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Issue 94 - Living on his Own Terms

Whisky Magazine Issue 94
March 2011


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Living on his Own Terms

Dave Broom meets Indian drinks king Dr. Vijay Mallya

You can more or less anticipate what you are going to get when granted an audience with Dr. Vijay Mallya. Not an interview note – billionaires don't do those. You may be allowed to ask some questions, but it is clear from the manner in which the responses are phrased, by the long sentences, the lengthy expositions and flashes of testiness that this is a man to whom people listen. Silently.

The first time I came across him was at one of the World Whiskies Conferences in Glasgow where he shared a stage with Diageo's CEO, Paul Walsh, and gave a bravura turn which touched on Ghandi, and the legacy of colonialism and left everyone in the room in no doubt of the coded message contained within the peroration: if you want to do business in India you come through me.

As Mallya talked, Walsh fidgeted in his chair. A few months later, Diageo was in talks with Mallya.

He is tired, that much is clear. Who wouldn't be after coming straight off a flight from New Zealand into a day of boardroom meetings? Jetlag even affects billionaires with their own private jet.

The Dalmore King Alexander he cradles is however having a mellowing effect.

He is here to bring home the three bottles of Shackleton's whisky, which have been permitted to leave the care of the Antarctic Heritage Trust in order to be analysed in Scotland. Flying them here may seem an unnecessary extra bit of PR on what is already a remarkable tale, but it transpires this was the only way in which the AHT would allow the bott...

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