20 June 2012

Whisky Insiders Interview - Ian Buxton

Brollachan Ltd

Consultant, Commentator & Writer

brollachan.com (coming soon)

How long have you been working in the whisky industry?
I joined Robertson & Baxter, the blenders (part of the Edrington Group) back in 1987. Prior to that I had worked in the brewing industry for Bass and Whitbread, but both my wife and I wanted to return to Scotland, where we grew up, and bring up our family here.

After R&B I joined Glenmorangie and subsequently set up my own business. Today I split my time between writing (the visible bit) and consultancy work, which is largely anonymous because of client confidentiality.

What has been your biggest career highlight to date?
Leaving Glenmorangie, where I was Marketing Director, to start my own business. I got a thrill out of starting the World Whiskies Conference 6 years ago and the publication of my first major book, the original 101 Whiskies to Try Before You Die was also a moment that I won’t soon forget.

Can you remember your first dram, and indeed what it was?
I have an idea it was Lagavulin but I may have imagined that.  I can remember various blends coming into the house when I was growing up and I may have taken the odd surreptitious nip of those.

What does whisky mean to you?
It’s now central to everything I do, in all aspects of my life and work. In case that sounds too pompous I should also add that I enjoy it; it’s been fun and introduced me to new friends and interesting places.

Where would you like to see yourself in five years time?
Doing more of the same, preferably better paid!

What was your last dram?
I was very fortunate to be asked to write the booklet that accompanied the recent very limited release of a single cask of 1953 Glenfarclas.  I was able to save a few drops and enjoy it at leisure. And enjoy it mightily I did!

Do you have a favourite whisky and food pairing combination?
I don’t. I enjoy trying different whisky/food combinations and have been lucky enough to be invited to various themed dinners and experiment with different complementary dishes and drams. But, as a very general rule, I usually find myself thinking that, well though a particular food and whisky go together, there is a wine or even a beer that I would have preferred. 

It may be old fashioned, or perhaps I’m not obsessive enough, but I’m happy to enjoy a whisky before the meal and then look forward to a full-flavoured dram after the table has been cleared.

Having said all that I distinctly recall taking a large Bunnahabhain with some very fresh oysters at a recent Islay Festival while standing on the distillery pier in the rain and I would happily repeat that combination, preferably without the rain.

What’s your favourite time and place to enjoy a dram?
Is it too obvious to say ‘with friends, wherever they are’?  If they can’t come along, then either somewhere wild and windy or somewhere very luxurious – the old American Bar at the Connaught if you’re buying! It sounds rather sad, or perhaps, alcohol-dependent to note that I frequently enjoy a dram at my desk. But who says work can’t be fun?

What do you think is going to be the next big thing on the whisky horizon?
I’m enormously excited about the new wave of small ‘craft’ distillers. They have a freedom to experiment and innovate that is harder for larger companies or blocked by regulation. I expect to see more flavoured whiskies emerging and really stunning whisky from distillers such as Kavalan.

What’s the one dram you couldn’t live without?
The one you’re about to buy me!

Many thanks to Ian Buxton. Who will be the next Whisky Insider? Click back soon to find out!