It was in 2017 that Gordon joined Glengoyne as International Brand Ambassador and since then, has globe-trotted his way over 50 countries hosting masterclasses, attending whisky festivals and not forgetting the many drams that he has shared and enjoyed along the way.
Find Gordon at your favourite whisky festival, on social media and more about him here.. in our interview:
WDF: Hi Gordon. Thanks very much for your time today. For those who don't know you ... Could you please tell us a bit more about yourself: Where do you come from – career background etc. And how did you end up working for Ian Macleod Distillers?
Gordon: Well I actually graduated as an engineer, due to not knowing my vocation in life. I worked for a few years being an engineer which I didn’t enjoy very much and then via a couple of other roles I started working for Whisky Magazine. Having been a fan of whisky, it was great to work for a magazine which gives you such an insight into the industry and the ability to meet such great people. I joined Morrison Bowmore Distillers in 2011 heading up their brands in Europe and laterally in Asia during 2014 when I lived in Taiwan. After the creation of Beam Suntory in 2014, I worked in travel retail across all of the unique products which the company had within this sector. In 2017 I left to join Ian Macleod Distillers and head up internationally their superb Whisky portfolio.
WDF: Without doubt... many out here would love to do your job. But what made you decide to move from running ad sales and involvement in Whisky Live for Whisky Mag to a brand ambassador role? Gordon: The main reason is that I really enjoy people and whisky. In this industry my role gives you an ability to educate, influence and empower and to do that with wonderful products for a family run Scottish business producing very high quality products. Yes of course gives you a great opportunity to travel, which I do enjoy and I love promoting Scotch around in the world.
WDF: Ian Macleod Distillers has built up an enviable portfolio of premium quality spirits and is a proud brand proprietor of Glengoyne, Tamdhu, Isle of Skye, Smokehead Scotch whiskies and Edinburgh Gin to name but a few. What makes these brands unique compared to the other brands in this very competitive market?
Gordon: These brands offer something different to the consumer because of the way that they are made due to the fact we are an independent family run business. We are not a volume producer of single malt, we are a smaller producer focused on quality and offering a great presentation. We know that if we speed up our distillation at Glengoyne we can produce more spirit, but we also know that the quality of the spirit will not be as high. This means less fruity flavours in the spirit which ultimately will produce a single malt which is of lesser quality. So we take time, buy the best possible casks and deliver for me some of the finest products available.
WDF: How do you manage all the brands when they are so different in terms of character? What characterises each brand for you?
Gordon: One of the best things is about our portfolio is the diversity with each whisky playing a different role. Smokehead is our single malt which is very anti- tradition whereas Tamdhu is playing a more connoisseur driven approach due to its style, limited volume and full Sherry cask maturation. Glengoyne offers a approachable alternative to mainstream single malt by delivering superb diversity and flavour throughout the range, all down to how it is made.
WDF: How different is the market for each brand?
Gordon: Our main markets are fairly similar for all of our whiskies, with the UK being very important of course along with Holland, Germany and France. The US of course is probably the market where you can brand build, but it is a very big difficult market due to its three tier system and even tougher with tariffs. Taiwan is a very important market for us and single malt generally along with of course China which in the long term offers great opportunities.
WDF: In the 15 years you have been in the industry what significant changes have you noticed?
Gordon: Generally, I think many more people understand whisky as there are many great individuals working hard to educate in that area. Also, there are some excellent whisky websites to visit and learn from, as well as others that are not so good. However, I think the most significant change is the widening appeal of whisky in general. Whether young or old, male or female who drink their whisky straight, with ice or in a cocktail, we are getting there with saying whisky is for everyone.
WDF: What do you think is going to be the next big thing on the whisky horizon?
Gordon: I think there’s plenty of exciting things and I think more innovation within whisky is inevitable. Plenty of new distilleries are looking for the USP which ultimately is only going to benefit the consumer. Personally I would like to see the rise of blended malts, a category which has been dominated by one product but I think there is so much scope to develop this category to a wider audience of whisky (single malt) and non-whisky drinkers. I think the world blended puts people off and may make people think inferior compared to single malt, but when we can create a blended malt which has the malt of six different islands in one bottle (Six Isles), that to me is an interesting proposition.
WDF: Ian Macleod Distillers unveiled a new whisky podcast called Whisky Unscripted to both entertain and educate listeners on the whisky industry. Can you tell us a bit about this and what sort of guests you invite to the show?
Gordon: During lockdown we decided that we wanted to give some people some interesting content and Whisky Unscripted was born. It’s attempting to be informative but humorous in a tone that is light. We’ve already talked extensively about world whiskies, Irish and American, punctuated by challenges and games. My favourite episode was when we had our assistant blender Emma Newton on the show. She explained all the inner workings of the world of blending. Very insightful. The feedback has been great so we hope you all enjoy it, Gordon Dallas and myself certainly enjoy making it.
WDF: How did the global pandemic Covid19 affect your job and what did change?
Gordon: The biggest challenge is how it’s made us work in a slightly different way with our distributors and partners are in the world and how we interact with our consumers. Much of this will actually continue as we go forward but there will still be a need to travel internationally as whisky is a truly international sector and very much a social and people driven product.
WDF: How do you (and the team) see the future for Ian Macleod Distillers? Is there any project in the pipeline? A special project we would like to know about?
Gordon: Our main focus on the whisky side going forward is Rosebank. This is a major project and crucially important to get it right. We have a lot of talent in the business that can deliver this wonderful distillery and produce a superb single malt that represents this legendary name.
WDF: As you might know... WeeDramFife will be hosting different sorts of whisky experiences once the lockdown is over. Could you see Ian Macleod Distillers taking part in special multi-sensory events in Germany and also releasing a special bottling for the German market?
Gordon: We are always looking interesting ways of getting to our consumers and with our distributors in Germany we will consider all of these options. I really like the idea.
WDF: Last but not least ... What is your all time favourite dram (...one from Ian Macleod Distillers of course)?
Gordon: I don’t honestly think I have an all time favourite dram. For me it’s a combination of the people, the place and the timing that makes a dram memorable.
WDF: Thanks very much Gordon.