Belfast Telegraph

Bushmills whiskey to sell a million cases in five years

By Nigel Tilson

Drinks giant Diageo has ambitious growth plans for Bushmills whiskey, it has emerged.

Diageo Ireland boss Michael Ioakimides said it has invested heavily in the famous Ulster tipple.

And he revealed the company expected to build sales of Bushmills, the drinks group's sole Irish whiskey brand, which it acquired from Pernod Ricard, to one million cases within five years.

Mr Ioakimides admitted it was an ambitious target given that the Co Antrim distillery, the oldest in the world, currently sells some 400,000 cases.

However, he noted capacity has more than doubled and stocks are currently being aged.

Irish whiskey as a category - led by Pernod's Jameson brand - is growing faster than scotch and Diageo is aiming to exploit that surge in popularity.

Legal distilling at Bushmills began in 1608 when the distillery was granted a licence by King James I.

In 1972 it became part of the Irish Distillers Group which was subsequently taken over by Pernod Ricard.

Diageo agreed to buy Bushmills for £200m from Pernod Ricard in the summer of 2005 as part of Pernod's takeover deal for Allied Domecq.

Details of Diageo's plans for Bushmills were revealed as Mr Ioakimides announced that the group's all-Ireland market sales were worth around £609m in the 12 months to the end of June. Total turnover across Ireland, including exports, was up to nearly £1.35bn.

Overall, London-based Diageo's leading spirits brands helped the Guinness maker to a strong full-year profits performance.

The maker of Johnnie Walker whisky and Smirnoff vodka said US spirits sales continued to outperform competitors and helped offset declining beer markets in the UK and Ireland.

Diageo's underlying operating profits for the year to June 30 were almost 9% ahead at £2.16bn, with similar profits growth expected in the current year.

While Guinness sales declined 3% in the UK, overall sales of the black stuff rose following stronger international sales and a marketing push.

Baileys, which is made at Mallusk and in Dublin, grew by a relatively modest 2% in the Irish market but achieved a 10% organic growth in global sales, driven by a 22% increase in North America and 21% gains in 'international' markets that cover Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean.

Meanwhile, the group, whose overall net sales were 7% ahead at £7.48bn, revealed that the impact of the stronger pound cut operating profits by £91m over the year.

Chief executive Paul Walsh said: "While we watch for any impact the current volatility in financial markets will have on broader trading, the investments we have made in brands and markets this year have created an even stronger platform for the future."

Belfast Telegraph