sold, but 50 per cent of the profits, according to Bernstein Research, giving them the marketing clout to build their brands.
Drambuie employs 21 people and has a market value of around £100m, according to analysts’ estimates. Morrison Bowmore in Glasgow has the contract to manufacture the drink – a blend of Scotch whisky, herbs, spices and honey.
Distiller Morrison Bowmore is owned by Suntory and serves as the Japanese group’s European distribution arm for its whisky portfolio. As well as blending and bottling Drambuie, it produces a number of single malts.
The Drambuie name derives from the Gaelic “an dram buidheach”, meaning “the drink that satisfies” – an utterance from customers at The Broadford Hotel on Skye where the liqueur was first manufactured commercially in 1873.
The MacKinnon family is being advised by Rothschild. Neither would comment.
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