Business of Spirits

29 March 2023 At Heriot-Watt (ICBD)

A team from the Worshipful Company of Distillers led by Past Master Martin Riley deployed to Scotland in late March 2023 to deliver the “Business of Spirits” (BOS) module as part of our Vocational Training and Education support to students in the distilling industry. In this instance, the audience was a mixture of post-graduate and 4th year students studying at the International Centre for Brewing and Distilling at Heriot-Watt University on the outskirts of Edinburgh.

Arriving the afternoon before the BOS day, the group were joined by Scottish-based Liverymen Kirsten Grant Meikle, Marcus Pickering, Matt Gammell, Gordon Steel, Jerry Riley and Michael Urquhart to venture into the Johnnie Walker Experience (JWE) at the end of Princes Street. This was an extraordinary display and well-worth the time to see how a compelling mixture of graphics, art work, actors and narration can bring the history, provenance, story-telling and science of whisky-making alive.

The next day, BOS kicked off sharp at 9am with 35 enthusiastic students and the WCD team welcomed heartily by Dawn Maskell, the Head of the ICBD, to the Students Union. After a re-cap by Past Master Riley to the younger members of what Livery was all about, Liveryman Chris Pitcher led the charge with a re-cap of the global spirits’ market from the analyst’s perspective – almost finishing us off with sampling of Baijiu at 10 O’Clock in the morning! Middle Warden Nick Carr drilled the students next with a carefully explained piece on Finance and Pricing. Next up, Past Masters’ Riley and Watling gave a now well-practised recital of category and consumer segmentation drawing on personal recollections at brands various over the years. With sandwiches consumed, Steve Wilson took to the floor to describe his extraordinary journey as a PLC innovator and private entrepreneur over 3 or so decades – building on his lecture of the previous week, before Renter Warden Dan Szor described his path in the setting up of the Cotswold Distillery in what has been a very swift and exciting decade of (self) discovery!

Fast feedback suggested the day had been “Super interesting and very good input that started some great thought processes” and “This was a fantastic opportunity…!!” And so, with 90 minutes allowed for drinks with the students, and giving them the opportunity to quiz the WCD presenters on a 1-2-1 and personal basis, the WCD team piled into a taxi to the airport for flights home to Heathrow, City and Stanstead – last one home was 3am (pah – bad luck, Steve Wilson).

Clive Bairsto
Development Director WCD