Premium booze player Halewood Artisanal Spirits has seen a sharp reversal of its previously strong growth.

In the year to 26 June 2021, the distiller’s sales fell back 1% to £397m, as it suffered the impact of lockdowns and shedding lower-margin brands. It had previously posted annual growth of 20% amid soaring retail sales.

Halewood attributed the slowdown to the ongoing effects of Covid restrictions – which hammered on-trade and global travel retail sales – as well as “consumer uncertainty”.

Additionally, a spokeswoman said the group was “continuing to reduce our exposure to high volume, low margin brands as part of our ongoing strategy to focus on our range of premium artisanal spirits”.

Core brands remained “resilient” with Russian vodka and spiced rum seeing “significant growth”, Halewood said.

Since year end, there has been a slow return to growth in the on-trade with the relaxation of Covid restrictions and growing consumer confidence, it added. Halewood reported exports and travel retail were also rebounding.

“We continue to see the opportunities in these markets, and are investing in growing our export teams and taking on new distribution partners,” the spokeswoman said.

The group continues to grow its range, having launched Aber Falls Single Malt Whisky – the first single malt to be produced in North Wales for over 100 years – at the end of 2021 and securing national retail listings.

Adjusted EBITDA for the year fell back to £17.7m from £21.7m as it incurred almost £12m of Covid restructuring costs, but gained £25.4m from the sale of assets and brands.

These one off gains from asset sales moved the group to a pre-tax profit of £18.9m from the year from £1.3m in the previous period.

Family-owned Halewood distributes across 75 countries, with distilleries in the UK, Russia, Australia and South Africa and brands including Whitley Neill, Dead Man’s Fingers and Crabbie Whisky.