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Nid wy’n gofyn bywyd moethus,
Aur y byd na’i berlau mân:
Gofyn rwyf am galon hapus,
Calon onest, calon lân.

Calon lân yn llawn daioni,
Tecach yw na’r lili dlos:
Dim ond calon lân all ganu
Canu’r dydd a chanu’r nos.

Tomorrow my autumn sporting odyssey continues, and I am (literally) back on familiar ground. After a brief flirtation with golf earlier this month, and cricket in October, this weekend I renew my acquaintance with the greatest game on earth – rugby union – in the greatest sporting venue on the planet – the Millennium Stadium. Alas, Wales will be lining up against the world’s greatest rugby team, the mighty All Blacks, and I am going to the match with one Martin Moodie, my Christchurch-born boss…

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The Moodie Report’s Rebecca Mann at the Millennium Stadium in February

I have run all the numbers, as they say, and come to the conclusion that there is no way this can possibly end well. Should Wales somehow win (c’mon, the boys in black are surely due an off day), I will most certainly be dusting down my CV come Monday morning; this could be my final Blog. Should Wales lose…well, I’ll probably still be unemployed – dismissed for subordination – or at the very least MIA, in the depths of despair, somewhere in the back alleys of Cardiff. The only thing Mr Moodie and I will have in common this weekend, other than a raging hangover come Sunday, is our mutual loathing of Saturday’s ref Wayne Barnes, a man so utterly inept he makes Alain Rolland – of whom more below – look competent.

Wales v New Zealand is, of course, the showdown every proper rugby fan wanted for the final of the 2011 Rugby World Cup (RWC). That dream was scuppered by one-eyed, half-French ref Rolland, who controversially (that is the censored version) awarded Wales captain Sam Warburton a red card in the semi-final against, oh would you believe it, France, for an alleged tip tackle. IT SHOULD HAVE BEEN A YELLOW will be carved into my tombstone – or better yet, Rolland’s head, if I ever get my hands on him.

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Pre-match manicure – nailed!

Wales subsequently played a blinder with just 14 men, but eventually lost the match 9-8. In RWC terms, for me, that will always, always be the one that got away – particularly given a) our current form and b) the prospects facing us in the so-called “Pool of Death” in next year’s competition.

Still, three years too late, I’ve got the match I wanted. My head knows full well that a Welsh victory tomorrow is unlikely. My heart has other ideas, however, and my soul will simply revel in the privilege of watching Wales, amongst my own, in the Millennium Stadium. For an hour or so at least, my ever-present hiraeth will be assuaged.

The atmosphere in the Millennium is second to none, and I have been fortunate enough to see us win many a game there, most recently this February, when Wales decimated France 27-6 in the Six Nations (added bonus: booing that man Rolland, who frankly would have needed a police escort to get home if he’d messed up again). The singing, the camaraderie, the sheer Welshness of it all is manna from above (or should that be Bread of Heaven?) for an exile such as I.

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From one dragon to another: come on the bois!

Neither Wales nor New Zealand covered themselves in glory last weekend, although both managed to grind out victories, against Fiji and Scotland, respectively (by contrast, England lost. Again. 0 from 5 now, I believe?). My team will have to raise its game stratospherically to avoid public humiliation tomorrow – never mind actually winning – but as a true Cymraes I am genetically programmed to believe that this is possible.

Naturally I will do everything I can to help, donning every lucky red garment I possess; painting flags on my fingernails; and praying fervently to St David, my late father and anyone else up there who might be able to put in a good word with the fickle gods of rugby.

To paraphrase John Cleese, I can take the despair, it’s the hope that always finishes me. Here’s hoping that tomorrow we finish off the All Blacks instead. #CymruAmByth

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I’m at Bangkok Suvarnabhumi Airport, en route to Hong Kong and then London, my head a little tender after a wonderful King Power International Group 25th anniversary party and concert last night.

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King Power party group shot

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What magnificent hosts King Power were and the concert in the exquisite Aksra Theatre was a fantastic mix of top Thai artists and the legendary Kenny G (below).

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I was here on the day Suvarnabhumi opened and to see it in its full maturity is interesting. To me the airport’s combination of the artistic and cultural with the commercial is one of the best in the world. I love the openness of the shops (no ceilings, no walls and doors) and there’s a very good mix of international and local brands.

I’ve got a key meeting in Hong Kong tomorrow and then it’s back through Suvarnabhumi later in the day for the long ride home. One day in London, then I am taking my life in my hands by going to Cardiff on Saturday to watch the All Blacks play Wales, in the company of arguably the most one-eyed Welsh rugby fan of all time, my colleague Rebecca Mann. I figure whoever wins it’s going to be bad for me, so I will be surely the only person in the stadium praying for a draw.

Sunday it’s back on a plane, bound for Dubai and the annual Middle East & Africa Duty Free Association conference. Where did this year go again?

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One Response to “Celebrating a quarter century’s achievements in style”

  1. Paul says:

    Never a draw Martin – AB’s all the way!

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Thai flight path

Sunday

This Blog starts in The Moodie Report’s latest Interim Bureau onboard Thai Airways 911 from London to Bangkok. I’m 35,000ft above Russia, just east of Minsk and heading towards Br’ansk (I wonder why the apostrophe in the word?). As I write, I’m listening to the exquisite violin artistry of Nicola Benedetti, exploring her Scottish roots in ‘Homecoming – A Scottish Fantasy’.

Well I know the All Blacks beat the Scots (just) at rugby on Saturday but as a deep, deep descendant of a Glaswegian on my father’s side (in the 19th century the name, just before its owner of the time emigrated to Canada, was changed from Modie to Moodie for some reason; surely thereby hangs a tale, probably of the murky variety), I’ve long been a fan of most things Scottish, most notably the bagpipes. Never was the beauty of the latter better captured than in Mark Knopfler’s ‘Piper to the End’, a song to listen to before you die.

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Similarly, if you know anyone Scottish or with Scottish ancestry Ms Benedetti’s album would make the most sublime gift. There are few more beautiful pieces of classical music in the world than Bruch’s Scottish Fantasy, for imagine. You can almost feel yourself skipping through the fields of heather as you listen to it and I promise that’s not just the (excellent) Montagny Premier Cru 2010 (served, pictured, by the graceful and gracious Naiyana) talking.

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Listen to her (Nicola Benedetti not Naiyana, that is) play, with her feather-soft touch, ‘Ae Fond Kiss’, swan-like in its beauty, and you’ll know what I mean.

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But I digress. I flew out of The Queen’s Terminal (T2) at Heathrow, a place that (apart from the half-marathon like distances to the gate) I could grow to love. I have heard some criticisms about the predictability of its retail line-up but on balance I really like the commercial offer as well as the big wide vistas (see above). Yes, most of the names are familiar but the executions are consistently excellent.

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You have to have a top-class consumer technology and accessories offer at any airport these days and I still think Dixons Travel (above) is best-in-class. My battle-weary Lumix recently bit the dust and I sought expert advice on what to replace it with. Surprise, surprise, once I had explained my needs, the excellent sales assistant Amar pointed me at exactly the same camera (albeit a more recent model), pointing out its merits (for me) over several higher-priced competitors. The clarity of the shots on this page I hope bear testament to his recommendation.

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heathrow t2 collector

Besides Dixons I also shopped at World Duty Free’s main store (above) and Moneycorp foreign exchange. The former is a lovely new shop (though I think they should pull the gondola heights down in the drinks section) with particularly nice deft touches in beauty and ultra-premium spirits.

My recent comments on the point of sale service at T3 drew commendable concern from World Duty Free Group and I’m pleased to note no such concerns this time.

I bought a single bottle of wine as a gift, was asked if Bangkok was my final destination and, when I asked if I could take two or maybe three bottles in, was told immediately, “No, the total allowance for wines and spirits is one litre.” My server (Nubradian?) even checked with his colleagues to ensure he was right. This should be the norm of course but still around the travel retail planet too many staff do not know about the correct allowances.

Foreign exchange doesn’t get too many mentions in the media but Moneycorp (below) deserves a citation here as a role model for currency business at airports. Instead of the familiarly cold, behind glass, environment one associates with airport foreign exchange, this is bright, open and staffed by engaging individuals. I think my server tonight (Liban) was a trainee but I liked the way he immediately sought (and got) advice from his friendly colleague (Chalton) when he was confused (speed is key to foreign exchange operations) and that my transaction was swiftly dealt with.

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Anyway, enough, I am now over the Caspian Sea, north of Baku and it’s time to rest. I’m headed to the Thai capital for the 25th anniversary celebrations of King Power International Group, a mighty landmark in the history of one of Asia’s, and the world’s, great travel retailers. 25 years, a quarter of a century. Gosh, it makes me feel old. I have actually been in the industry longer than that (by two years), though it has to be said that I haven’t aged nearly so well.

I have always been an advocate of chronicling industry history for it’s all too easy to take success stories for granted. Behind them, inevitably, lie great tales of blood, sweat and more than a few tears; tales of great human endeavour; of leaders who dared to challenge the norm, who inspired, who brought others of like mind along with them on the journey.

King Power’s is just such a tale (as is that of its leader Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha) and I’m honoured to be part of its richly deserved celebrations tomorrow.

Monday

I’ve arrived in Bangkok and just returned to my new interim Bureau, the Pullman Bangkok King Power, after an enjoyable and illuminating visit to the King Power Srivaree Complex today. Due to the well-publicised political turmoil here, business was very tough earlier in the year.

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[Come on the Foxes! At the Leicester City Football Club boutique in the King Power Srivaree Complex today] 

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[The industry's two most experienced journalists, Doug Newhouse, with whom I spent a pleasant taxi ride comparing journalistic lives, to the left and me to the right, with the fantastically welcoming King Power team]

It’s good to see it now recovering so strongly and today it was absolutely packed with Chinese group tourists who are pouring in there at the rate of between 6,000 and 10,000 a day. The scenes within the L’Oréal Paris boutique were particularly noteworthy, the unrivalled consumer feeding frenzy there underlining the fact that it’s not just about luxury in appealing to the great Chinese tourism wave.

I’ll let the pictures tell the story, not just about the level of business but the level of retail quality.

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After a week in Cannes, the body – especially the liver – craves rest. Plain fare. No alcohol. Early nights. Well, scratch THAT. The Moodie Report had barely unpacked from the Riviera before heading to the Highlands for a whisky launch, courtesy of LVMH and World Duty Free Group (WDFG). Out went the stilettos and the sunglasses; into the suitcase went the wellies and the waterproofs.

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The limited-edition, travel retail exclusive Glenmorangie Dornoch

The launch in question was the travel retail exclusive Glenmorangie Dornoch. The limited-edition expression will make its debut in the channel later this month, via an exclusive two-month listing with WDFG, before rolling out to the wider travel retail sector. As its name suggests, Glenmorangie Dornoch was inspired by the area surrounding the Glenmorangie distillery, which is located on the banks of the Dornoch Firth – a vast sea estuary and worldwide Site of Special Scientific Interest, recognised globally for its vital marine habitats.

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It don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that swing: The Moodie Report’s Rebecca Mann and long-suffering golf pros Sean Fay and Gary Dingwall

In line with Glenmorangie’s commitment to preserve the natural heritage around the distillery for future generations, for every bottle sold, a donation will be made to the Marine Conservation Society (MCS), to help sustain and protect the estuary.

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The Marine Conservation Society’s Calum Duncan at the Dornoch Firth

In other words, Glenmorangie Dornoch is imbued with a genuine Sense of Place from start to finish. That was reflected in the launch event itinerary, which began with lunch and a round of golf at the Royal Dornoch Club, whose breathtakingly beautiful Championship Course was ranked 6th in the world – and number one in Scotland – by Golf Digest 2014.

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Glenmorangie House takes bed and board to a whole new level

Ah yes, golf. The Moodie Report has several accomplished players (step forward Dermot ‘Divot’ Davitt) but this particular Mann ain’t one of them. I’ve never picked up a club in my life, and as a southpaw who bats right-handed, I wasn’t even sure which way to swing (behave at the back). Luckily, the teaching pros Sean Fay and Gary Dingwall had endless reserves of patience, and once we’d overcome the hurdle of club selection, to my amazement I found myself hitting every single ball. Some of them in the right direction, even. “You’re a natural!” declared Gary encouragingly (although he didn’t specify at what). Nonetheless, having seen my driving skills on the course, he made sure I stayed in the passenger seat in the golf buggy.

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The legendary Dr Bill leads a pre-dinner whisky tasting

After the proper players on the trip had finished their round, we headed to the Dornoch Firth itself – the inspiration for the Glenmorangie Dornoch whisky’s taste profile. MCS Programme Manager Scotland Calum Duncan delivered an impassioned presentation on the importance of the estuary, after which the group retired to Glenmorangie House in Tain, in readiness for the evening’s events.

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Dinner is served, in true Scottish style

Reader, if you ever get the chance to stay there, jump at it with both feet flying, because it is heaven on earth. The beds alone are worth the flight, and don’t get me started on the breakfasts… Each bedroom is individually furnished and decorated in traditional Scottish style and – best of all – a decanter of Glenmorangie single malt is provided in all of the rooms. I sampled mine stretched out in a bath that was almost big enough to swim in. Bliss.

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The highlight of day two was a tour of the Glenmorangie Distillery

But the whisky tasting proper began a little later, at the formal, pre-dinner reveal of Glenmorangie Dornoch. Glenmorangie Director of Distilling & Whisky Creation Dr Bill Lumsden delivered a masterclass on how to taste whisky in general, and enjoy Glenmorangie Dornoch in particular. He also educated me on the etiquette of ‘releasing the serpent’ (I say again, behave at the back). It’s a proper whisky term. Google it if you don’t believe me.

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Distillery Manager Andy McDonald runs a few routine checks

Our appetites whetted after the drams and canapés, we headed to the dining room, in preparation for piping in the haggis, which was duly served with a Glenmorangie Original cream sauce. The menu was a total triumph. If I concentrate hard enough I can still taste the dark chocolate and vanilla delice dessert, which was served with Glenmorangie Dornoch poached apples, and violet ice cream coloured the exact same shade as the new expression’s packaging. Alas, I can certainly still feel it on my waistline – but heck, it was worth it.

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WDFG’s Nigel Sandals gets set for some sampling

After dinner we retired to the fire to be further entertained, both by traditional Scottish music – and the musings of the legend that is Dr Bill. I added Glenmorangie Signet to my tasting repertoire, before weaving my way to bed at around half past midnight. At breakfast the next day it transpired that certain others kept going until “the back end of one” (Dr Bill-speak for past 2am). Much respect.

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Nectar of the Gods: cask-strength Glenmorangie Quinta Ruban

After a “bracing” (wet and windy) walk to Glenmorangie House’s private beach, day two began with a visit to the Glenmorangie Distillery, led by Distillery Manager Andy McDonald. After a fascinating tour, we were lucky enough to be treated to some tastings straight from the barrel. The cask-strength Glenmorangie Quinta Ruban was so good it almost reduced me to tears. What a privilege to sample it.

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One for the road: the final Glenmorangie tasting

The tour concluded with yet another official tasting, of Glenmorangie Original, Dornoch and Signet, followed by a lunch, to help soak up all the alcohol. The shortbread, as you’d perhaps expect, was sublime.

All too soon it was time to travel back to Inverness Airport for the flight home (and a week in the gym to compensate). Thanks so much to all the hosts for their superlative hospitality and excellent company. I raise my glass to the success of Glenmorangie Dornoch – slàinte mhath to all involved.

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What a difference (nearly) four years makes…

Earlier this week I had the welcome opportunity to catch up with a long-time travel retail pal, Clive Carpenter,  formerly of Hennessy and Camus Cognac fame, who now runs a thriving golf website business (www.GolfToday.co.uk), as well as dabbling in the drinks sector.

Our shared love of golf, satire, the wines & spirits industry and exceedingly bad puns means we are in regular touch, yet I had not actually seen Clive since an infamous lunch we had at an Italian restaurant in Ealing Broadway, London back on 13 January 2011. But being a Carpenter he finally managed to nail me down.

On that occasion I had precisely one week left of my chemotherapy treatment that followed a gastrectomy (stomach removal) on October 2010. As the photo below shows, the treatment hadn’t left a lot of me intact and what did remain didn’t feel very good. It was a very low time.

Despite what ensued, I recall almost every detail of that lunch to this day. I had the rabbit (like my feelings of the time, in a stew), or let’s say I picked at the rabbit as food and the crazed whirlpool of chemo-induced nausea were not close companions. We did, though, partake of a rather good Chianti Classico, which did its best to dull the agony, especially on the second bottle. I am not sure what my dear Oncologist would have made of the blend of grape and drugs (I called it Chemo Classico) but it doesn’t seem to have hindered my progress too much, I’m pleased to say. (Speaking of my choice of dish, I am reminded of an exceedingly bad joke albeit one with much personal relevance: What do you call 99 male rabbits stepping backwards? A: A receding hare line.)

In the photo (below) I published in my Blog the next day, the ghost-white female statue alongside me appeared to have more colour and certainly more life than me, while my skeletal looks elicited precious little sympathy from Clive who simply complained that I made him look fat.

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[January 13 2011: Clive Carpenter, Martin Moodie, mystery stony-faced woman]

On our reunion this week in Queensway, West London, the choice of food and wine was once again Italian, although in the latter’s case we changed colour, opting for a workmanlike at best Trebbiano from a distinctly mediocre list. After a light snack (I took the Calamari starter as it only cost a couple of squid), determined to illustrate how much I have moved on since then and to emphasise the fact that neither Clive nor I has aged one jot, we decided to recreate the picture.

As with the wine though, we had to mix things up a bit. This time, with not a statue in sight, we opted to bring our charming waitress into shot (more properly attired you will note than our original female companion). The end result certainly underlines the difference between sickness and health. It also underlines the fact that I need to lose weight. Only this time I’ll do it the natural way.

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[November 11, 2014: Clive Carpenter, Martin Moodie, mystery smiling waitress]

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On Monday night The Moodie Report was lucky enough to meet a second football legend in the space of three weeks, following David Beckham’s appearance at the TFWA World Exhibition in Cannes. Ex-England and Real Madrid star Michael Owen was at the Tower of London in the UK to launch his two Harvey’s of Edinburgh single malt Spey whiskies, The Michael Owen Limited Edition and The Golden Choice.

Following introductory speeches from Harvey’s of Edinburgh CEO John McDonough and Michael Owen, Malcolm Davies of Brand Harbour (Harvey’s travel retail drinks consultancy) enthusiastically introduced me to the ex-England football star, noting my life-long allegiance to Premiership football team Leicester City.

So, there I was, my big moment to meet football legend Michael Owen and (don’t be fooled by his innocent baby face), standing like a nervous penalty taker over the ball. Then, his fateful first words…

“I’m sorry, but I think Leicester are going to go down.”

Thanks, Michael. Lovely to meet you, too!

You see, anything would have been better than those opening words. That’s because both The Moodie Report family and the Pawson family care deeply about Leicester City, the famous ‘Foxes’ owned by an offshoot of King Power International (Group Chairman Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha is the club’s Chairman and Senior Executive Vice President Susan Whelan is CEO).

 

Left: The Michael Owen Limited Edition; right: The Golden Choice

[Left: The Michael Owen Limited Edition; right: The Golden Choice]

Friends again: Spey Brand Ambassador Michael Owen and The Moodie Report's Helen Pawson

[Friends again: Spey Brand Ambassador Michael Owen and The Moodie Report's Helen Pawson]

My parents, both football nuts, were eager to hear about my meet with THE Michael Owen. However, I will leave readers to imagine the response from my mother (a Leicester City season ticket holder for over 40 years) when I revealed Owen’s first words to me.

A short but sharp response from my mother: “We will see about that, won’t we?”

That, Michael, is how NOT to win friends who support Leicester City.

However, all was forgiven after a tipple of fine Scotch whisky and when he flashed his smile – still every bit as wide and as bright as that he wore just after his ‘wonder goal’ against Argentina in the 1998 World Cup – for a picture with me.

Michael (a very nice guy by the way) is not exactly a hardened whisky drinker; in fact he only tried it for the first time just six months ago: “I never bought whisky as a drink when I went out. But obviously getting involved in the whole process, not just tasting whisky, but learning about it, there’s a story to be told. All the different ways that whisky is distilled is fascinating. It’s obviously an industry that is really booming as well.”

He’s right. And so, for the record, are the Foxes. So let’s forget those rumours of relegation shall we? In fact let’s Scotch them altogether.

One Response to “How NOT to win ‘Foxes’ friends and influence people”

  1. Torben says:

    Leicester will never go down with Kasper
    Schmeichel as keeper!

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You know the saying, “There’s no place like home”? Home is a shelter from storms, where we feel most safe and comfortable, and for most of us in the travel retail industry, I’m sure there’s nothing like returning home after long trips away for work. Spending time at home is a luxury – being able to host our friends and loved ones even more so.

For its fourth annual Masters of Wines and Spirits (view the full story here), DFS Group has brought this idea – that entertaining at home is the ultimate expression of luxury – to life, creating a warm and welcoming space for guests to experience its largest and most diverse collection in the history of the event.

DFS Group President Global Merchandising Harold Brooks explains: “Every year, we scout the globe and collaborate tirelessly with the world’s most loved wine, Champagne and spirits houses to curate collections of great range and rare quality. I can think of no better way to enjoy and celebrate such fine creations than in the close company of friends and family, in the most intimate of settings – one’s home.”

“Home” is a colonial black and white house along Singapore’s Mount Pleasant Road, built in the 19th century, where privileged media guests – including The Moodie Report – were treated to a preview tour and private dinner before the gala on 8 November.

Sharing their insights on entertaining and hosting at one’s home were internationally renowned wine critic and author James Suckling (below) and leading mixologist and spirits expert Michael Callahan (second below), who summarised those insights into six key elements.

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The Six Elements of Entertaining at Home by DFS

#1: The Welcome Set the tone for the evening by starting off with something light, sweet and bubbly.

“Champagne is the perfect way to welcome guests. Its fine bubbles to the palate are like beautiful music to the ears. I can’t entertain without it.” – James Suckling

“A welcome cocktail should be thoughtful and elegant, while being unintimidating and approachable.” – Michael Callahan

I showed up half an hour early for the media preview dinner, thanks to a punctual driver – graciously arranged for by DFS – and smooth, off-peak traffic. Despite my arriving in the midst of a busy pre-dinner rehearsal, I was warmly welcomed by DFS Consumer Marketing Manager Zann Ng and taken on a preview-on-preview tour – it doesn’t get more up close and personal than this – of the house by Associate Merchandising Manager, Wines & Champagnes Randy Wong.

As other members of the media began streaming in, we were offered glasses of Perrier-Jouët Champagne – as James Suckling would have it – and welcome cocktails created especially for Masters of Wines and Spirits by Michael Callahan. The introduction of key opinion leaders such as Suckling and Callahan began last year, a move that certainly added a new dimension to the whole experience.

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[Mixologist at work: Michael Callahan serves up a refreshing cocktail fit for the tropics]

Fresh from the buzz of pre-dinner drinks, we sat down to dinner as the wait staff fussed around us – making sure our glasses were filled and preferences noted. Harold Brooks, with his trademark hospitality, greeted the three tables of guests – which included media and esteemed brand partners – and thanked them for their presence and longstanding support. “We believe that luxury should be experiential, immersive and personal,” he said, as he explained this year’s choice of venue and how the DFS team has strived to create the most intimate and elegant of settings to convince us all that “this is the place to be” for the 2014 Masters of Wines and Spirits.

“So on behalf of all of us here at DFS, I wish you a warm and wonderful evening and please make yourselves at home.” And we sure did…

#2: The Company – Great company, like fine wine, adds life and character to the dinner table.

“Sharing an evening with company is a moment to share special bottles to create a unique experience. It’s like creating your own personal theatre for them based on beautiful wine, delicious food and gorgeous ambiance.” – James Suckling

“There are few filters on who may walk through our door, so as long as they have a willingness to try something interesting and perhaps new.” – Michael Callahan

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Thankfully, I didn’t have to choose between great company and fine wine – there was plenty of both. I had the privilege of sitting beside Harold Brooks, who has been instrumental in driving Masters of Wines and Spirits since its inception and is retiring from his current role at the end of this year to return to his native US; and Diageo Global Travel & Middle East (GTME) Strategy & Global Customer Director Craig Norwell, who had moved from Australia to Singapore less than two years ago with his young family.

With glasses of Château Angelus Vintage 2011 and Penfolds Grange 2010 in hand, we spoke of new beginnings (in San Francisco for Brooks and Singapore for Norwell) and, as is always the case when I hear from foreigners how much they love Singapore, I came away with a newfound appreciation of the country I call my home.

#3: The Meal – Memorable food and drink pairings are a guaranteed recipe for a night to remember.

“Wine and food should create a crescendo together building to a beautiful moment for everyone. It’s not just about food and wine pairing.” – James Suckling

“Starting a meal with a beautifully aged-spirit and ending it with an herbal digestif is always a safe bet regardless of the meal that’s served.” – Michael Callahan

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Over the course of my work, I’ve been lucky enough to dine at some of the finest restaurants. While I’m not much of a foodie, I can honestly say this was one of the best meals I’ve ever had in my life.

The six-course dinner featured a wines and spirits pairing menu created exclusively for Masters of Wines and Spirits by Singaporean chef Willin Low – a fusion of Singaporean and Southeast Asian favourites blended with modern flavours and cooking techniques. It was a refreshing reinterpretation of some of my local hawker centre staples, such as the humble bee tai bak (which reminds me of childhood meals made by my late grandmother) and chicken rice, and a fitting homage to Singapore.

Now where can I get another serving of that pandan-infused panna cotta in salted gula melaka (below)…

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[Still dreaming of this dessert...]

#4: Conversations & Entertainment – Sharing a rare spirit or special cocktail is the perfect conversation starter.

“Everything is entertainment when trying to create the perfect moment.” – James Suckling

“A great ice breaker is to make note of something tactile that the person is wearing, allowing them to speak a bit about themselves.” – Michael Callahan

Joining James Suckling and Michael Callahan at the dinner were six brand ambassadors who offered their perspectives on the art of hosting: G. H. Mumm & Cie Brand Development Manager Thomas Lignier (Perrier-Jouët), Château Angelus Public Relations Officer Bong Grelat-Tram, Martell Heritage Director Jacques Menier, Penfolds Winemaking Ambassador – Asia Simon Cant, The Glenlivet Heritage & Brand Experience Director Peter Prentice, and Johnnie Walker Global Brand Ambassador Jonathan Driver.

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[The Glenlivet Heritage & Brand Experience Director Peter Prentice making The Moodie Report's Melody Ng feel at home]

Not only were they passionate speakers, sharing with the audience the stories behind the pouring wines and spirits, they were also gracious and affable off-stage, sharing co-hosting duties with finesse. Ms. Grelat-Tram shared with me pictures of the stunning Château Angelus and Peter Prentice, my dinner companion at last year’s event, was a riot as usual.

Suckling and Callahan ensured a smooth flow of topics, with nary a dull moment. Their easy chemistry was affirmed on the second night of the media dinner, during which they reportedly ditched their cue cards and – with the help of great wines and spirits – just went with the flow.

#5: The Setting & Ambiance – Create a sense of intimacy with small details that leave a big impression on guests.

“The wine selection can make or break the atmosphere of a special dinner or event.” – James Suckling

“Pay attention to the little details such as lighting, temperature, and decorations as they influence the mood of the evening.” – Michael Callahan

When choosing the venue, DFS was attracted to the aesthetic of the black and white house, said to be one of over 500 remaining buildings built during Singapore’s colonial period at the beginning of the 19th century. “As a piece of architecture, it is truly quintessential Singapore,” Harold Brooks noted.

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[A typical black and white house (photo for illustration only, credit: expatliving.sg)]

The two-storey structure, with its open veranda, high roof and signature rattan blinds, certainly had a rustic charm. However, when DFS first took over the place it was “in shambles”, but its team – which can now add “flipping houses” to its résumé – gave it a total makeover in record time.

All that and a fresh coat of paint does not make a home, and certainly not one that will house a multi-million dollar collection of wines and spirits. The specially selected furniture, décor and props – from the antique typewriter, to the vintage telephone, to the fish bowl with real goldfish – demonstrated the same attention to detail that master distillers and craftsmen have devoted to the masterpieces on display. These all came together tastefully to create a setting that elevated the products, while ensuring they remain part of a cohesive whole.

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#6: Post-Dinner – Close the night with a final toast, farewells and the promise of more to come at the next gathering.

“Conversation, laughter, fun music, and Champagne (even the occasional cigar) is a wonderful end to a dinner.” – James Suckling

“A friend once acquired a sherry that was bottled when George Washington was in office. Instead of hoarding it as a collective, he opened it and we all got to try a piece of history.” – Michael Callahan

All good things, as they say, come to an end. The hours flew by as glasses were emptied and eyelids grew heavy, but fortunately DFS is making good on its “promise of more to come”.

“Our team has spent a year curating this assortment – this is not something that happens overnight,” said Harold Brooks. “It is truly a labour of love for our team, and if I’m being honest they have already started on the next Masters of Wines and Spirits in 2015.”

DFS has certainly outdone itself this year in terms of the creativity of presentation and the localisation of the experience. As I bid adieu to my short-lived home from home, I wondered what kind of surprises the travel retailer will spring next year. Well, we’ll just have to wait and see.

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nov blog mm

This Blog begins at Incheon International Airport, as I head home after a long but exhilirating week in South Korea. This is one of my favourite airports and that of many others, as underlined by it so consistently topping the ACI ASQ rankings in recent years.

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Along with Dubai International, it is also one of the world’s top two airports by duty free sales and this week’s news of the forthcoming duty free tender – and particularly the way it is being structured – has electrified the trade here.

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[The superb Korea Traditional Cultural Center at Incheon International Airport]

Since speaking at the inaugural IDutyFree Conference in Incheon early in the week, I have had the chance to catch up with several leading travel retailers and other key industry figures, and it’s no surprise what the major topic of conversation was.

On Wednesday night I dined with The Shilla Duty Free boss Jason Cha (below left) and Vice President Administration Team Tae Ho Kim at Shilla Hotel’s superb new Korean restaurant Rayeon. Shilla has its hands full right now (notably with brand negotiations) in launching its new overseas operations at Changi and Macau airports but it also, like rival Lotte Duty Free, faces a massive challenge at home in retaining its grip on the Incheon business.

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I’ll bring you a full report on what the splitting of the Incheon tender into two groups (big retailers and small/medium enterprises) means for Korean travel retail next week but let’s just say for now that the government’s moves to curb the influence of the giants represents the biggest upheaval in the industry’s history here.

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On Thursday evening I hosted two outstanding dinner companions at the Grand Hyatt in Seoul: YS Choi, the former Lotte Duty Free President and great pioneer of Korean duty free and Regina Hahm, a brilliant young analyst specialising in the sector for KB Daewoo Securities.

What an excellent evening, one in which we talked about the past, present and future of Korean travel retail, drank some good wine (Hunter’s by the wonderful Jane Hunter in Marlborough, New Zealand) and heard many of Mr Choi’s often hilarious, always insightful reminiscences of his three decades in the business.

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Earlier that day I had the very great pleasure of meeting another pivotal influence in Korean travel retail over many years, Bluebell Korea President & CEO Daniel Mayran (top picture below), together with Duty Free Division Development Director Jin Mo Kim (next picture below) and Leathergoods & Accessories Director Guillaume Durdan.

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An ebullient Frenchman, Daniel has been driving the success of powerful ‘brand behind the brands’, Bluebell, for the past 12 years. Bluebell, founded in 1960 by Pierre Goemans (and still in the hands of Michel and Cathering Goemans), represents a star-studded line-up of the world’s most illustrious brands in Korean travel retail, including the LVMH portfolio (including flagship Louis Vuitton, Clarins, L’Occitane and others.

He also created (and heads as President) the newly formed Seoul Luxury Business Institute, which aims to provide know-how to the luxury market’s key players in order to help them implement the highest standards of service.

Despite the structural changes to the market, Daniel remains very confident about Korean travel retail prospects, provided the market doesn’t focus only on high-end products. As more and more Chinese travellers come to Korea (there are now 280 flights a day to China), the mid-range is also important, he says.

Nonetheless, it’s clear that in travel retail terms at least, the Land of the Morning Calm is in tumult. Time to catch my Korean Air flight to London and maybe to contribute to an amazing US$200 million business run by the dynamic Heather Cho. Korean Air is probably the only travel retailer in the country feeling relaxed right now about the year ahead.

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[Above and below: Korean Air's superb Sky Shop inflight shopping magazine enjoys extensive distribution, in the airline lounges as well as the buses that bring passengers from Seoul to Incheon]

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Later…

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I’m nearly seven hours out of Incheon, suddenly wide awake after a much-needed few hours sleep, a few hundred miles north of my old blogging haunts of Novosibirsk and Omsk.

It’s been a tough few weeks, three out of four on the road, and after the next few days at home, three out of the ensuing four. But personal contact is everything in this business. With it comes many things – access, insight, knowledge, and often friendship. Korea is a case in point. I’ve been travelling there for a quarter of a century and I know the lie of the land, even when (as is the case in Korean travel retail today) it’s moving under you.

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mm tower

You get many special days in travel retail. And then you get ones like yesterday…

This Blog comes to you from The Moodie Report Interim Bureau in Seoul, where I’m battling to articulate the wondrous sights from 24 hours ago.

I ‘met’ Korean acting and musical celebrities Park Shin Hye and KS Jang (below). I took a trip not in a yellow but a red submarine around one of the world’s highest buildings. And I got up close and personal with the biggest rubber duck you ever saw.

Welcome to Lotte World Tower, maybe the most amazing place on the travel retail planet.

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This astonishing building (123 storeys, 555m high when finally completed) houses some 428,934sq m of retail, leisure and entertainment facilities, including an elegant two-storey, 10,990sq m Lotte Duty Free store, featuring some of the best visual merchandising you’ll ever see in the channel.

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[Virtual encounters with Korean acting idols Park Shin Hye, top, and KS Jang]

All that was captured in Melody Ng’s excellent on location report from the 21 October inauguration. What such formal ceremonies do not capture is the dazzling exuberance and pizazz of the project; its enthralling level of consumer engagement; and its thrilling quality of execution.

The duty free offer and environment oozes class and that, together with what’s around it, makes this one of travel retail’s most compelling 21st century case studies.

Think about the very best shopping mall in your city or country. Double the quality factor by two. Triple the excitement. Quadruple the consumer engagement. And still, I suspect, none will come even close to that of this new facility.

There’s so very, very much to talk about at Lotte World Tower. It is a tourist destination extraordinaire. Chinese and Japanese travellers buy day passes here and you can see why. Yesterday I spent an exhilarating (but time-wise wholly inadequate) hour walking the duty free store and the wider facilities with one of Lotte’s most respected and long-serving executives, JS Kim (Managing Director Merchandising Division 1 – Merchandising Strategy, Luxury Fashion, Perfume & Cosmetics), pictured below, and his colleagues Steve Park and  Seung Min Do.

Mr and Mr Kim

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[That'll do nicely: Selecting a bottle of Matua Lands & Legends Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand to go with lunch]

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[Besides a magnificent array of wines, Peck at Lotte World Towers features the most brilliant interactive wine guide I have seen]

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[The duty free store makes brilliant use of pillars to feature stunning digital imagery] 

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[Above and below: Lotte has dedicated a huge amount of space to Korean products, red-hot with Chinese consumers, including the best-seller Sulwhasoo]

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There is so much to take in that I plan to take a more leisurely personal tour there today. I want to appreciate fully the incredible sight of a giant digital screen (the iPhone photo below hardly does it justice) that floats improbably down from the roof, carrying a series of changing  (often beautiful) images and messages while dissolving into different shapes.

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I want to revisit Star Avenue (below), Lotte Duty Free’s brilliantly interactive homage to the dual phenomenon of K-Pop (Korean pop music) and Hallyu (the so-called Korean wave that began with the popularity of Korean television drama in China).

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[Place your hand into any of the prints in front of you and the named star appears from behind a curtain on the screen above]

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[Above and below: I enter the 'Red Submarine' where I'm taken on a whirlwind flying tour with actress Park Shin Hye and actor Lee Min Ho, both hot names, especially with Chinese consumers]

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I want to dine (as we did yesterday) again at the lovely Peck restaurant where guests are surrounded on all sides by a giant glass wine cellar, in which resides a thrilling range of great wines from around the world.

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I want to study in greater detail the Rubber Duck project – centered on a 300 kilogram, 54-foot tall duck designed by Dutch artist Florentijn Hofman that floats surreally in the adjacent Seokchon Lake. This art installation has found its way to several world cities including Amsterdam, Auckland, Osaka, Sydney, Sao Paulo, Hong Kong and Pittsburgh since 2007 in a bid to ‘heal wounds’ and ‘relieve tension’ wherever it goes. It sure worked on me.

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[Auckland in my home country of New Zealand is just one of the many cities the duck has visited] 

Finally, I just want to take in at my leisure the exquisite interior design and merchandising of the whole complex, from a department store that actually transcends such a bland title to a duty free offer of unquestionable excellence. If Lotte could bring just some of this magic to the more constrained environment of an airport (and it is trying to do just that), the result would be something special.

Scenes from Lotte World 1

Hey I might even stop off for a viewing at the Lotte Cinema in the building; spend some time inside the giant aquarium; visit the world’s largest indoor theme park; and last, but a million miles from least, take in the majestic views of Hangang River,  Seokchon Lake and of the great sprawling city of Seoul.

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As I write from my 17th floor Interim Glass Bureau at the Grand Hyatt hotel, I am gazing over my laptop at beautiful Mount Namsan, a swathe of orange and gold in the beauty that is the Korean capital in Autumn. I’m listening to the wonderful piano work of Maria Paloma, her softness of touch a sublime and fitting accompaniment to the visual feast in front of me.  All tension is gone and there’s not a giant rubber duck in sight.

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mmblog_ollie_smiling_oct14

Meet Ollie.  A most inspiring young man.

Ollie is 9 years old, the nephew of Sara Stevens (sstevens@thenuancegroup.com), HR & Training Manager for The Nuance Group (UK) down in Southampton.

Ollie is currently in Birmingham Children’s Hospital undergoing gruelling treatment for a rare bone cancer called Ewing Sarcoma.

He wants to raise money for the hospital; in particular he feels that the hospital needs a ‘chill-out’ room for children like him to relax, chat and just feel normal.

Ollie has recently set up a Just Giving page, where he has raised over £4,000 in a couple of weeks (including £800 from a yard sale he organised, pictured below). Clearly a top manager in waiting, he has tasked his Auntie Sara with running a raffle. I will let her take up the story…

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“Because I never do things by halves, I thought I didn’t just want the usual old items in his raffle… let’s ask around to see if I can get some fantastic prizes to really make him smile.

“I have decided, therefore, that a raffle only was too ‘easy’ so have decided to host an indoor fete in February 2015 where we can run a host of ‘English’ games including, Splat the Rat, a good old fashioned tombola, cake stall, Ollie’s favourite Treasure Island and of course the raffle.

We will hold it in a village hall so it keeps things very local and ensures all Ollie’s friends, relatives and supporters can come and enjoy the day. We are looking for some fabulous raffle prizes which would make a difference to this great cause.”

A great cause it is indeed. Ollie’s just giving page in aid of BCH can be found at www.justgiving.com/Kira-Swannell

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[Ollie and twin Joe hard at work on the fund-raising]

Sarah says that Ollie lives in Redditch with his twin brother, Joseph, his other brothers, Barnum, Harry and Charlie and his two sisters Kira and Jessica, alongside their crazy dog Popcorn and his Mum and Dad. “The house is a chaotic place filled with love and fun (and noise!).” she says.

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Ollie will be back there soon enough but let’s help him in his selfless campaign to help others. I’m personally donating a case of Cloudy Bay Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand (god’s nectar) while The Moodie Report will donate four double-page advertising spreads across forthcoming editions of our weekly e-Zine to the four first bidders* (reserve price EUROS 300 but see if you can go higher) - send offers to Martin@TheMoodieReport.com by e-mail headed ‘Ollie’s story’.

I hope many of Sarah’s and my peers will make similar great donations or simply donate via Ollie’s Just Giving site. Let’s together blow a hole right through the roof of both that vilage hall and Ollie’s £5,000 target!

Let’s build that chill-out room entirely and have plenty left over to give to the hospital.

Just to encourage you, I’ll let Ollie have the final word:  “I am Ollie i am  nine years old and  i  have had a cancer in my knee ever since July.

“September 14th i starterd treatment it hasnt been the same i am fine and no pain in the knee anymore  but yep life is tricky thats why we should thank the nurses for helping and improve the ward if you donate anything  you will help me get more comfortable in the ward wen i stay there its hard at the moment  but it could get easier if you help its not just me its thousands of other boys and girls who go there please listen thank you.”

We’re listening Ollie, we’re listening…

*UPDATES…. REACTION FROM THE TRAVEL RETAIL COMMUNITY

* Moodie san, I will offer 1000 Euros for a double page spread ad in support of Ollie. – Peter Sant, Managing Director, Remy Cointreau Global Travel Retail

* I’m in for £200 Moodie san - Sunil Tuli, Managing Director Travel Retail & Duty Free, King Power Group (HK)

* Moodie San, count me in for £1,000 – Dan Cappell, VP Non Aeronautical Revenue & Business Development, Abu Dhabi Airports

* Hi Martin & Sara, I read the recent Moodie Blog and as so often was massively touched by the story line. I immediately contacted one of our brand partners and they immediately said yes, so I am pleased to say that the Swiss Eyewear Group will donate 4 pairs of their INVU ultra polarised sunglasses (2 adult and 2 childrens) as part of the fund raising program. They are worth €260 and hope they will be able to play a small part in helping. I do work with other brands and will also be looking to see what else I can arrange for young Ollie to help him achieve his grand plan.

Best wishes

Martyn Westbury, Head of Sales, Newthing Limited, UK

* Martin, I am happy to contribute £200 to Ollie’s fund-raising. – Jonathan Holland, Jonathan Holland & Associates

 

2 Responses to “Meet Ollie – a most inspiring young man (Updated)”

  1. Good afternoon,

    You do not know me but I read your blog and website every day. I used to work for Morrison Bowmore and William Grants Travel Retail team.

    I am also good friends with a fellow scot Fraser Dunlop [a senior World Duty Free Group executive and cancer survivor - Ed]. When I joined The Whisky Shop as MD I lost my father the day I joined to a short but hard fight with cancer. Fraser sent me this message that week http://www.theodore-roosevelt.com/trsorbonnespeech.html which I know meant a lot to him and which got me through some of the hard days that we all have.

    I have looked on with interest at your amazing fight against that terrible disease and love hearing about the glasses of wine at various airport lounges !!! I hope you enjoy every glass given what you have been though.

    I read your post this morning above Ollie and as a Dad of a 7 year old and a 4 year it breaks your heart to read kids suffering. It is bad enough watching adults suffer. So your post struck me today.

    I would like to donate a very special bottle of Glenfiddich that we are launching on the 1st Dec that will retail at £1500. See this clip:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B_ANvrWdgGg

    If you ever happen to be in Glasgow or our shop in Piccadilly look me up and I will share a dram with you or a Glass of wine.

    Your website is fantastic by the way and please keep going with it.

    I will this weekend be lighting an extra candle at mass for Ollie and children like him.

    Take care.

    Kind regards
    Andrew

    Andrew Torrance | Glenkeir Whiskies Limited
    Managing Director

    NOTE FROM MARTIN MOODIE: Andrew originally asked that his donation remain anonymous. I told him that if he agreed to be named I would place a personal reserve of £1,500 on the bottle. I am happy to pay that but I also hope others may pay more. Contact me at Martin@TheMoodieReport.com if you would like to. Andrew has not stopped there though. Watch this space and let’s keep Ollie on a roll to beat all rolls…

  2. Sara Stevens says:

    Dear Martin

    thank you for this, Ollie will be in awe of his name in print and I am overwhelmed by your support.

    “Auntie Sara”

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