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HMWS Discussing With Mr. Ian Logan - International Brand Ambassador with Chivas Brothers Limited

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Dear Mr. Logan.

On behalf of Hellenic Malt Whisky Society and Whiskyforum.gr, I would like to thank you for your kind interest to support our forum and contribute in our interview section.

It is both and honour and pleasure to have You in our interviews section, opening Year 2020 which is a celebration year for us as we are in our 10th year of maturation. We will do our best to leverage on your knowledge.

During 2018 and for the first time in our forum, we introduced questions about selling and promoting whisky. Thanks to You, we now have the opportunity to further enhance our understanding on the subject matter and your area of expertise.

We will also try to “blend” this topic with more “provocative flavors” and questions aiming to challenge both You and our members and leave an open space for discussion and exchange of opinions.

 On behalf of the Hellenic Malt Whisky Society and whiskyforum.gr, thank you for your time.

 Ioannis Mallios

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All interview topics are covered by HMWS and whiskyforum.gr as well as Mr. Ian Logan's proprietary rights.

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 Section I: Talking for Ian

I.Mallios question:

When we met in Nicosia I was really curious to see whether your reputation matches with the Ian Logan preparing for the Sensology tasting event of Glenlivet. I really had the impression that I would meet a person that really likes to challenge traditional ways of doing business. A “make or break” personality, an “anti-conformist” who tries to challenge other people’s opinions and do business on his own way.

Upon our discussion I have to mention that I met a very friendly and open person that had no fear at all to be exposed and discuss about whisky. So, who is Ian Logan actually?

Mr. Ian Logan reply

Ha ha ha…. I have a reputation, that may vary depending on who you ask !!! I first came across whisky in my working life over 30 years ago while working for a Cash & Carry in Ayr in SW Scotland called Iannotti Brothers, it was a wonderful place to learn the business and they still remain friends today.

I first joined Pernod Ricard (Campbell Distillers) in 1997 but left in 2002 to take up a role in the US for Dewars before returning to Pernod Ricard(Chivas Brothers) in 2004.I have been in my current role for 15 years now working in a very small dedicated team sharing our passions, beliefs, stories and knowledge with whisky fans around the world.

Delighted to hear that I was open and friendly in our chats, didn’t even have to bribe you to say that. Never thought of myself as Non-conformist but do believe in listening and learning, with that also includes listening to what other people have to say. It is always good to try new things such as the Sonic or Sensology tastings, you not only learn from your guests but learn more about yourself.

 ===================

I.Mallios question:

A story exists that your relationship with Malt Maniacs is not the best possible. If this is true (or not?), can you please talk about their visit to The Glenlivet Distillery and the bottles opened? Was it hard to “compete” with Maniacs that probably have bottles that even the Distillery itself may not have or may find it difficult to open at an event?   

Mr. Ian Logan reply:

I would be disappointed if that was the case with regard to the Malt Maniacs though the visit you mention to The Glenlivet was an unmitigated disaster and one that I am still angry and disappointed in myself over.

It was a visit during the time the Brand Home was closed for winter so available facilities and staffing were not great which seriously limited what we could do, regardless it could have been so much better also and for that I will always be sorry to those that visited that day.

Simple things could have been done so much better and it will NOT happen again regardless of who visits. This is also a good time to say thank you to Simon and Phil Thompson of the Dornoch House Hotel (and Distillery) as they planned the visit and also to the people who brought their own bottles along. The pleasure of tasting those whiskies is out-weighted by the poor standard we offered during the visit though. Whiskies of that rarity and depth deserved much better. I would sincerely hope we have moved on from that visit and relations have improved.

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I.Mallios question:

These phrases may sound familiar. “I’ve been incredibly fortunate in what I do” / Logan has also never been drunk on the job, explaining that “as soon as you start to abuse something, you lose the love for it” / “If you don’t have fun in this job, then you’re not doing it properly” / “I am 30 years in the industry and I’m still just a boy..”

Is this really the true story? A boy, having fun, for 30 years, never drunk, can actually drive sales and accomplish sales targets? Is there a little piece of marketing inside all these statements or this type of job gives you the boundaries, the margins to have fun and at the same time reach or exceed sales targets?

Mr. Ian Logan reply:

Let’s look at some of these individually and maybe I can add a little more clarity to what I mean.

30 years in the industry is a long time but when I look at friends and colleagues with 40, 50 even one with over 60 years’ experience there is still so much for me to learn so perhaps I am a 51yo schoolboy still learning at the feet of the true masters.

Never Drunk…..hmmm, I have to add not while on official duty. We have a duty to educate and inspire but also to be professional, yes I will enjoy a few drams during an event but not to the stage of being drunk.

I work in the best industry in the world, travelling the globe talking and tasting the best range of whiskies around…..yes it is fun and most importantly sharing time with people who have the same passion for whisky as I do.

In my role I am very lucky in that I have no sales figures to reach though there are a whole range of other projects that I am involved with. There is no doubt of the philosophy within Group Pernod Ricard and Chivas Brothers, that we encourage responsible consumption at all times.

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Section ii: Talking Glenlivet

I.Mallios question:

Back in 1860’s and the distinctive flavor of pineapple. We find on scotchwhisky.com  https://scotchwhisky.com/whiskypedia/1861/the-glenlivet/#/ the following:

“George Smith’s greatest achievement wasn’t simply the taking out of a licence, but his decision to make a new style of whisky. By the 1860s, The Glenlivet was noted for producing a spirit with a ‘pineapple’ note, evidence that the floral, estery character seen today has a long history – and one which broke with the heavy, dense, rich styles prevalent at that time”.

So, what we would expect is that this pineapple flavor comes from:

  • Yeast and fermentation process
  • Distillation process and the cuts
  • Possibly from wood (American oak)

What’s your opinion and especially how can it be possible to have a “pineapple” style from 1860’s when no wood policy existed, and mainland peat was used to dry the barley. Yeast also, used then, possibly has nothing to do with the liquid yeast used today.

Mr. Ian Logan reply:

Hmm……very interesting question and one I honestly haven’t thought a great deal about. Not sure we can say there was no wood policy as we don’t honestly know, we are assuming that was the case but wines from all over Europe especially French and Spanish had been exported to Scotland from at least the 17th century.

There would have been an understanding that different wines would give different notes to the whisky but perhaps without understanding why.

With regard to peat we are also making assumptions here, there would have been a fair bit of batch variation in peating at that time, some would have been heavier than others. Yeast, I am going to put my hands up here and say I honestly don’t know the answer there, again there would have been batch variation depending on how “active” different batches of yeast may have been.

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I.Mallios question.

You mentioned in one of your interviews that Glenlivet’s whisky-making process focuses on innovation and perfection. You revealed that “at 8 o’clock in the morning, you go to the distillery before you have any visitors come in, open the door and look for the smell of ripe bananas”. This distinct smell is key to a perfect batch.

I really feel a little bit confused though. Is the smell of ripe bananas the sign of the perfect batch or the pineapple note? Or both? What makes The Glenlivet to actually be The Whisky?

Mr. Ian Logan reply:

Personal perception comes into the equation here, not everyone will smell the same thing. Very often when you present the same aroma to a group of people you will get a number of different answers. I find a sweeter, more banana not in our new distillate but for example the pineapple note for me really shines through with the 12yo expression. There is a different fruity note for all of the core range of The Glenlivet.

For me that change comes during the maturation period after all the newmake spirit is exactly the same for every variation we make.

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I.Mallios question:

It is well known the story of George Smith’s son, John Gordon Smith who inherited the distillery after George Smith's death and decided to take legal action and tried to claim ownership on The Glenlivet name.

This legal action was only partially successful - the verdict forced other distillers in the area to stop calling their whisky Glenlivet and gave J.G. Smith and the blender Andrew Usher sole permission to use the brand, but permitted other distilleries to hyphenate their distillery name with the "Glenlivet" name.

Still, The Glenlivet does not use water from river Livet but from Josie's Well which is supplemented by the Blairfindy Well. So, why a lawsuit and a fight about a river that you do not actually use its water?

Mr. Ian Logan reply:

Let’s go back to the first part of the question, the action raised by John Gordon was not about the trademark of “The Glenlivet”, it was about protecting the trademark that already existed which was simply for Glenlivet. At that time Glenlivet was the only distillery in the valley.

The court action was based more from a geographical context and did not involve the river in any way. As ours was the only distillery in the valley why should anyone else feel the need to add Glenlivet to their name when they were not based in the valley.

I can’t remember exactly but there was either 10-12 distilleries allowed to add Glenlivet to their distillery so effectively neither side really won the battle. Some kept the name some didn’t so perhaps an honorable draw.

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I.Mallios question:

The Glenlivet distillery, established at Upper Drumin, a second distillery during 1849, named the Cairngorm-Delnabo Distillery and a new (back then), larger distillery further down the hill the Minmore Distillery.

A fire was the reason of accelerating the plans and gather all together at Minmore farm. Are there still parts of the “original” Distillery (any of these three) still in use? Is there something to remind the Upper Drummin site history?

Mr. Ian Logan reply:

There is no record of a fire that we are aware of at Upper Drumin though there was one at Minmore towards the end of the 19th centurt (another story, another time).

The site at Upper Drumin was very small and on very wet, poor quality ground, Delnabo on the other hand was even more remote lying on a farm track around 4-5 miles outside Tomintoul.

Smith had taken on the lease(tack) for Minmore with plans to expanding his distilling capacity to that degree it is more likely that both the smaller and older distilleries were cannibalized to create the new Minmore distillery in 1859. There is nothing at Delnabo that marks the site of the distillery but a small monument exists at Upper Drummin marking the site of the original Glenlivet Distillery.

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I.Mallios question: 

Glenlivet Whisky School for ambassadors. You mention that “Now, I’m mentoring people, and it scares the crap out of me. I’m realising that the people I’m mentoring are young enough to be my children and when we’re doing nosings and tastings of old whiskies, I’m giving them whiskies older than they are.”

This sounds a little bit selfish, or not? What is the actual meaning of this phrase given that many young people out there may be University graduates or highly skilled and trained people?

On the other hand, is this related with the tradition of The Glenlivet and the respect that is needed for the distillery, its craftmanship and history? What is actually needed to become an ambassador for The Glenlivet

Mr. Ian Logan reply:

Sadly the Whisky School stopped around 6-7 years ago though perhaps one day we will be able to bring it back, it was very time consuming but great fun to do. With regard to the Mentoring part of my role it is a privilege to be involved in training the next generation of Brand Ambassadors and at times it can be quite daunting to do.

I have every admiration for those that join us in our Graduate Programme and for what they do, it wasn’t something I could have done at that age myself and I will tell them that and how proud I am of them. I bring experience and knowledge to the table, they bring energy, vitality and inspiration which between us is hopefully a very powerful equation.

I am not a University Grad, left school at 17 and working with whisky just after my 18th birthday. I certainly don’t mean it to sound selfish, I don’t take myself too seriously so to find yourself a mentor can be quite nerve-wracking but equally a great pleasure.

To become a Brand Ambassador is a tricky one, I think it’s more about the passion in you rather than where you come from. I look at the team I am part of and there is one ex-Master Blender, 2 Marketing people, 1 Sales Person (me), our ex-Fleet manager and our Manager is an ex-Journalist and Police Officer so as I said the background can vary widely.

Be passionate, honest, knowledgeable, open, friendly and willing to listen and learn.

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I.Mallios question:

Final one about the Distillery and a game with words. Please provide us a simple (or as complex as you want) reply / meaning for each of the following:

  • Quality of ingredients:
  • Artificial colouring:
  • Cask Maturation:
  • The Distillery’s unknown heroes:
  • Allan Winchester:

 Mr. Ian Logan reply:

We have maintained over a number of decades the same suppliers for our ingredients, people with the same drive for high quality that we strive for at The Glenlivet.  Our whiskies are of the highest quality and that can only be done with the best ingredients…..the short answer is vital.

Certain products within our range come with the addition of Spirit Caramel (e150a) while other such as Nadurra or our older expression are all natural colour. To grow and maintain a whisky such as The Glenlivet worldwide demands consistency and to that degree e150a is a great help. Applied properly it does not affect taste and only manages colour.

As with your earlier question on ingredients the same answer applies to cask maturation we have long term agreements in place with a number of suppliers ensuring only the very best of casks come into our inventory. With casks being such an important part of the finished whisky, we strive for the best at every opportunity.

Unsung heroes are ALL of the people behind the scenes in particular our Distillery Operators, some who are 3rd generation with us, others with almost 45 years experience. The New Make Spirit is the DNA of the distillery, without that the job becomes much more difficult.

Alan is my colleague, mentor and friend of over 20 years, someone I am privileged to work with and to learn from. He is held in the highest regard not just in Chivas Brothers or the Scotch Whisky Industry but across distilling worldwide. Most importantly he is a friend.

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Section iii: Talking business – selling Glenlivet

I.Mallios question:

Sensology Events, direct communication with people, life on a plane. On the other side, The Glenlivet capsule collection, new colors, The Glenlivet e-mail updates with cocktails and recipes and of course The Glenlivet Code, “no tasting notes. No cask details. Just an opaque black bottle, concealing the enigmatic amber liquid inside.” Which is the best way to sell Glenlivet or your preferred way? 

Mr. Ian Logan reply:

I am old fashioned, I love being face to face with the consumer at Whisky Shows or at Tastings and I think it is still valued greatly by the consumer as well. Social Media is obviously becoming more important as our lives are becoming more time focused and busy, I have also made some good friends through the Social Media medium that I have gone on to meet at the Whisky Shows around the world.

As one of the top single malt whiskies in the world The Glenlivet has to stay at the forefront and whether that is through new packaging, product innovation, experiential events I believe we are doing that.

Some will agree, some will disagree but you have to keep developing and being open minded.

 ===============

I.Mallios question:

Going back to 2017, even the interview title / topic is challenging.  ‘Discerning Indian Consumers Seek Single Malts’.

You chatted with BW Businessworld's Smita Tripathi about The Glenlivet Sensology programme, and the importance of India as a market for The Glenlivet. Was it worth? Do you feel that sales figures prove that India was a good choice, especially when we see at the same interview that India is not included in Top 5 markets for The Glenlivet?  

Mr. Ian Logan reply:

Yes, India still remains a key market for The Glenlivet and I was there just a few weeks before Christmas last year hosting events in some of the key cities.

Granted India isn’t in the top 5 markets in the world but equally the top 5 are all developed and long established whisky markets, it takes time to seed and grow a brand. There still remains a huge amount of potential within the Indian whisky market and we want to make sure we are at the forefront of that to develop and guide it when it happens.

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I.Mallios question:

We read at the same interview (bold topics from me):

The programme offers a multi-sensory dinner experience, where guests are introduced to the concept of The Glenlivet Sensology through practical experiments that highlight the impact that each sense has on their perception of flavour. A specially created dinner is served, paired with three The Glenlivet expressions presented in blind glasses to create an experience that highlights how the role of sight affects taste by removing preconceptions gleaned from colour.

Ok…we can talk for hours only for this. I participated at The Glenlivet Sensology and it was challenging, different, an excellent experience. Is this programme a practical – to the ground – reply to discerning drinkers that “if you go blind, you may probably feel embarrassed from the results?” Is this The Glenlivet proof that artificial colouring has no actual effect on flavors? What’s the rational behind such a different and probably expensive event?

Mr. Ian Logan reply:

The first thing to say here is that Sensology is NOT designed to embarrass or ridicule people in any way. We are asking anyone who comes along to be open minded and understanding of what the program is all about, it is a different way to conduct a whisky tasting first and foremost.

Sensology is not just about taste and aroma it is about engaging as many senses as we can during the event. Removing the perception of colour has nothing to do with Spirit Caramel but rather people expecting a darker whisky for example to be from sherry cask hence they have unconsciously decided what they should be looking for already.

With regard to the creation of a good mentoring programme, it should always be scalable, with Sensology to do the full experience with a 3-course meal makes for a wonderful event but equally it can be done with chocolates, fruits and spices at its most basic form.

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I.Mallios question. Simple and straight. I would like to touch a very hot topic these days but from a different perspective. From a pure sales point of view, does the whisky industry really hate “flippers” or they are the enemy we love to hate (and hate the fact that we love them)?

Whether we like it or not, they are one of the main reasons that drive prices up and also whether we like it or not, flippers are the actual “price testers” (if we can use this term) as they push or even set the boundaries that a single malt can be sold. To make it simple, if a flipper can sell a bottle of a 50 GBP whisky at a price of 100, then the next batch has a green field to be sold at 70GBP and still be accepted by the market. What’s your pure sales opinion?

 Mr. Ian Logan reply:

Very sorry John but I am going to stay away from this one.

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I.Mallios question: Final one about the Distillery and a similar game with words. Please provide us a simple (or as complex as you want) reply / meaning for each of the following:

  • The Macallan:
  • Glenfiddich:
  • Craft Distilleries:
  • Distillery character 
  • The Glenlivet in 5 years from now. Please take under consideration the investment of Pernod Ricard Group for the new distillery in China.

Mr. Ian Logan reply:

Scotch whisky especially Single Malts are still the most aspirational drinks in the world and I don’t see that changing any time soon. Our distillery in China will produce Chinese whisky not scotch just in the same way as the Irish, Americans, Canadians and many other nationalities produce their own style of whisky. “All scotch is whisky but not all whisky is scotch “

The Macallan have to be admired as trendsetters and to a degree risktakers. To completely build a new distillery and Brand Home Experience that is fully integrated is a wonderful achievement. Congratulations to Ken Grier and bringing his vision to fruition.

Glenfiddich have been one of the best innovators in the business with their Experiential range, being the first to open a Visitor Centre in the 1960’s alongside a number of other features, I do admire the success and vision of the Grant family.

Craft Distillers are so important to the industry with their new ideas and innovations. They are doing things the larger companies cannot offering the consumer new perspectives on what whisky can be. This in turn makes the larger companies try harder in response, the industry needs both large and small distillers to survive.

Distillery Character is so important, it will in many cases guide the newcomer onm their passage into the complex world of single malts while also offering a degree of comfort in knowing the style of whisky you will be getting. It is also the path we try to maintain while trying to innovate, it is our guiding light.

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Section iv: Hellenic Malt Whisky Society

I.Mallios.

We started as a society back in 2010 with our only aim to support whiskyforum.gr and maintain this forum an open, free for all, continuous improving thinktank for whisky friends in Greece and abroad.

We start our 2020, 10th years celebration with a lot of new things to do already in our mind, but with some standard topics that we feel really adding value to our forum. We are honored to have You opening Interviews section for 2020, so we would appreciate to have a message from You for our members.

Mr. Ian Logan reply:

I have loved the questions above, many are quite thought provoking. Please do not lose that inquisitiveness, there is always something to learn regardless of how much you think you know. Share your knowledge, share your whisky, share your passion.

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I.Mallios. 

Having such a vast experience with all things whisky, what would be a good or the No1 advise to a Society in order to achieve the most important task, to maintain its character and at the same time create new friends?

Mr. Ian Logan reply:

The whisky, any whisky, is always the star not the people around about it. In most cases the whisky was there long before us and will be there long after us too. Treat all whiskies equally, everyone involved in making them is doing their utmost to make sure you have the best experience possible.

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I feel personally honourer, as this was really a difficult task. I want to thank Mr. Ian Logan for this kind contribution to our forum and we all hope he will bring good luck to us, as he is opening the interview section for Y2020. Waiting for his reply was .. chalenging and difficult (still really not a long period) as I was afraid that he would turn me down as some questions are, at least to say, different.

I also want to thank people at The Cyprus Whisky Association and Tempo Ltd. (Flora and George and team thank you)  that organised the Sensology Event at Nicosia and I had the opportunity to meet Ian and take my chances for this interview.

I hope we both managed to prepare and provide an interview that will make forum members and guests to open up discussion on topics and have a better understanding, another valuable opinion for all things whisky.

Dear Ian, thank you and looking forward to meet again. 

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39 minutes ago, mallios said:

In most cases the whisky was there long before us and will be there long after us too.

Principle!

We can replace the word whisky with so many others. 

Thank you Mr Logan. Congratulations @mallios , great job!

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Thank you Mr Logan.

Congratulations @mallios

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First a big Greek "efharisto" (thank you)  to Ian Logan for his generosity to dedicate a little of his time to us and this interview. Ian I hope to catch up with you in Heathrow or a training soon 🥃 and a huge Congratulations to our friend and tireless worker of the HMWS and forum @mallios for another excellent project 🥃

I always had those principles naturally close to my heart but now I can proudly attribute the quote to            Ian Logan Slàinte Mhath🥃

On 1/15/2020 at 2:33 PM, mallios said:

Mr. Ian Logan reply: ...do not lose that inquisitiveness, there is always something to learn regardless of how much you think you know. Share your knowledge, share your whisky, share your passion.

 

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