Scotch Malt Whisky Society owner on track for £30m goal after spirited 2022 performance

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Scotch Malt Whisky Society owner Artisanal Spirits Company is on track to meet its 2024 sales target of £30 million after toasting double-digit revenue and membership growth.

Reporting results for the year to the end of December 2022, the Edinburgh-based group said it had delivered another year of “significant progress” during which its strategic plan had continued to be executed and the objectives outlined at the time of its stock market listing in 2021 to achieve long-term sustainable growth continued to be met. Revenue jumped 19 per cent last year to £21.8m, ahead of expectations and with significant growth in China and UK venues and strong membership growth in Europe, Australia, the US and Japan.

Adjusted underlying earnings were in positive territory at around £400,000, compared with losses of £600,000 in 2021, while the loss before tax was reduced to £2.1m from £2.7m previously. Bosses hailed some £5.5m of further investment in both cask spirit and wood, taking the total number of casks to 16,500, up from 15,300 in 2021, as well as completion of a new state-of-the-art, supply chain facility at Masterton Bond in Lanarkshire, recently officially opened and marking an investment of £2.5m. The firm noted that its current whisky stocks were sufficient to satisfy demand through to 2028 and beyond.

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Artisanal Spirits Company (ASC) owns the Scotch Malt Whisky Society (SMWS), which was established in 1983, and has grown to encompass thousands of members worldwide. The society provides members with exclusive access to a vast range of single cask Scotch malt whiskies and other craft spirits. SMWS membership increased by 12 per cent last year to over 37,400. This included “robust” growth in European members since the launch of the new EU route to market towards the end of 2021. The latest results also revealed that lifetime value per member rose to £1,457 from £1,445.

Regarding current trading, the group noted that revenue in the first quarter of 2023 was broadly flat year on year, compared with the “exceptional” growth experienced in the same period last year. It pointed to year-to-date growth in the UK and the EU, offset by a Covid-impacted performance in China in the early part of the year, with signs of recovery in the Asian powerhouse now emerging.

Recently appointed chief executive Andrew Dane said: “The underlying principle of the appreciation of the whisky cask is as strong as ever. We already own all the stock we can sell for the next five years and most of what we can sell for the next ten years so we are in a really strong position. We have a pioneering model, a long-term global growth opportunity on which we are primed to deliver. The new financial year has begun well. We remain on track to meet our 2024 revenue target of £30m and deliver significant progress on our path to sustained profitability.”

He added that the company was in lock-step with the Scotch Whisky Association over a Scottish Government consultation to curb alcohol advertising and promotion and “shared their concerns”. In January, ASC announced that David Ridley was stepping down as managing director after six years in the role with Dane, formerly finance director, becoming chief executive.

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