Another in our occasional series of Tweet-style interviews. As always, it’s 140 characters or less (we don’t count the spaces) in the answers. Ewen Mackintosh is the new managing director (CEO) of Gordon & MacPhail, the renowned independent whisky bottler based in Elgin on Speyside and owned by the Urquhart family. Ewen will be the first non-Urquhart for four generations to be running the company.
What’s the view from your office window?
Today: beautiful blue skies and Boroughbriggs Football Stadium – home to Elgin City FC.
No need to buy match tickets then. What’s it like living on Speyside?
It’s a great part of Scotland – sandy beaches in one direction, mountains in the other and peppered with golf courses and distilleries.
Paradise for many. You’re going from Chief Operating Officer to Managing Director. Please explain the differences, task-wise.
No, I remain as COO for the business. However I do take on more Executive responsibilities, such as Export Trade.
Nervous, no. Excited, yes. However, it will be business as usual, no point changing a winning formula.
True! Sounds like a nice place to work. You went there straight from university. Was whisky already in the blood and what rôle did you start in?
Niblick Bar in St Andrews must take some credit for introducing me to malts as a student.Actually started with G&M as a student during summer holidays.
But first post-university role?
First permanent role was implementing Quality Management Systems.
And on from there, obviously. G&M sales/turnover/profits all well up this last year. Some of the big guys seeing some brand/country downturns. What’s your secret?
We have products to suit all wallets/purses — from our entry level 8YO malts, up to the 70YO, and of course Benromach continues to grow.
Malts are so popular so is it easier or harder to get casks fillings from other producers these days for your own bottlings? Or just more expensive?
We have good, long standing relationships. Filling our own casks ensures highest quality. Important to us that we complement official bottlings, not compete.
You’ve done that well for a long time. You must be thrilled with the success of Benromach. How was that achieved?
Our desire was to re-create a traditional Speyside style from the 1950s and 1960s — this character has proved very popular.
Indeed it has. 100º Proof is new. Organic, Peat Smoke, Heritage and more. Are you allowed to tell us what’s next?
We’re still catching our breath after introducing all the new packaging, however there are some wood finishes on the horizon.
On the G&M side: Connoisseur’s Choice, Generations etc. — about a dozen ranges. How do you choose what stock goes where?
A very good question and one difficult to explain in Twitter length! For example, some labels are historical…
Maybefor a longer interview another time but please go on…
Certain labels are agreed with particular distillers, others are for styles (cask strength and wood finishes). Generations is right at the top for the oldest.
I hear you like sport. Care to elaborate? Player or spectator?
Much more enjoyment playing than watching. Unfortunately my rugby days are behind me and so golf is the passion.
More of a spectator myself. Told other interests are travel, food & drink and socialising. Does that mean you’re a party animal?
No — definitely quality not quantity. Enjoy visiting new places, trying new things. Inevitably when people find you’re in the whisky business, socialising follows!
Certain things work for me, cheese and chocolate pair well with whisky. It’s all about personal tastes, I never see whisky replacing wine at the dinner table.
Nor I, despite my whisky industry background. Still like it though. Travel — most of it for the job? When travelling — books or music?
For holidays, definitely a book. For work travel, mainly music. Unfortunately the emails never stop, so these generally replace the book.
Sounds familiar! Future ambitions for the company?
Benromach – keep telling our story, introduce new people to it. G&M – many “independent bottlers” out there. Want to ensure people understand what makes us different.
Unfulfilled ambitions for yourself — what’s on the bucket list?
Personally, the list is quite long, however right at the top is getting my golf handicap down to single figures.
All sounds achievable. Nothing scary there!
Lastly, what’s your desert island dram? Doesn’t have to be one of your own…
The golf handicap is quite scary! I’ll take my golf clubs and a few bottles of Linkwood with me to the desert island.