Andy’s back in the fast Lane

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Martin Moodie
Martin Moodie is the Founder & Chairman of The Moodie Report.

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News that long-time Whyte & Mackay Travel Retail Director Andy Lane (above) has taken up a similar post at independent drinks company Ian McLeod Distillers is welcome.

Andy is one of the trade’s most genuine individuals, and committed and knowledgeable with it. For the past few months he has been consulting for Ian McLeod Distillers, one of the proudest of that fast dying breed, the independent Scotch whisky house.

Long known for its buyer’s own brand business, the company has made a concerted move into the branded world in recent times, driven by the acquisition of Highland Malt whisky Glengoyne in 2003.

In The Moodie BLOG’s opinion, this lovely, gentle malt is one of the subtle jewels of Scotch whisky. It hails from one of Scotland’s prettiest distilleries, not far from Glasgow and Loch Lomond, a must vist next time you’re in the area.

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Today the company is run by Managing Director Leonard Russell (above right), a third-generation descendent of the founder of the same name. The intervening generation is still nobly represented by the wonderfully eccentric and gracious Peter Russell (second from left between Marketing Director Iain Weir and Andy Lane), one of the truly great characters of the Scotch whisky industry. 

Peter and Leonard believe in doing and seeing things differently. No more so than their way of finalising an acquisition. Leonard tells a superb story about how the company was offered Wincarnis Tonic Wine when it acquired the Hedges & Butler drinks business in 1998.

“I asked about its alcohol strength,” he recalls, “and they couldn’t tell me. So I poured a glass, two-thirds full. ‘One of you has to drink it,” I said to the people who were trying to sell it to us. One of them did – his face duly turned quite red… and so we bought it!”

With some outstandingly packaged new lines in his armoury – including Glengoyne Burnfoot (the distillery was originally called Burnfoot) and the stunning Smokehead Extra Rare, which builds on the heady success and flavours of the company’s Smokehead Islay Malt – Andy Lane is a name, and Ian McLeod a company you’ll be hearing a lot more of.

The company is generous of (and with its) spirit too. For the recent ‘Turning Tears into Smiles’ fund-raising dinner in Hong Kong on behalf of children’s cleft charity The Smile Train, it donated a magnificent limited-edition 1972 Vintage Glengoyne, which comes in a beautiful gold-plated safe with its own key.

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Such a superb item deserved the best of homes. And where better than that of Dr Mukunda Reddy (above), the inspirational surgeon who heads the cleft programme at Nizim’s Institute of Medical Sciences in Hyderabad India, who was a guest of honour at the Hong Kong dinner on 5 October. The Moodie Report was delighted to top the bids for the malt in the ‘Silent Auction’ and present the vintage malt to a man of impeccable vintage and skill.

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