Whiskey exports bringing more into the economy than ever before

Scotch whiskey is as iconic as Loch Ness and good for a lot more money than the mythical monster could ever generate. In fact Scotch makes up about a quarter of all food and drink exports from the UK and generates about £135 every second, according to Richard Lochhead, Rural Affairs Secretary for Scotland. Not surprising, then, that the Clynelish distillery is about to increase its annual production to nine million litres, almost doubling its current output.

Diageo PLC, owner of Clynelish as well as numerous other distilleries in Scotland, will be investing around £30m in additional equipment, as well as a bio-energy plant to supply power for the operation. This is part of a planned 5-year, £1 billion expansion in which the company expects to double the capacity at their distilleries in Glen Ord and Teaninich and to build a brand new facility described as ‘major’.

Clynelish, Diageo’s northernmost facility deep in the Scottish Highlands, makes a premium single-malt whiskey sold under its own brand or mixed with other high-end products like Johnny Walker. By government regulation, in order to carry the name ‘Scotch’, the product must conform to strict standards, the first of which is “made in Scotland”.

About a year ago a man in western China was fined £50k and sentenced to four years in jail for selling liquor made in China but labeled as Scotch whiskey. This month the UK government launched a new verification scheme to better protect the makers and sellers of genuine Scotch whiskey. Mr. Lochhead declared that the industry has every right to take measures to stop those who try to “. . . exploit its good name for their own financial gain.”

Diageo’s Johnny Walker label is the best-selling brand of Scotch in the world, to the tune of 20 million cases (nine litres each) purchased in over 200 countries just in 2012. Scotch has become the tipple of choice for many discriminating (and relatively wealthy) drinkers. The U.S. is the biggest market, but France, Spain and now Venezuela and Singapore are not far behind in the consumption of Scotland’s most famous export.