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Issue 4 - Learning to fly

Whisky Magazine Issue 4
June 1999

 

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Learning to fly

Grouse and the Gloags, part 1: Charles Maclean tells the history of a bird, a brand and a dynasty. For a profile of a thoroughly modern Matthew Gloag, see page 46.

My great-great-great-grandfather, Matthew Gloag the First, went into the wines and spirits trade in the early 1800s. Actually, he wasn't the first at all, since he had been named after his grandfather – and there were several other Matthews before that. But we call him the First because he was the founder of the business'.

I was talking to Matthew Gloag the Fifth across a dinner table in a grand house in Perthshire. The occasion then was the migration of the Gloags from their home county of Perth to the neighbouring county of Angus. An historical occasion, for the Gloags have been in Perthshire since time immemorial. However, in March last year an even more momentous move was made by the Gloag family: this time to Bordeaux, where, as we shall see, Matthew's forbears learned their trade.

The founder of the whisky dynasty, Matthew I, was the son of a carrier (in modern parlance a haulier), who became a butler in the house of the sheriff clerk of Perth – an important lawyer. At the age of 20 he married the sheriff's housekeeper and moved into an apartment above a licensed grocer's shop at 22 Atholl Street, Perth. When the tenancy of the shop below fell vacant, Matthew and Margaret took over both it and the license.

Perth is at the very centre of Scotland. Just as Byron could write, 'See Naples and die', so it is said that if ever you go to Perth, you will one day return to Scotland. The Highlands begin just north of the town, and the Lowlands lie to the south. It grew up...

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