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Issue 26 - The quiet men

Whisky Magazine Issue 26
October 2002

 

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The quiet men

Dave Broom talks to Davied Stewart, the unassuming yet innovative force shaping the William Grant's portfolio, and long-term colleague, Whisky Records controller Eric Robertson

Glasgow in the early ‘60s. An industrial city, its buildings soiled by the grime from the chimneys, a city with starlings blackening its skies every dusk, a place where ships still crowded the Clyde, unloading cargoes, taking on passengers, being built. A city of slums and genteel suburbs, of parks and poverty. Glasgow Cross was a no-go zone of warehouses and pubs with no windows and tables bolted to the floor. It was a whisky city. It flowed in the howffs, sailed down the river. Whisky firms took up great blocks throughout the city centre. DCL dominated the bonds on Clydeside, Teacher's still had its head office next to the grand sweep of Saint Enoch station. It's where, in September 1962, David Stewart
started work for William Grant as a whisky stocks clerk.

No computers, no calculators. “Everything was still being written into old ledgers lying on sloping desks,” he recalls. “I must have looked like Bob Cratchit. I didn't have a quill right enough, but it wasn't far off.” He'd joined a small family firm with a good reputation and a few big ideas. There was one blend, Standfast, and a novelty item called Glenfiddich single malt. The man in charge of them – we'd call him a Master Blender these days – happened to share the same office as David. “We had no sample room, just a table and a cupboard with bottles in it. We had to go to the sink in the toilet to rinse out the glasses.” He looks round his airy room at the top of Grant's purpose-built offices in St...

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