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Scotch Industry Resilient in Tough Economic Times

Friday, 16 Mar 2012 | 10:20 AM ET

During its 125th anniversary auction, Glenfiddich set a world record for the most expensive bottle of single malt whisky ever sold at auction; the 55-year-old Glenfiddich sold for $94,000.

Glass of Whiskey
Jonnie Miles | Getty Images
Glass of Whiskey

Sales of single malt scotch are up 12 percent in the U.S. this year, while growing at an even faster rate in parts of Asia.

Glenfiddich is currently the number one single malt worldwide.

“Consumers are looking for that real value. Where is that authenticity? Where is the story behind the brand?” Simon Hunt, president for North America at William Grant & Sons, which owns the Glenfiddich distillery, told CNBC.

“We have the story. We have the history. We’ve been in business for 125 years. We’re still a family company, we’re privately held, and as such it really allows us to deliver what those consumers are looking for," he said.

As spirits continue to soar on Asia demand, Hunt believes that Glenfiddich’s authenticity is the key to driving sales.

“It comes down to the quality of the products we’re talking about and the exclusivity that we can bring to the category. Certainly it is a very competitive market, but when it comes down to it, it’s really the consumer understanding the quality of what is in the bottle,” Hunt said. “That’s where our award-winning status of being number one worldwide really does help us.”

Hunt said there was clear demand for value within the luxury segment despite economic hardship in developed markets.

“Given the volatility in the markets, you would probably expect to see people pulling back on what is a more expensive purchase decision, but even in the mature markets we’re seeing a good fore fight to percent growth and within that we’re seeing [...] value growth.”

Hunt also looks to emerging markets for sector growth. “In the emerging markets, where the category is less developed, certainly in some of the markets in Latin America and in Asia, you are starting to see people experience with different finishes and different age statements.”

Hunt explained that the sheer size and reach of Glenfiddich make it well positioned to meet the growing global demand for single malt scotch.

In preparation for St. Patrick's Day weekend, Hunt predicted that William Grant & Son’s Tullamore Dew, the number two Irish whisky in the world, will be in high demand. Americans are expected to spend over $4.3 billion this St. Patrick’s Day. The luxury goods sector will certainly benefit from the festivities.

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