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Issue 4 - The great escape

Whisky Magazine Issue 4
June 1999

 

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The great escape

Grouse and the Gloags, part 2: Margaret Rand meets the current Matthew Gloag, who had escaped the corporate rat race and handcuffs to live in France and have a reverse career pattern

Talk to Matthew Gloag about his life and the phrase ‘stabilising influence' crops up several times. His wife, whom he married when he was just 23, was a stablising influence; having the same advertising agency for the brand for years and years was another. It struck me as quite telling: Gloag ‘went on the company payroll' at the age of 18 and his parents died, within four days of each other, when he was 22. He was forced to sell the family company but remained working for it as an employee; the responsibilities must have been considerable. So now that he has, as he puts it, ‘escaped the rat race and the handcuffs' and gone to live in France, one can only cheer. ‘I've had a reverse career pattern,' he says; ‘I'm having my year off now.'

Not that he wants to talk much about his life: he'd rather talk about brand building. This is not surprising, given that The Famous Grouse was so much part of his life that drunks would ring him at home after they'd had a skinful, or local pubs would ring him at home on Saturday morning saying they'd run out and would he deliver a case. He even had a death threat once, though it doesn't seem to have been anything personal. ‘Eventually we went ex-directory,' he says. But this is to skip many years. When he was growing up his name wasn't nearly so famous.

‘We weren't in the Dewars league or the Bells league,' he says. ‘We were mostly a wine company. We had the whisky because we'd always had it. After the war rationing didn't com...

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