Scotch Malt Whisky Society owner reveals surprise change at top and cheers double-digit growth

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Scotch Malt Whisky Society owner Artisanal Spirits Company has unveiled a surprise change of leadership after toasting double-digit growth.

The Edinburgh-based group, which listed on the London Stock Exchange in 2021, said David Ridley was stepping down as managing director after six years in the role. Finance director Andrew Dane has been appointed as chief executive with immediate effect. Billy McCarter, formerly group financial controller, has been appointed as interim finance director and the board has initiated a search process, comprising both internal and external candidates, to identify a long-term chief financial officer.

Ridley will remain available to support the group until July in order to assist with an “orderly transition, as required”. He said: “I have thoroughly enjoyed my time with ASC and am proud of the group’s success to date. There is demonstrable momentum in the business and following another year of strong growth, I feel the time is now right for me to seek a fresh challenge and hand over the reins for the next phase of ASC’s development.”

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Chairman Mark Hunter said: “I would like to take this opportunity on behalf of the board to thank David for his leadership and significant contribution at the helm of ASC over the last six years. He has presided over impressive levels of consistent growth during his tenure and he leaves ASC in excellent shape. ASC is fortunate to have a strong and able successor in Andrew Dane and the board has confidence in his readiness and capability as CEO.”

News of the change at the top came as the group said revenue for 2022 was expected to be about 20 per cent up on the previous year’s figure of £18.2 million. Global membership grew by approximately 12 per cent with some 37,000 members at the year-end. In its full-year trading update, the firm also noted that retention remained broadly consistent with the prior year level of 77 per cent, “demonstrating the loyal nature of the membership base”.

Masterton Bond, the group’s new supply chain facility near Glasgow, became operational on time and to budget in the final quarter of last year. The facility is said to have had an “encouraging start” and has commenced bottling operations with about 20,000 bottles produced, hundreds of casks delivered and first pallets dispatched from site prior to the year end. It is anticipated that, once fully operational, this facility will improve operating margins by some 2 per cent.

Hunter added: “With whisky stocks to satisfy demand into the next decade already acquired and investment-driven cash burn having already peaked as we pivot towards sustained profitability, we are well positioned to continue expanding our business, benefit from the growing appreciation globally of small batch whisky and the key underlying trends of convenience, premiumisation and digitalisation which are set to continue to drive consumer behaviour.”

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ASC owns the Scotch Malt Whisky Society, 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.

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