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Scottish distillery looks to history to boost spirits

China Daily | Updated: 2021-03-03 09:30
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The work goes on at the Glenturret Distillery in Crieff, Scotland, on Friday. [ANDY BUCHANAN/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE]

CRIEFF, United Kingdom-It has survived world wars, Prohibition and the Great Depression but this may very well be the toughest time yet for Scotland's oldest whisky maker.

The Glenturret Distillery, located on the banks of the River Turret 3.2 kilometers northwest of the town of Crieff, was established in 1763 and is a popular stop for whisky enthusiasts.

Apart from the rushing river and a distiller rolling oak barrels into a filling house, The Glenturret, which closed to visitors during the COVID-19 lockdown, is eerily quiet.

Travel restrictions that came with the pandemic have caused sales to fall at the distillery, in pubs and restaurants, and at airport duty-free shops.

But it is a 25 percent tariff imposed by the United States in October 2019 and a slowdown in exports to Europe after the end of the Brexit transition that is hitting profits the hardest.

"It has been a really tough period for us with COVID, US tariffs and Brexit as well," said the distillery's managing director, John Laurie.

"COVID in particular affects our tourism. Then the export markets have been impacted by Brexit and Scottish whisky tariffs in America have been really troublesome."

Laurie said the increased paperwork and export requirements after Britain's departure from the European single market on December 31 delayed shipments to the bloc.

The distillery warns customers on its website that shipments to the EU have been put on hold while it tries to get deliveries going again.

"We have great demand over in Europe and we have the will to try and supply them. So where there is a will there's a way, and we will find a way through this tough period," said Laurie.

The troubles faced by The Glenturret are shared across the industry.

The Scotch Whisky Association, or SWA, said global exports of Scotch in February fell by more than 1.1 billion pounds ($1.5 billion) to 3.8 billion pounds in 2020.

Exports to the EU fell by more than 15 percent to 1.25 billion pounds in 2020, it added.

The impact on sales after the post-Brexit transition are yet to be measured but are also expected to take a heavy knock.

The distillery, Laurie said, would draw on its history to make it through one of its most challenging periods.

"We've been through the Prohibition era in America, we've been through wars, we've been through many different situations in our global economy, and we still survived and came through," he said.

"We are an incredibly old and resilient industry and fortunately we have a product that people enjoy around the world, so although times have been incredibly difficult, we just know we're going to get through it."

Agencies via Xinhua

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