United Spirits Limited

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United Spirits Limited
Type Public company
Traded as BSE532432
Industry Alcoholic beverages
Predecessors McDowell and Company
Founded Fort St. George, Madras, Madras Presidency, British India (1826 (1826))
Founders Angus McDowell
Headquarters UB Tower, No. 24, Vittal Mallya Road, Bangalore, Karnataka, India
Area served Worldwide
Key people
  • Vijay Mallya (Chairman)
  • SR Gupte (Vice Chairman)
  • Ashok Capoor (President and MD)[1]
Parent United Breweries Group
Website unitedspirits.in

United Spirits Limited, abbreviated to USL, is an Indian alcoholic beverages company, and the world's second-largest spirits company in terms of volume.[2] It is a subsidiary of the United Breweries Group, and headquartered at UB Tower in Bangalore, Karnataka. USL exports its products to over 37 countries.[3]


United Spirits Ltd traces its origins to McDowell and Company (also known as McDowell & Co, McDowell or McDowell's), established as a trading firm in 1826, by a Scottish freebooter named Angus McDowell.[4] He set up a warehouse near Fort St. George, Madras (now Chennai), which was a major trading centre of the British Empire.[5] McDowell became the preferred purveyor of imported liquors and cigars for Indian Maharajas and British commandants.[6] McDowell's business revolved around importing consumer items including wines, spirits, cigars and tea to cater to the English population in India.[5] McDowell & Company Limited was incorporated as a company in 1898, with an initial capital of INR8 lakh (US$13,000) as 4,000 Preference shares and 4,000 Ordinary shares of INR100 (US$1.60) each. The company's principal shareholders were A.M. Hooper, G.D. Coleman and G.A. Ruppell.[5]

The Vittal Mallya-run United Breweries Group acquired McDowell and Company in 1951.[4] In 1959, Mallya established the company's first distillery at Cherthala, Kerala on the banks of the Vembanad lake. McDowell's began bottling Bisquit Brandy and Dorville French Brandy, from imported concentrates, becoming the first company to manufacture Indian substitutes of foreign liquor, giving rise to the term Indian Made Foreign Liquor (IMFL). The company commissioned India's first ever distillation plant to produce extra neutral alcohol (ENA), with French collaboration, at Cherthala in 1961. The plant began bottling Beehive French Brandy for Herbertsons Limited of the Anglo Thai Group, the same year. The Cherthala distillery launched Golden Grape Brandy, its first product, created in-house, in 1962. The distillery also began processing grapes from Kodaikanal's vineyards, to manufacture brandies, while also bottling imported Cinzano Vermouth Red, Dry and Bianco. McDowell's launched its own McDowell's No.1 Brandy in 1963–64, following the termination of the import contract for No.1 Bisquit Brandy. The brand created the template for the many "No. 1" brands that the company would launch later. Mallya acquired Carew & Co with distilleries in Rosa (Uttar Pradesh), Asansol (West Bengal) and Darsana (then East Bengal, now Bangladesh) in 1963-64. The Rosa plant was known for manufacturing India's only 10-year-old rum, Carew's Rum. Carew's other popular brands included Blue Riband Gin, Booth's Gin, Carew's Dry Gin, Carew's Imperial Whisky, Carew's Fine Brandy and Doctor's Brandy. Mallya also acquired Phipson & Co., Calcutta during the same period, giving McDowell a national presence in the spirits business.[5]

The company launched McDowell's No.1 whisky in 1968, which went on to become USL's flagship brand. McDowell's commissioned new distilleries in Hyderabad in 1968, Ponda (Goa) in 1971 and in Hathidah (Bihar) in 1973. Mallya acquired Herbertsons Limited in 1973. His son, Vijay Mallya, was inducted as Director in McDowell & Co., the same year. Herbertsons launched Bagpiper whisky the following year. Between 1977 and 1980, Vittal Mallya acquired distilleries in Udaipur, Alwar, Mirganj, Serampore, and also set up a plant in Pondicherry. Vittal Mallya died in 1983, and his son Vijay Mallya took over as Chairman of the UB Group and McDowell's in October that year. McDowell's shifted its headquarters from Madras to Bangalore, Karnataka in 1987. The company established a technical centre for product and process development research in Bangalore in 1989. McDowell's No.1 Rum was launched in Celebration (Dark) and Caribbean (White) variants in 1990. McDowell's acquired the spirits business and brand portfolio of Forbes Campbell & Company Limited, along with its manufacturing facility at Nashik. McDowell's formed United Distillers India Limited, India's first joint venture in the alcoholic beverages industry, with United Distillers p.l.c of the United Kingdom in 1991-92, and began bottling Black Dog 12 YO Deluxe Scotch, Black and White, VAT 69 and White Horse at the company's Nashik unit. McDowell's Signature whisky was launched in 1994. In 1995, Carew Phipson Limited, Consolidated Distilleries Ltd and a few other companies were merged into McDowell's.[5] The company was incorporated in as McDowell Sprits Ltd in 1999. The name was changed to McDowell & Company Ltd on 1 April 2000. McDowell Alcobev became a wholly owned subsidiary of McDowell & Company in 2002. The company also formed alliances with American, Australian and French companies for bulk wine import. In the same year, Phipson Distilley and McDowell International Brands Ltd became wholly owned subsidiaries, and the company acquired an 85% equity stake in Truimph Distilleries & Vinters Pvt Ltd, which subsequently became a subsidiary company. McDowell & Company acquired the Indian and Middle East businesses of Gilbeys from UDV through Triumph Distillers & Vintners in December 2002. McDowell launched Derby Special Whisky in the Andhra Pradesh market in 2003. Old Cask rum was launched in the Karnataka market in 2004.[7]

On 21 March 2005, McDowell & Company signed a deal with Jumbo World Holdings Limited (JWHL) in Dubai to acquire Shaw Wallace. The nearly INR13 billion (US$210 million) deal the UB Group up to 54.54% stake in Shaw Wallace.[8][9][9] The board of Shaw Wallace approved the merger of the company with USL and fixed the appointed date of the merger as 1 April 2008 subject to approvals.[10] USL retained Shaw Wallace's frontline whiskies such as Royal Challenge, Director's Special, Antiquity, Haywards and the white spirits brand, White Mischief.[11] In 2006, McDowell & Co Limited, Herbertsons Limited, Triumph Distillers and Vintners Private Limited, Baramati Grape Industries India Limited, Shaw Wallace Distilleries Limited and four other companies are merged to form United Spirits Limited. Bouvet Ladubay, subsidiary of France-based Taittinger was acquired, the same year.[5] The UB Group purchased Whyte & Mackay in May 2007 for £595 million in cash.[12] Following the takeover Whyte & Mackay, along with its other brands, were introduced in India, Dubai, Taiwan and New York.[6] USL also acquired Liquidity Inc., makers of Pinky vodka, in 2007. USL launched Black Dog 18 YO and Four Seasons Barrique Reserve in 2009-10, and McDowell's No 1 Platinum, 100% grain based whisky, in 2011.[5]

On 27 May 2013, Diageo acquired a 10% stake in United Spirits at a cost of INR20927196000 (US$340 million), through a preferential allotment of new shares in USL. It also acquired 0.44% (58,668 shares) in the tender offer for a INR 85,778,082.[13] On 4 July 2013, Diageo acquired an additional 14.98% stake in the company for INR31.35 billion (US$510 million) through its subsidiary Relay BV. Diageo acquired 21.77 million shares at a cost of INR1440 (US$24) per share in an off-market-deal from United Spirits' promoters, raising its total holding in the company to 25.02 per cent.[14][15] Following the acquisition, Diageo holds 36.3 million shares in USL, acquired at an aggregate cost of INR52358.5 million (US$860 million),[16] making it the largest shareholder.[17]

Under pressure from Diageo, some substantial changes to the management structure of the firm have begun to take place.[18]

Technical Center[edit]

The USL Technical Center was opened in 1989 in Bangalore, and is recognized by the Department of Scientific & Industrial Research (DSIR) as an in-house Research & Development (R&D) laboratory. It is headed by Binod K. Maitin. Major functions at the Technical Center are New Product Development (NPD), R&D, special spirits management, food flavour management, quality management and regulatory affairs. The center carries out work in fields like sensory sciences, analytical chemistry, microbiology, bio-technology and food technology, and utilizes instruments like gas chromatography (GC), high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) and spectrophotometers for sensitive and critical quality analysis.[19]


USL manufactures Scotch whisky, Indian whisky, brandy, rum, vodka, gin and wine.[20]

Distillery locations[edit]

USL owns several distilleries throughout India, and also owns one unit in Nepal. Besides these, USL also has several contract and associate distilleries in India, and one in Nepal.[22]


  1. ^ "About Us > Management". Unitedspirits.in. Retrieved 27 July 2013. 
  2. ^ M Padmakshan (25 January 2010). "USL’s now world’s No 2 spirit co, replaces Pernod". The Economic Times. ET Bureau. Retrieved 27 July 2013. 
  3. ^ "About Us > USL at a Glance". Unitedspirits.in. Retrieved 27 July 2013. 
  4. ^ a b "Diageo bottles Mallya genie". Telegraphindia.com. 10 November 2012. Retrieved 27 July 2013. 
  5. ^ a b c d e f g UB Group supplement with April 2011 issue. Ambrosia. April 2011. Retrieved 27 July 2013. 
  6. ^ a b "Vijay Mallya builds an Indian business empire". Marketing Week. 5 November 2008. Retrieved 27 July 2013. 
  7. ^ United Spirits Ltd Background details about Company Profile. Indiainfoline.com. Retrieved on 23 December 2013.
  8. ^ "Mallya bottles Shaw Wallace". The Telegraph. 22 March 2005. Retrieved 9 June 2013. 
  9. ^ a b "Shaw Wallace braces for final battle". The Telegraph. 25 April 2008. Retrieved 9 June 2013. 
  10. ^ "Shaw Wallace board okays merger with USL". The Hindu. 30 November 2007. Retrieved 9 June 2013. 
  11. ^ "Radico, Mason, BDA in fray for part of SWC liquor biz ICICI Bank talking to suitors". Business Line. 31 May 2005. Retrieved 9 June 2013. 
  12. ^ "Whisky giant sold to billionaire". BBC News. 16 May 2007. Retrieved 27 July 2013. 
  13. ^ "Diageo increases stake in United Spirits". Stock Market Wire. 4 July 2013. Retrieved 27 July 2013. 
  14. ^ "United Spirits hits record high on change of guard". Business Standard. 5 July 2013. Retrieved 27 July 2013. 
  15. ^ "Diageo winds up with 25 pct stake in United Spirits". Reuters. 4 July 2013. Retrieved 27 July 2013. 
  16. ^ "Diageo ends with 25% in United Spirits". Telegraphindia.com. 5 July 2013. Retrieved 27 July 2013. 
  17. ^ "Diageo completes stake acquisition in United Spirits". Big News Network. 4 July 2013. Retrieved 27 July 2013. 
  18. ^ Kurian, B., and Dhamija, A., Mallya rejigs executive payrolls as Diageo tightens leash, Times of India, 13 August 2013.
  19. ^ "About us > Technical Center". United Spirits Limited. Retrieved 27 July 2013. 
  20. ^ "Brands". United Spirits Limited. Retrieved 27 July 2013. 
  21. ^ Ub Global. Ub Global. Retrieved on 23 December 2013.
  22. ^ "About Us > Distilleries". Unitedspirits.in. Retrieved 27 July 2013. 

External links[edit]