Inside the Cask: Hi Alasdair, you have both worked in the drinks industry for many years and recently launched Turntable Blending House and a trio of limited edition Blended Scotch whiskies. However, how did it all start for you? Where did the interest in drinks, and more specifically on whisky come from?
Our Dad, Graham, has worked in the industry for over 30 years and whilst there was never any pressure on either of us to follow in his footsteps, I was fascinated from an early age.
There is so much collaboration and trade between companies that makes Scotch whisky a unique industry.
Although brands compete, in some ways there seemed to be a greater mission that was to grow the category and reputation of scotch whisky. The diversity of the drink itself is incredible and seeing this product of our small country being enjoyed all over the world is special.
Inside the Cask: Alasdair, you have worked for BenRiach and GlenAllachie Distilleries whilst your brother Gordon has also worked in the drinks industry. How have these work experiences helped you in creating Turntable Blending House?
Gordon’s background covers many different aspects of the business, and has seen him work with renowned distillers including Inver House and Douglas Laing & Co. covering a wide range of markets, from Northern Europe to the Middle East and North America. He has also participated in sensory and tasting panels and worked with a vast catalogue of whiskies, gaining an appreciation of aspects such as blending and production, NPD and consumer perception.
At Turntable, he will steer the operations side of the business, taking the lead on the sourcing and management of its whisky program, warehousing, bottling, and costing. Gordon has an acute understanding of the costs involved at each stage, and will ensure Turntable offers the best value possible to customers.
At both BenRiach Distillery Company and GlenAllachie, I was able to learn from legendary Master Blender Billy Walker. I came in as a wide-eyed youngster who loved whisky and was able to build a clear understanding of processes like stock management, wood policy, cask selection and blending.
Being part of GlenAllachie at the very beginning was an amazing experience – we were a small team getting our hands dirty, working across all departments to get the job done. At both these companies I spent a lot of time in European and Asian markets and built a strong network of contacts. This has all been helpful in starting Turntable. We’re looking to hit the ground running internationally.
Inside the Cask: You both recently launched Turntable Blending House, can you tell us more about it? What are your future plans for the business?
Gordon and I have been fortunate enough to travel the whisky world extensively over the last 10 years and have always been frustrated by the perception of blended whisky. There is a belief that blends are where volume lies and single malts are where quality lies. Why does that need to be the case? Blending opens endless opportunities for innovation and flavour development.
With Turntable, the idea is to create outstanding small batch blended whiskies with a focus on quality, innovation and transparency to flip the record on ordinary and change the perception. Our philosophy on blending and whisky creation can be summed up in two words – No Shortcuts.
Inside the Cask: Scotch whisky remains a large and popular drinks category globally. Any up and coming trends or brands to watch out for in the category? What can you tell us about the Scotch whisky market in the UK and globally?
It’s an incredible category. The growth of premium single malts in recent years has been quite something – and with that we’ve seen a number of new independent bottlers starting and new distilleries being built. Personally, I’m excited to see Inchdairnie evolve and grow, having just released their rye whisky.
Having worked with Billy for many years, I always have a close interest in GlenAllachie – the quality coming from that distillery is first class.
Some of the new world distilleries are also exciting – two favourites just now are Starward in Australia and Stauning in Denmark. It’s a great time for whisky and there’s much to be excited about. The passion people all around the world show for our national drink is fantastic.
Inside the Cask: Can you tell us more about your personal backgrounds? What else are you both passionate about?
We’re both passionate about music and loved the idea of exploring the connection between whisky and music – both have a rare ability to transport the drinker or listener to a different place and time.
Outside of whisky and music, we’re both pretty keen sportsmen. We share a lift to our game of 5s (five-a-side football) twice a week and always rig the teams to make sure we play against each other – we’re quite competitive so the car ride home can be fairly quiet.
Inside the Cask: What would be your advice for anyone else wanting to work in the drinks industry?
Take every opportunity you can and treat every day as an opportunity to learn – it never stops.
Inside the Cask: What surprised you most about working in the drinks industry?
The level of knowledge and passion that people around the world have for whisky.
Inside the Cask: What is the favourite part of your job? Anything that you would like to share that not many people would know about you?
The variety. There are areas we have experience in and where we feel confident, but there are lots of areas that we need to learn as we go (procurement, administration, bottling, shipping). We have been overwhelmed with how generous people are with their time and in sharing their expertise to help us along the way. There will always be some challenges and headaches, but we try to stay solution focused.
Beyond that, it is really special to actually see our products on the shelf and being enjoyed by people from all over. That feeling is hard to beat.