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Issue 11 - The battle for independence

Whisky Magazine Issue 11
September 2000

 

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The battle for independence

Tom Bruce Gardyne profiles Muray McDavid, the enfant terrible of independent bottlers.

“Independent bottlers have had to exist on the fringes of the industry ... [and are seen as] scavengers, dodgy, unscrupulous and a pain in the arse."

So says Murray McDavid on its refreshingly irreverent website. And after a long, lazy lunch in Glasgow with Gordon Wright, director and co-founder of the company, it is a role they clearly relish – that of being an enfant terrible, there to shake things up in an industry that often appears too stuffy and corporate for its own good. That said, the long-running dispute with Laphroaig, more of which anon, has been a source of much mirth to many in the business, if not to those in the boardroom of Allied Domecq.

Being part of the Mitchell dynasty of Campbeltown, the family that set up Springbank in 1828, whisky is clearly in Gordon's blood.

"My great grandfather married one of the seven Mitchell daughters in the 1800s," he says proudly. Springbank managed to survive the great boom and bust of whiskyopolis in the early 1920s, which saw 19 of the 22 distilleries collapse in just three years. And such was the dire reputation of Campbeltown at the time, Springbank had to be promoted as a West Highland whisky within
the trade.

"Apart from receiving a bottle of whisky at Christmas I wasn't really aware that the family owned a distillery; I remember first going there with my father aged 10 or 11 but I wasn't aware of our family's involvement in the business," says Gordon who was brought up on the other side of Scotland in Kinros...

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