First Drinks rebrands as William Grant & Sons UK

11 July, 2014

First Drinks has been renamed William Grant & Sons UK in a bid to reflect “the rich heritage of William Grant as one of the world’s finest distillers”.

The company has been wholly owned by William Grant since 2006, distributing the family’s brands along with third-party brands such as Piper-Heidsieck.

Managing director Chris Mason said: “Becoming William Grant & Sons UK will allow us to benefit from the international footprint of our group, with its fine reputation as innovators and builders of premium, international brands.”

Last year the company ended its distribution agreement with Remy Cointreau, leaving a series of potential gaps in its portfolio.

Mason said: “We consistently appraise the portfolio and we are talking to a number of people because we are free in a number of areas. There are a number of options for us to consider but we want to optimise our existing brands too.”

The firm’s six core brands – Glenfiddich, Grant’s, Balvenie, Hendricks, Sailor Jerry and Tullamore Dew – are all performing strongly in the UK, according to Mason, while they are complemented by emerging brands such as Reyka, Monkey Shoulder, Three Barrels and Girvan Patent Still.

Stella David, chief executive of William Grant, previously told OLN that the firm’s ethos is to nurture such brands for years before they become global powerhouses, and Mason backed this up but also pointed to specific areas they are looking to strengthen in.

“Cognac could be an opportunity should the right partner come along,” he said. “Within the former Remy portfolio there was a premium rum brand – there could be an alternative to that for us. Rum, cognac and vodka are the areas.”

The renamed company will have "more footsoldiers on the ground" and includes a new prestige team. 

Mason dismissed claims that rebranding from First Drinks to William Grant & Sons UK could hamper the firm’s chances of recruiting third-party brands to distribute in the UK as people would perceive it to be more focused on its own brands now.

He said: “Our existing partners are absolutely delighted. They believe it shows we have an international footprint, a track record.

“I am very proud of what First Drinks has achieved over the last 14 years but First Drinks is not as well-known as William Grant.”

Mason’s boss Simon Hunt, chief commercial officer at William Grant, outlined the company’s commitment to the UK market.

“The role of the UK in our business and the role of the UK in the industry is really important,” he said. “The world is looking to London for leadership.

“The UK is a significant part of our global business and we are delighted with the renamed company.

“The opportunity to really appeal to high net worth individuals in London has never been stronger. There are more billionaires here than New York and Moscow.

“Trends are being led out of the UK, and particularly London, and we believe the UK is such an important market for us.”

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