A dram with... Tim Morrison

A dram with... Tim Morrison

Tim Morrison, chairman of independent bottler A D Rattray and the Clydeside Distillery, shares his stories with us in this latest instalment of our Q&A series

Interview | 30 Apr 2024

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Welcome back to our Q&A series with inductees of the Whisky Magazine Hall of Fame. This week, we’re having a dram with Stanley (Tim) Walker Morrison.

 

Tim Morrison has spent a lifetime in whisky. Having begun his whisky career in 1960, he carried on the whisky legacy of his father and grandfather before him through family company Stanley P Morrison. Currently, Tim is chairman of independent bottler A D Rattray and the Clydeside Distillery.


A stalwart preserver of whisky history, Tim recently released a podcast with his grandson, podcast host Andy Maxwell, in which he explores a century of Scotch whisky. In today’s Q&A he tells us about his journey in whisky, the developments he’s seen in the industry along the way, and his travels across France.

 

How long have you been working in the whisky industry?
I entered the industry in 1960, working as a trainee with Arthur Bell & Sons in their Inchgower and Dufftown distilleries, followed by posting to their Leith bottling hall. I then spent four months at the North British Distillery in Edinburgh.

 

Where did the journey of your career start and where has it taken you over the decades? What was your favourite stop along the way?
In 1961 I joined the family whisky broking company of Stanley P Morrison based in Glasgow. In 1963, the company purchased the Bowmore Distillery, which then had a significant effect on the company as we also purchased the Roseburn Bond and became recognised in the trade as distillers, blenders, coopers, and warehousemen.

 

Soon after this we started to develop an export business and I spent considerable time in the USA, while the business continued to develop trade with Japan, Scandinavia, and Europe. Probably my favourite stop was working with American importers, where I learnt a lot in the marketing field and developed lifelong friends.

 

What is the most exciting change you’ve witnessed in the whisky industry over the course of your career?
The most exciting change I have witnessed was the development of the single malt sector. In the mid-1960s distilleries started to spend a little time and money spreading the word about the quality, styles and characteristics of their unique products. At the same time, several retailers were expressing an interest in stocking malts.

 

By the late 1960s there was noticeably a momentum behind this sector — led by William Grant’s Glenfiddich who embarked on a packaging exercise, producing the now familiar green triangle and attractively designed package. This led to a number of distilleries following their lead — Glenlivet, Macallan, Bowmore, and Glenfarclas, to name a few.

 

With the Scotch Whisky Association taking a minor interest in this development, specialist retailers throughout the UK, and press and PR campaigns promoting this growing sector, increased volume and interest in the single malt sector was soon apparent.

 

Name a whisky distillery or brand that you feel is underrated.
I have always had great respect for Talisker but feel it has not received the level of recognition it deserves when compared to the worldwide success of other Islay distilleries like Laphroaig, Lagavulin, and Bowmore.

 

Is there a whisky or brand you are particularly enjoying at the moment?
I particularly enjoy a glass of Bank Note, a 5-year-old blend produced by A D Rattray. I have also been enjoying sampling the Clydeside spirit as it progresses to another new release coming out soon.

 

When you’re not drinking whisky, what is your drink of choice?
I particularly enjoy wine, especially as I developed a wine distribution business in the Central Belt of Scotland. The area whose wine I enjoy is Bordeaux, which I visited on many occasions both to buy and meet trade executives in the industry.

 

In 1990, soon after we sold Morrison Bowmore Distillers to Suntory, I was particularly fortunate to be invited by the Torii Family to visit and stay at Château Lagrange, a property they had recently purchased in St Julien and in which they had invested heavily, modernising the winemaking facilities and replanting the vineyards, which led to its successful revival.

 

The wine has always been a firm favourite of mine and now enjoys a reputation for the quality and versatility of its wines.

 

Would you rather read a book or watch a film? For whichever option you choose (book or film), tell us one of your favourites.
It would definitely be books. Over the years I have built up a large collection of books on whisky and wine, including many editions that have now gone out of print. Despite the availability of information online, there remains a vast amount of knowledge to be found in these books and they also form a written archive of our industry.

 

I greatly admire the whisky writer Dave Broom. I find his books are engaging and educational, offering a different viewpoint on the subject. His work helps to keep whisky relevant and accessible in a changing world.

 

Describe your perfect Sunday.
As I am a keen golfer, my idea of a perfect Sunday would be a fourball in the morning with close friends on a favourite course, followed by lunch with my family including my grandchildren.

 

Describe your dream holiday – where would you go and what would you do there?
I have been on three river cruises with my wife and friends and enjoyed each one enormously. The scenery, the service on board, the excellent management and outstanding food, and the fact that the boats are small and extremely comfortable with no more than 130 passengers make it the ideal holiday. Invariably excellent weather and the opportunity to enjoy local history makes me wish to go another riverboat cruise.

 

This year our trip took us to Bordeaux sailing up and down the rivers Gironde, Dordogne, and the Garonne, on which Bordeaux sits. It was pleasing to be able to renew acquaintance in both the Médoc and Saint-Émilion. As Pomerol produces wines which I particularly enjoy, as does Sauternes, we were able to visit small family-owned estates in those areas, which was a particular pleasure for me and the friends that accompanied us.

 

The city of Bordeaux, hub of the famed wine growing region, is in itself a city of such historic interest. It is home to incredible architecture, many cultural sites including 18th and 19th-century mansions and notable art museums and public gardens line the curving river quays. Of particular interest is the Cité du Vin, a unique cultural centre dedicated to the universal living heritage of wine. To my surprise there is now a malt whisky distillery situated close to the river.

 

Name one item you never go travelling without.
Not an item as such, but when travelling I like to disconnect and switch off my phone. Then I can really enjoy the moment, embrace the place where I am, and enjoy the company of the people I am with.

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