The whisky industry has been a part of my life since birth, as my father worked as managing director of Chivas Brothers (Seagram’s whisky business) and was then with Pernod Ricard.
I actually started my working life with BP in its international division, but my heart was always in the spirits business and in 1995, my father and I set up Isle of Arran Distillers. This was the first new independent distillery in decades and, at the time, many people thought we were mad. Single malt whisky was only just beginning to grow in popularity and it was much more difficult to spread the word as the internet was in its infancy – if you weren’t on a retail shelf, or featured in the press, no-one would know about you. But recognition of the brand did grow well and now the Arran Malt is well established.
My present venture is The Lakes Distillery, which we officially opened to the public in December 2014, following a vast building renovation project.
The world of malt whisky and spirits generally is very different now, when consumers are actively seeking new brands and experiences, and
interest in craft distillers is growing. The big brands still have their place, but most growth is at the premium end, particularly with brands that have a true provenance – how they are made, where they are made, who makes them, and so on. Being in The Lakes, with ideal water and the highest quality plant and expertise to make our spirits, we are well set to grow in this market. Our blended whisky The ONE, The Lakes Gin and The Lakes Vodka are multi-award winners and are sold in the UK, other European markets and Asia. The Lakes Single Malt started production at the end of 2014 and is presently maturing.
The internet has made a huge difference in our ability to market our products. We now have access to communicate globally with spirits lovers and to build a community of those interested in our products.
Digital media will be the main driver for us into the future as it will offer even more effective ways to communicate with our customers. Consumers are thirsty for knowledge and in the future we will be able to give them all the knowledge they require – particularly with increased use of video.
There will also be even more consumer interest in enjoying new experiences, including product or sensory experiences. We will develop more new innovative products for all of our spirits – as a smaller, artisan-style distillery, we are well placed to move quickly, so can develop and launch new products much quicker than the big brands. Exciting times ahead!
1986 Started work with BP’s international division – mainly in Eastern Europe, including Poland and Russia
1995 Set up Isle of Arran Distillers with my father – worked as managing director
1997 Official visit to Arran Distillery by HM The Queen
2003 Started consultancy business in spirits industry, mainly working with partners in Asia
2010 Started work on setting up The Lakes Distillery
2014 The Lakes Distillery opened
2015 Distillery officially opened by HRH The Princess Royal
The Lakes Distillery produces The ONE whisky, The Lakes Vodka and The Lakes Gin –
its site, next to Bassenthwaite Lake, includes a shop, bistro and bar