As the relentless summer rain hammered down outside his office in Scotland, Gordon Motion talked all things whisky and brands. Here’s what he had to say:
I guess it would be handy for readers to understand what your role and day to day responsibilities are at the The Famous Grouse / Glenturret sites?
Gordon: My job title is Master Blender and I am responsible for the sensory quality of our whiskies. We have a lab manager who looks after the chemical qualities. Team of me and two sensory analysts to check new make spirit straight from the stills. We check every single single cask prior to emptying and further use. On top of that NPD and training as well with a bit of brand ambassadorial support.
You have quite an interesting history within the industry, can you give GreatDrams readers an overview of your career journey to date?
Gordon: As a complete tangent I started off doing a masters degree in computer science then visited distilleries with a friend and knew that was what I wanted to do and had been home brewing for a while then did my Postgrad with Heriat-Wat then did various brewing jobs and became Master Blender seventeen years ago.
When I visited you guys, we spoke about the uniqueness of the The Famous Grouse / Glenturret distillery and the products in general, what makes The Famous Grouse / Glenturret products stand out from other brands?
Gordon: A couple of things, principally our continued use of ex-Sherry casks which are very expensive so many others limit their use whereas we have new ones built specifically for us. You don’t need to use too many in a malt or a blend to get that character carrying through but it is important for quality and sensory enjoyment. It has been our house style since The Famous Grouse was first blended.
The other point of difference is that we allow our whisky and water to marry, you can filter more gently, giving a slightly oily character to it.
Can you please talk about what The Famous Grouse / Glenturret means to you and what you think it means to consumers around the world?
Gordon: When I was maybe not quite of legal age, I went out for New Year’s Eve around 29 years ago my brother told me that if I was to drink whisky, The Famous Grouse was the best and I never imagined that I would be looking after it on day.
I would hope it is similar for consumers around the world, when I joined the company Th Famous Grouse was principally a UK brand but now is around 50/50 domestic and export so new markets are creating their own stories and rituals.
What of your work with The Famous Grouse / Glenturret are you most proud of and why?
Gordon: Tough one. The 40 Year Old Grouse decanter, the Highland Park range in general is just perfect peat level for me with nice balance. Glenturret getting the focus it deserves.
How important is packaging in consumers’ decision making?
Gordon: It is easy to see it being very important, like I am with wine.
How do you design affects perceptions of the brand?
Gordon: It all plays its part and you are in an increasingly crowded market place so the design guys are working really hard to create stand out. Used to release two products per year but now it can be up to one every two weeks for Travel Retail and brand refreshes.
And what about new product development? Any insight into the challenges?
It is more difficult to release more for single malts as only one whisky to play with whereas with blends you can use many different inputs to get to interesting outputs. Single malts people look for an age but in reality that matters not and is often a red herring to genuine quality over perceived quality.
What are the biggest challenges you’re facing at the minute in getting your message out?
Gordon: NAS, people get hung up on the age statement which is not a sign of maturity, trying to explain that brilliant whiskies do not have to be old to be brilliant. It is every single cask that makes a difference.
Finally, aside from your own, what would be your top three whiskies? Does it differ by occasion?
Gordon: I don’t know – I haven’t tried them all yet! I’m lucky enough when we put blends together that I can go through a stack of whiskies from different producers and when I sample incredible ones I do go out and buy it.
Favourite has to be Highland Park, 40 Year Old or 18 Year Old or 25 Year Old but probably drink the 12 Year Old the most.