Whisky Magazine Issue 129
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Sorely missed but never forgotten
With the death of Turnbull Hutton at 68, Scotch whisky lost one of its fiercest advocates. Turnbull wasn't a distiller, a brand ambassador, or a high-profile blender but he was, for a considerable period, the most important man in the business.
I had heard of him by repute – a man who didn't exactly care for the ‘parasites' of the press – but I knew that I had to meet him. After some negotiations, I was ushered into his office at Carsebridge. He looked up, grunted, and asked me what I wanted. I, slightly nervously, asked him what precisely his job entailed. He sighed. Sat back. “Well... the numpties in sales and marketing tell me how much whisky they think they'll sell – which I know they won't. The guys at the distilleries tell me how much they can make. I'm the man in the middle trying to sort the whole mess out.” His creative use of the demotic was legendary.
At that point he was one of Diageo's three Scottish MDs, his responsibility being distillation and spirit supply. In other words, nothing was made or moved without his say so. It wasn't only the Diageo estate which he controlled, but its relationships with all other distillers. He ensured that Scotch whisky flowed – and kept flowing.
“If someone could lay claim to being the grandfather of the modern Scotch industry it was probably him,” says Jonathan Driver, who worked for Turnbull during his time heading up Diageo's malts team. “He worked in the tough times of the 70s, 80s and 90s. Keeping...