Stella David joined William Grant & Sons as Chief Executive Officer in August 2009 and is responsible for the continued success and growth of the Company’s award-winning portfolio of brands which includes Glenfiddich, the world’s number one malt whisky, Grant’s blended whisky, The Balvenie malt whisky, Hendrick’s Gin and Sailor Jerry spiced rum.
We caught up with her to find out more.
LM: You recently opened your super premium single malt whisky collection for the public to purchase. What were the highlights?
SD: Yes, we recently launched Glenfiddich Gallery.com, a luxury online marketplace for whisky lovers and collectors to select from an exclusive range of some of our rarest whiskies. It’s incredibly exciting to be leading the industry in revolutionising access to previously unreleased stock through a bespoke online portal. We designed the experience to be so much more than just a place to buy single malt. Visitors to the gallery can not only pick a unique expression to match their own taste profile, but they can also personalise their bottle’s packaging – from the colour palette to the text on the bottle label and engraved plaque.
Glenfiddich Gallery is the definitive destination for the luxury gift giver or whisky connoisseur. One of the highlights we had at our launch was the incredibly enthusiastic response from guests, many of whom said it’s perfect for anyone looking for a premium whisky and the chance to stamp their own individuality on it.
LM: Is a luxury whisky based on its price tag or volume?
SD: A luxury whisky is defined by its rarity, exclusivity and exquisite taste. The extraordinary aged collection we have made available through Glenfiddich Gallery is a result of our unique position in the market. For over 125 years, Glenfiddich has been an industry pioneer while remaining independent and family-owned. The family’s forward-thinking has enabled the brand to continuously innovate and lay down stocks to create such a prestigious range of single malts.
LM: What is your most high profile collaboration to date?
SD: Glenfiddich has tended not to seek high profile collaborations in the past as we feel we have an exceptional and authentic story to tell without entering into partnerships. Glenfiddich is family-owned and has been responsible for a number of pioneering innovations in the whisky industry over the years and we feel Glenfiddich Gallery is another landmark moment.
LM: How do you see the luxury drinks sector performing in the coming 12 months?
SD: Exclusive, premium whiskies will continue to drive the luxury market and we anticipate high demand. Glenfiddich is very well placed to meet that demand – being independent and family-owned means we have been able to build up the largest stock of aged single malt in the world. Glenfiddich Gallery.com has been designed to cater to people looking for something different, innovative and rare. It also provides a personalised experience which is critical at this level.
LM: What’s next for Glenfiddich in 2015?
SD: Glenfiddich is renowned for creating expressions enjoyed by whisky explorers, connoisseurs and collectors around the world. Just as we’ve been doing for 125 years, we will continue to innovate to produce malts to maintain our position as the world’s most awarded single malt. We are continuing to lay down new stock to ensure Glenfiddich can be enjoyed by future generations of whisky lovers.
LM: What defines the Glenfiddich range and the distillery, and which blends are you most proud of?
SD: Glenfiddich Gallery.com opens up a remarkable collection of our rare and unreleased single malts. Malt Master Brian Kinsman has personally selected all the single malts available for their remarkable taste and finish. Only whiskies aged for 18 years or above have been made available to buy, with the majority on offer in their twenties and thirties.
It’s difficult to pinpoint the expression we are most proud of as each of the prestigious rare malts on offer is unlike any other. Some whiskies have been finished in Bordeaux and rum casks, others in sherry butts and refill bourbon barrels. Some are sweet, some earthy, others fresh or deep and oaky, reflecting Glenfiddich’s family-run philosophy to continually strive to produce pioneering and innovative liquid.
LM: In terms of brand image for your customer base, how important is it that you are still a British run business with so much history?
SD: We’re extremely proud of our heritage as a producer of the world’s most awarded single malt Scotch whisky. Since our distillery was built by William Grant and his family 1887, we’ve been proud to be a family-run business that puts more care into the making of superior whisky.
We’ve had many significant milestones over the years – for example, we created the international single malt market in 1963 when Sandy Grant Gordon first exported Glenfiddich to the USA. Glenfiddich Gallery.com represents another landmark in our history – it enables us to combine our distilling history with tailored technology to release a world-first collection of single malts. It’s a hugely exciting move for our business, as we recognise that our customers and partners want access to unique and exceptional limited-edition whiskies, in a way that’s both premium and highly personalised.
LM: Who do you keep your eye on in the sector?
SD: Of course I keep an eye on the Scotch whisky industry as a whole and in particular market trends and opportunities for the business. Whether it’s the younger emerging markets or the more traditional developed markets, Glenfiddich is continuously looking for ways to innovate and build a distinctive brand.
LM: How did your interest develop in whisky and do you have any personal favourites?
SD: I have been lucky enough to have worked in the spirits industry for over 20 years, and in that time, my appreciation of single malt whisky has grown and grown. The fact that twenty, thirty or even fifty years ago stock was laid down barrels and it has slowly gained its unique character through interaction with the wood is amazing. For me, Glenfiddich Gallery.com represents a great way to find out more about these unique and precious liquids.
Of course being able to savour one of our very rare and ancient single malts from Glenfiddich Gallery is a very, very special treat, but on a more regular basis, I would choose Glenfiddich 15 Year Old as one of my personal favourites.
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