South Africa’s Distell buys Burn Stewart Distillers for £160m

15th April, 2013 by Becky Paskin

South African drinks group Distell has purchased Burn Stewart Distillers, producer of Bunnahabhain Scotch, for £160 million (R2.2 billion).

Bunnahabhain Distillery

Distell now controls the facilities and stock at Islay’s Bunnahabhain Distillery

Distell has bought the producer of blended and single malt whisky from joint owners CL World Brands and Angostura Ltd, to give it greater leverage in the Scotch whisky market.

The South African group, which owns around 100 spirits, RTDs, wine and cider brands, including Amarula cream liqueur, is Africa’s leading drinks producer with an annual turnover of R14.2bn (£1.09bn).

“Our acquisition of Burn Stewart is a very significant development for Distell from a strategic perspective but also given the rich and proud history and heritage of the brands involved,” said Jan Scannell, managing director of Distell. “This gives us an outstanding foundation from which to build, while cherishing their individual traditions.”

Distell intends to use the Burn Stewart portfolio to capitalise on the global growth of whisky, in particular Scotch, with an enhanced global reach.

“Bunnahabhain, the Burn Stewart Distillers’ flagship single malt, is made on Islay, considered one of the most prestigious whisky locations by connoisseurs,” she added. “There are only eight distilleries on the Island, so we are extremely fortunate to acquire this very highly-ranked brand.

“Tobermory is the only distillery on the Isle of Mull, one of the most popular tourist spots in Scotland, while the home of Scottish Leader is the Deanston Distillery situated in the Scottish Highlands in Doune near Stirling, close to both Edinburgh and Glasgow, and another important destination for whisky enthusiasts.”

Through the deal announced today, Distell will inherit three single malt whisky distilleries, a blending and maturation facility, a bottling hall, dry and finished goods storage site, all existing whisky stock currently in maturation plus in-house marketing and distribution.

The blended whisky brands transferring to Distell include Scottish Leader – the leading blended Scotch in Taiwan and the largest brand in Burn Stewart’s portfolio – and Black Bottle, while the single malts include Deanston, Tobermory, Ledaig and of course Bunnahabhain.

The acquisition follows an equal partner venture established in 2007 between Distell and Burn Stewart in which the duo co-owned and marketed the Bunnahabhain, Black Bottle and Scottish Leader whiskies in sub-Saharan Africa.

Fraser Thornton, managing director of Burn Stewart, said: “The close working relationship with Distell over the fourteen years has amply demonstrated the South African group’s capacity, experience and expertise to strengthen and grow the company.

“We have developed solid synergies with a strong cultural fit between our two entities and are enthused by Distell’s plans to recapitalise and advance the business.”

The acquisition also follows that of the Bisquit Cognac brand from Pernod Ricard in 2009.

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