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[KRÖNIKA] John L S Grant är whiskymakare i femte generationen på Glenfarclas. Ett av Skottlands sista oberoende destillerier som fortfarande drivs av grundarfamiljen. Här berättar han om familjens slit och framgångar genom åren. Från Pattison-kraschens praktsmäll över 1980-talets recession till återtåget för den egna singelmalten.
8-9 december 2007 kommer sonen George S Grant till Sverige för att prova 43 årgångar Glenfarclas med Henrik Aflodal. En unik whiskyhändelse, ingen annanstans i världen serveras alla Family Casks i ett svep. Klicka för info>>
A distilling testimony
The decade started with a family wedding. On 19th July, 1980, my sister Jacky married Stuart Lund. To mark the occasion, I arranged a bottling of a cask which had been filled on the day Jacky was born. The Jacky and Stuart Almost 25 Years Old has to be one of our most exclusive bottlings, particularly as most of the stock was enjoyed at the stag party!

Sales of Glenfarclas grew by 20% in 1981 but any celebration was quickly tempered by a series of tragic events, particularly the death of our production manager, Douglas Macdonald, after a fishing accident. Earlier, in May 1981, No.1 wash still collapsed. Seven days later, No.2 Spirit Safe caught fire. Then, in May 1982, we suffered an explosion in the malt mill.

It was also a gloomy period for the whisky industry overall and, in 1984, Distillers Company Ltd closed eleven malt distilleries and two bottling halls. However, my father, never one to follow the pack, gambled that the cutbacks would lead to a shortage in five to six years time and declared that we would ‘swim upstream’ and increase production.

1984 saw J&G Grant establish a joint venture with Peter J Russell & Co Ltd to purchase and run Broxburn Bottlers Ltd, giving us full control of our own bottlings, under bond. But, as one joint venture was established, another came to an end. We had established Ballindalloch Feed Products with Tormore, Aberlour and Glenlivet distilleries to process the waste draff and pot ale to produce dark grains for the animal feeds industry. However, the increasing cost of fuel and decreasing cost of feed sadly made it uneconomical to continue.

In 1986, we celebrated our 150th anniversary of legal licensed distilling in style, with a series of dinners and ceilidhs for our distributors, staff, pensioners and friends. We also released a limited edition 150th Anniversary bottling, for which Philip Hutcheon, our Office Manager, and I selected seven of our best casks from the 1960s to vat together.

I can trace our family history back much more than 150 years; right back to 1670 in fact. All the records show that my family has been farming since then. So it was a sad end to an era when in 1988, in the face of increased EEC intervention, we took the decision to stop farming Rechlerich. We had finally become full-time distillers.

Shortly afterwards, we had to deal with one of the most aggressive takeover attempts we have ever been subjected to, by one of the large groups. I am pleased to say we resisted. Galvanised by the struggle perhaps, our exports of Glenfarclas increased by 30%.

The water of life into the future
The spring of 1990 was one of the driest on record for us and we were desperate for rain. For a bit of fun, we asked BBC weatherman Ian McCaskill to open the new filling store we had just built. What happened? Our plan had worked a treat – no sooner had he left than there was a horrendous downpour.

We also completed two new warehouses that year but suffered a little on the sales side. Blenders reduced their filling orders and sales of our cased goods lost ground, due to the Gulf War and the recession in the UK and USA.

As I have already mentioned, John Miller joined the company as a young man in 1978, when he was still under the legal drinking age. By 1993, he was our brewer; experienced in all the aspects of Glenfarclas production and ready to be promoted to Distillery Manager.

John’s first year as Distillery Manager in 1994 turned out to be an interesting one. Malcolm Greenwood, our Sales Director at the time, received a letter from a gentleman in Illinois asking if we would be interested in a case of Glenfarclas which had been delivered to his father in the 1930s. We did our sums and realised that, if genuine, it would be the oldest unopened case of Glenfarclas in existence. We were off! So precious was the consignment that British Airways arranged a First Class seat for the case on our return home. Today, it remains unopened and is stored in a secret location on Speyside.

Later in 1994, Kenneth Clark, the then Chancellor of the Exchequer, visited the distillery and filled a cask for us. When it is ready, we may well bottle it as part of The Family Casks collection.

Much has changed at Glenfarclas over the years but many things stay the same. For example, we are still at the mercy of the distiller’s greatest dilemma – what to produce today for sale in ten years or so? My father had a simple answer, which I stand by. Do not produce today what you think demand will require in ten years time. Only produce what you can afford to produce.

I am just as committed to ensuring that what is produced today meets my father’s exacting standards; and those of our ancestors, and is matured in the best possible casks, in traditional dunnage warehouses.

Guessing the future is a challenge. What I do know is that Glenfarclas is in good shape for what is to come. We have (give or take) 50,000 casks in the warehouses waiting to be enjoyed, my family’s commitment to quality has been recognised by the 2006 Distiller of the Year award and we are enjoying some of our best sales ever.

As I write, Virgin Galactic have announced they are considering using nearby RAF Lossiemouth to launch space flights. Who knows where our future sales trips will take us?

-John L S Grant
Chairman Glenfarclas Distillery

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Publicerad: 11/27/2007
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