The family-owned business behind Glenfiddich and Grant’s is examining a £100m takeover of Drambuie, the liqueur reputed to be made from a recipe concocted by Bonnie Prince Charlie.
Sky News understands that William Grant & Sons is among an initial crop of bidders for Drambuie, which has been put up for sale by the MacKinnon family.
Other suitors for the brand include Remy-Cointreau, the French maker of Remy Martin cognac, according to insiders.
News of William Grant’s interest comes just weeks before the referendum on Scottish independence, and would facilitate the combination of some of the drinks industry’s most prestigious brands.
The Balvenie Single Malt and Hendrick’s Gin are also part of William Grant’s portfolio, and analysts say that Drambuie would fit well alongside its other brands.
Drambuie’s owners are reported to be seeking £100m for the business, a price that puts it within easy reach of all of the major spirits companies with a desire to acquire another heritage brand.
The sector has seen a further wave of consolidation this year, led by the Japanese group Suntory, which paid $16bn to buy Beam, the US-based maker of Jim Beam whisky in January.
Whyte & Mackay, another spirits group, was sold to Emperador, a Filipino brandy producer, for £430m in May, and other deals are said to be brewing.
Drambuie says its origins date back to July 1746, when Bonnie Prince Charlie was on the run following his defeat at the Battle of Culloden.
He was so impressed by the bravery of those who assisted him in his escape from the Isle of Skye that he gave John MacKinnon, the chief of one of the Clans, the secret recipe for his personal liqueur.
In the 1930s it became a popular drink in the US after the end of prohibition, and is now examining further international expansion.
William Grant is run by Stella David, a former executive at Bacardi, who took the helm in 2009.
A number of other major drinks groups, including Diageo and LVMH, are understood to have opted not to make offers for Drambuie, which is being auctioned by bankers at Rothschild.
A William Grant spokesman declined to comment
Source: Sky News