AUGUST 2014 – Earlier in the month the world’s most lauded Scotch whisky brand, Glenfiddich, opened the stopper on what’s sure to be another grand decanter of liquid gold, Glenfiddich Excellence 26 Year Old.
This latest expression represents a first for the family-owned distillery, who have never released a 26 year-old before. This rare single malt Scotch whisky, that has spent 26 long years carefully maturing in American Oak ex-bourbon casks, was created to honour the distillery’s unbroken line of continuous family ownership since William Grant founded it in 1886.
Opulent Living had the rare opportunity to meet the company’s Global Brand Ambassador, Ian Millar, who was on hand to introduce the latest addition to their illustrious library of multi-award winning Scotch whiskeys and elaborate on the company’s rich and long lasting history.
“The distillery was founded in 1886 by William Grant in Dufftown, Scotland, in the glen of the River Fiddich, so it’s been around for a while. But the real rise came in ‘60s when William Grant’s great-grandsons, Charles and Sandy Grant Gordon, took over. They were the ones that took the decision to release a single-malt as a product,” Millar recounted about the groups early beginnings.
Prior to that, the single malt was an unknown product and it was that decisions that created a turning point for the company. As Millar elaborates, “Single malt really catapulted the company into a level they hadn’t seen before and one they haven’t left since“.
The brothers were also responsible for signing the international distribution deals for the drink, believed to be the first deal of its kind for a whiskey, building a granary near the distillery and innovating their signature triangular bottle.
“Glenfiddich’s success is a direct effect of the company having remained in family hands since the beginning. Whisky is a product of time and maturity; and when you have a single hand on the tiller, steering the course for so long, how can you go wrong?” said Millar when asked about the groups long lasting success.
And he should know. Millar is more than just a PR spin doctor; he’s been with the famed distillery since 1998, so he has first-hand experience of their legacy in action. But his knowledge extends beyond just being a glorified taste master.
Millar has been at the coal face, so to speak, of whiskey making for 40 years. Before coming to Glenfiddich, he was a Distillery Manager at the Bladnoch, Mortlach, Blair Athol, Dalwhinnie, Linkwood and Glen Elgin Distilleries. When he speaks about the process of making a fine whiskey, he speaks with authority. His enthralling Scottish burr doesn’t hurt that perception either.
“When I started out with Glenfiddich, I lived in a house that was right next door to the distillery. I used to start before sunrise and end after sunset,” he recounts before mirthfully adding, “Funnily, I see my wife more now as the traveling [Global] Brand Manager, than when I was next door.”
Keeping in line with company’s conscientiousness over the product they make, Millar is quick to point out that the brands status as number one means little to them. “Our focus isn’t on volume, it’s on value. We’re quite happy for someone to come and take the Number One,” said Millar. “Again it comes down being family owned. Our competitions biggest concern is pleasing their shareholders. We please our customers.
“And we don’t think short term, because our structure means we can take the long view.”
Taken from that angle, their dominant position isn’t all that surprising.
With our time drawing to a close, we asked Millar one final question, what is luxury to you?
“Luxury for me, is that thing you can only achieve once or twice in your life. And the things you appreciate.”