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Issue 40 - Whisky's own grand national?

Whisky Magazine Issue 40
June 2004


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Whisky's own grand national?

Ian Bankier's dream is to give whisky lovers a national retail chain of their own. Gavin D Smith spoke to the former Burn Stewart boss

In February of this year Ian Bankier became the proud owner of the Whisky Shop, and the former Burn Stewart boss has ambitious plans for his retail chain.

Bankier was born in Glasgow and educated at Edinburgh University where he read law. He subsequently returned to his native city to practice, specialising in corporate law, and becoming a partner in the leading firm of McGrigor Donald.

“By 1992/93 I felt I'd gone as far as I thought I could go in that particular field,” he says, “and I went into industry. I started my own independent management company, and one of our clients was Burn Stewart Distillers. A couple of years later I was asked to become group managing director of Burn Stewart, and it seemed a good move, so I accepted.”

Burn Stewart owned Deanston distillery in Perthshire, along with Tobermory on the Isle of Mull, and Bankier describes his early days with the company as “a bit of a whiteknuckle ride.” Much of Burn Stewart's business was in the supply of whisky for supermarket ‘own-label' blends, a part of the industry bedevilled by low margins.

“Buying market share, selling whisky cheaply to the supermarkets, can be the road to ruin,”asserts Bankier. “You have to focus on what works and be brave. What worked in this case was to sell at a decent margin. We focused on quality brands, on our brand portfolio.”

Turning Burn Stewart around financially was largely due to Bankier's vision and commitment, and the future looked rosy when in Decem...

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