As promised I have managed to ask a few questions to Lady of the Glen owner Gregor Hannah on starting a business and on his products. By way of introduction though I have pasted in some of the content from the “Our Story” page of their website.
Growing up, Gregor was surrounded by whisky. Hailing from a long line of pipers, Gregor watched as his father amassed a large collection of rare malts given as thank you gifts. He was fascinated, and determined to understand how to build the ultimate collection for himself.
Gregor now acquires rare single casks from the Scotch Whisky larder to mature at his own discretion and release under his own brand, Lady of the Glen. Since launching Lady of the Glen in 2012, he is proud to have delivered over 1000 bottles of exceptional whisky worldwide.
Every cask is taste-tested prior to release by Gregor and bottled at cask strength with no colourings or chill filtering. The beauty of a single cask release is the way whisky matures, as unique differences in the oak and maturation conditions ensures no two casks are ever the same.
Since launching in 2012, Lady of the Glen is proud to have delivered over 1000 bottles of exceptional whisky worldwide.
Starting a business is not easy and not for the faint hearted. Before Lady of the Glen did you have any previous business ventures?
No, Lady of the Glen is my first venture. I started the business when I was about 25 and was running the firm in the evenings while working full time. The early years were stressful, and I’ll freely admit to making mistakes which cost me time and money. This stressful period was worth it, though. I still make mistakes, but I’m now in a position to draw a full-time salary from the business and can give all my focus to Lady of the Glen.
Having been a director for quite a few years now what has been you biggest lesson and what would your 1 piece of advice be to someone looking to go it alone.
The biggest lesson I have learned is the importance of perseverance and expecting things to go wrong. Any business will face setbacks, and you just have to work through them and learn from your mistakes. Taking ownership and responsibility is really important for me as a business owner, and I’d advise anyone thinking of starting their own firm to never lower themselves to blaming others or shirking their responsibility.
You must have had some big highs and stressful lows like any business owner. What do you think has been your proudest achievement?
Whilst Lady of the Glen has won a number of awards through the years; winning support from the Prince’s Trust in 2014 stands out as my proudest moment. It felt like an endorsement; that the Trust believed in my ability to succeed, where others, even amongst friends and family, did not. It was a key moment for both Lady of the Glen and for me as a business-owner.
How do you feel the independent bottler segment is fairing at the moment? As an outsider it seems very congested with new bottlers appearing and disappearing all the time?
I agree that the market is more congested but I think that this illustrates the growth of the category, and there is still bags of potential for single casks in export markets.
I guess then a follow-on question is how is the single malt market in the UK and how does that compare to the international markets you export into?
The number of alcohol drinkers is going down overall, and the UK whisky market is at a very mature point, however, I still see great potential in single malts. People still want to try different flavours or one-off releases in responsible way, and that is where independent bottlers can shine by releasing rare single casks.
Getting back to the whisky itself I have noticed a lot of Port casks. What was it about Port that made you choose those types of cask?
I went to Porto last year, initially to learn how my sherry casks were being made; however, I took some port casks with the sherry order when I was persuaded by the authenticity of the production and flavours promised. After tasting the port finishes, I was really impressed so I’ve gone on to source port casks in equal proportion to sherry.
When compiling a quarterly set of bottles do you have a set of objectives for what you release? Do you have a methodology or is it purely whatever is ready for market?
Yes, I usually try to release something heavily sherried or with a heavy port influence; something over 20 years old, and something with a very approachable price point. Once I have these three categories ticked off, I’ll release other stock alongside them.
The archives show quite a range of different distilleries represented in your back catalogue is there any you hope to bag soon but can’t find the casks?
I would like to release a Lagavulin and Glen Grant among others, but for now I have a couple of Laphroaig casks finishing their maturation, and plan to release more Caol Ila in Amarone and also some Amontillado cask finishes with different whiskies.
Looking to the future now where do you hope Lady of the Glen will be in say 5 years time?
There’s still some way to go in in my three-year plan, particularly regarding distribution channels and the number of annual casks releases. The portfolio I have now would easily carry us beyond the next 5 years with quarterly outruns, even assuming I added no more which is definitely not going to be the case. Currently, we have lots of stock in Amarone; a variety of Sweet wine casks, and plenty of different sherries from Amontillodo, PX and Olorosso. My goal is for Lady of the Glen to be viewed as one of the best Independent Bottlers both in the UK and abroad, and that is why I only want to release the most diverse range of flavours.
Lastly, is there anything you think we should be looking out for coming soon from you guys?
Within the current outrun there are some fantastic sherry casks, including two UK exclusives; the Glen Moray and Secret Islay which were both finished in PX octaves – there are only about 66 of each release. We will also be releasing a 10-year-old Lochindaal which was incredibly hard to find, but it tastes absolutely superb; very peaty with seashells and stone fruit flavours.
Of course my many thanks go to Gregor for taking the time to answer my questions I thought they were really insightful. Gregor’s business is very impressive and I would be really pleased to have achieved what he has in such a short period of time. When I reached out with some questions I didn’t expect a reply so this is just a bonus to be able to share this with you all.