The Tasting Panel magazine

February 2014

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54 / the tasting panel / february 2014 "C harles Gordon was eight-years-old when he told his father he wanted to be a distiller, and was handed the family irm when he was just 26," says Sam Simmons, Global Brand Ambassador for The Balvenie. "He was, from the start, a man ahead of his time." Simmons's comments are truly representative of the universal acclaim that has poured out after Charles Gordon, Life President of William Grant & Sons, passed away in New York in mid-January. He was 86. Gordon built and left an incredible legacy, not only for the exceptional development of William Grant & Sons as a leading independent family- owned company, but also for his immeasurable contributions to the worldwide development and appreciation of Scotch whisky. "Charles Gordon was a single-minded, deter- mined character with a huge stamina for the busi- ness," says Ian Millar, Global Brand Ambassador, Gleniddich. "There's no doubting his passion. It's what got him out of bed every morning. He simply lived for the company." Remembering his irst meeting with Gordon, in 2005 at his house in Cascai, Portugal, Millar says he spent ive hours discussing the initiation of a Brand Ambassador program. "Since that irst meeting we have gone on to recruit 60-plus ambassadors for our brands around the world. He took a keen inter- est in the ambassador training regimes. He wanted to recruit the very best ambassadors and he had high expectations of their impact on our brands." In fact, Gordon's biggest impact on the develop- ment of a Brand Ambassador program was to travel the world himself. He believed strongly in word-of-mouth promotion, building advocacy "dram by dram," as he so often called it, to create a memorable luxury experience from the moment someone picked up a bottle. "I fondly regard Mr. Gordon as the original Ambassador for William Grant & Sons, with his daring trips around the world, keen interest in the on-premise accounts, and the opinion of the bartender," says Charlotte Voisey, Portfolio Ambassador, USA. "That role truly will have a lasting impact on the beverage industry." It was more than just making face-time with the world for Gordon, however. He was involved in every aspect of production, global sales and marketing for the company, and was an undeniable driving force in building William Grant & Sons into a strong, independent, global presence. Through the decades, his business moves proved to be progressive and foresighted. In 1964, for example, he spearheaded the acquisition of Popper Morson, Inc., the largest American importer on the East Coast and owner of Clan Macgregor. This move— which allowed greater control, distribution, and sale of its products—was revolutionary and placed William Grant & Sons in an advantageous position to better develop its brands. Among those brands, Gordon championed Hendrick'sGin into one of the most coveted brands in the entire beverage industry, and he also acquired Milagro Tequila for his enviable portfolio of spirits. But it was the world of Scotch whisky that Gordon brought to new heights and new apprecia- tion. He launched the single malt category, adding a new tier of quality to the industry, and he made the decision to build Girvan Grain Distillery, now the largest producer of grain whisky in Scotland. He led the industry by examples that have been adopted and emulated by others all over the world. Reminiscent of his great-grandfather, Charles championed new approaches to ensure sustained growth for his family business. In fact, he began the William Grant & Sons practice of laying down whisky for future generations, investing in the specialness of his family's golden spirits, and ensuring truly distinct expressions to be crafted for the future. Ludovic Ducrocq, Head of Brand Ambassador Advocacy, shared what he believes illustrates perfectly the way Gordon viewed his role: "He always seemed to have a long term vision for his business and a strong sense of responsibility. It was his generation's duty to grow the business as much and as responsibly as possible before handing it over to the next generation." [use IN MEMORIAM Charles Gordon THE ORIGINAL SCOTCH WHISKY AMBASSADOR by Anthony Head

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