After ten happy years at Bedford School, I left for the City of London Business School for four years study of international marketing. A formative year with Wilkinson Sword and time in Switzerland with Alfred Dunhill fuelled a desire to work abroad and use my languages, which never faded.
After graduation in 1971, I moved to Brussels to work for Rothmans as the UK was joining the EEC and, over the next fifteen years, I had an extraordinary time building brands and new local manufacturing operations around the globe. A stint in the UK running the British market itself was a valuable experience, but Solihull never had the same appeal as Saigon on my first visit in 1974.
By 1986, it was time to move on and I joined the spirits industry as the International Marketing Director of Hiram Walker. Just fifteen days later, we were in a take-over battle and became part of Allied Lyons. I moved to Scotland as the first Marketing Director of Allied Distillers and surfed a golden wave as Spain and France fell in love with Ballantine’s.
A move to IDV gave me the chance to work in Europe and Hong Kong as Managing Director of North Asia, before Justerini and Brooks, the famous wine merchant and leading Scotch brand, became my new home and I progressed over the next five years to my last position as Scotch Whisky Director of Diageo. I was proud to be the Royal Warrant Holder of Johnnie Walker, the Chairman of The Keepers of The Quaich and a member of the Council of the Scotch Whisky Association, as my role expanded into industry affairs.
My wife Sarah, whom I married in 1972, gave up her career to bring up our wonderful children Katie and Christopher. Having supported me loyally over twelve home moves, she is enjoying her bridge and her garden in Gloucestershire as it gradually fills with grandchildren, while looking forward to the day when her husband spends an entire week at home!
Becoming Master Distiller is a great honour and a wonderful way to complete my career. I am very proud to be able to build on the transformation of the Company, growing the involvement by the membership, bringing us to the hub of the Distilled Spirits industry and perhaps, above all, by raising our game in charitable giving. It will be busy, of course, but also lots of fun.