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Edrington challenges Islay malts

Published:  23 July, 2008

SCOTLAND: The privately-owned Scotch whisky group has launched a new Islay malt blend to attract a new breed of whisky drinkers.

The new version of its iconic Famous Grouse, launched in Sweden in April, will be rolled out to other markets including Norway and Benelux shortly

It is still unclear whether the new Black Grouse brand - delivering an Islay flavour at a cheaper price - will be launched in the UK. The markets are yet to be finalised, the company said.

However, the company has denied reports that it is repositioning its Famous Grouse brand, saying it is "simply a new launch".

The move comes just months after the group cancelled its 17-year sponsorship deal with the Scottish Rugby Union, leading to speculation that a repositioning was on the cards.

Famous Grouse director Gerry O'Donnell said: "We're aiming to bring more innovation to the marketplace through expanding the Grouse portfolio.

"Black Grouse was designed primarily for the Nordic market, where we were quick to spot there was a group of consumers who were a little bit younger than the usual Scotch consumers, and who were interested in a fuller-flavoured delivery of Scotch whisky.

"The traditional Islay malt whiskies are probably out of reach in terms of price. Black Grouse delivers an Islay flavour in a format most consumers can afford, as well as carrying the benchmark of Famous Grouse."

Famous Grouse is the top-selling blended whisky in Scotland and number two in the UK behind Diageo's Bell's brand. Last year, it saw volume sales rise 5% and is now selling more than three million cases for the first time.

But the success of its range extensions - such as the blended malt that was introduced into Taiwan and is now the number one bestseller - has encouraged Edrington to extend the range.

Edrington, which employs around 800 staff, is one of Scotland's largest private companies. The company puts itself at number four in size terms in the global Scotch whisky market, with a 9% share.