Scotch whisky makers still have a bright future despite the double blow of up to 1,000 job cuts, the industry insisted yesterday.
The mood at many firms was upbeat as they looked beyond the current economic turmoil to the longer-term prospects for the nation’s national drink.
Diageo, the company behind Johnnie Walker, Bell’s and other whiskies, said last month it was cutting up to 900 jobs and provoked outrage by announcing the closure of its bottling plant at Kilmarnock.
On Tuesday, Glasgow-based Whyte and Mackay warned around 100 jobs could go as a result of a review being carried out in light of the economic situation and also a “punitive” UK legislative climate.
The job cutting has raised fears other whisky makers could follow suit, but there was little evidence of that yesterday and industry insiders insisted a domino effect was unlikely.
William Grant and Sons, based at Dufftown, said it had no plans to make any changes to its operations.
Family-run Grant is behind whisky brands including Glenfiddich and The Balvenie.
A spokesman for the firm, which employs more than 700 people in Scotland as part of a 1,000 global workforce, said: “There is no risk to jobs at William Grant. It is tough out there, but our brands are standing up well and people here remain positive.” William Grant has three malt distilleries at Dufftown. It also has whisky and gin operations at Girvan in Ayrshire, and a customer service centre and bottling plant at Bellshill, Lanarkshire.
French drink giant Pernod Ricard was quiet on its plans for Scotland, with a spokesman saying only: “As a rule, we don’t comment on speculation on sales or operations.”
Pernod subsidiary Chivas Brothers employs 1,600 staff across 32 sites in the UK, including 29 locations in Scotland.
It operates 12 malt whisky distilleries, one grain facility and gin operations in London and Plymouth.
Paisley-based Chivas also has more than 300 bonded warehouses containing in excess of 6million casks of Scotch whisky.
Pernod-owned whisky brands include Chivas Regal, The Glenlivet and Ballantine’s as well as the Aberlour, Strathisla, Longmorn, Scapa and Tormore single malts.
The Paris-based group’s faith in The Glenlivet has meant a substantial expansion for its distillery near Ballindalloch on Speyside.
Rivals Diageo, Bacardi and Edrington Group have invested sums totalling hundreds of millions of pounds into Scotch whisky operations in the past few years in anticipation of strong global sales growth.
Edrington, whose key premium brands include The Famous Grouse, The Macallan and Highland Park, last month announced record pre-tax profits of £94.8million.
Ian Curle, the Glasgow firm’s chief executive, said the group had seen a softening of demand in some of its main markets due to the global economic slowdown.
This was expected to affect growth ambitions in the short to medium term but Edrington, which employs 850 people in Scotland, was bullish about its long-term prospects. A spokesman for the Scotch Whisky Association said yesterday: “The industry is well-placed to lead the economy out of recession. What we make today won't be Scotch for at least three years. There remains optimism about growing opportunities for Scotch around the world.”
Work has begun on Glenmorangie’s new bottling and office facility in Livingston.
The 12-acre site is expected to be completed by the middle of next year. It forms part of Glenmorangie’s two-year investment programme, which also includes expansion of the Glenmorangie distillery at Tain.