16 May 2023

123rd Whisky Insiders Interview - Mike Hayward

The Glasgow Distillery Co

How long have you been working in the whisky industry?
In 2012 I founded The Glasgow Distillery alongside my long-term business partner, Liam Hughes. Before embarking on our distillery journey, we had both been in the drinks industry for over 20 years working across business development; brand strategy; product launches; operations and project management for a wide number of well renowned drinks brands, which included whisky. The drinks industry as a whole has been central to my entire working life and the experience of seeing the exciting changes and innovation across spirit categories is one of the reasons we produce not only single malt Scotch whisky at The Glasgow Distillery, but gin, vodka and rum, too. 
What has been your biggest career highlight to date?
Starting up the distillery from scratch has been no easy task. It has been one of the most challenging experiences of my life but, also, one of the most rewarding. It fills me with immense pride when I see how far we have come in a relatively short period of time. Indeed, our first release of single malt scotch whisky distilled from The Glasgow Distillery, Glasgow 1770 Single Malt Release No.1, was very memorable and a proud moment for me and everyone within the distillery who collectively worked so hard to make it happen. That first release was the culmination of so many years of effort – first to get the distillery up and running but then to subsequently build all of our five brands.
Since that first release, we haven't stopped. We’ve kept going with the same drive and energy that was behind Release No.1 and with each subsequent new release – be that our Peated or Triple Distilled single malts, or releases within our experimental Small Batch Series of Glasgow 1770 Single Malts, or limited-edition Banditti Club rums - I get a buzz and an immense sense of pride in our work.
Can you remember your first dram, and indeed what it was?
It’s hard to remember my first dram of whisky specifically but I recall when I was somewhat younger, growing up at home with the aroma of single malt from my father’s whisky collection as he took a well-earned dram after a long day at work, which sparked my early curiosity. Albeit I was far too young to be drinking at that age!

Having frequented a wide range of spirits over the years, one of the first whiskies that I fell in love with was Highland Park 18 Year Old. The balance of soft campfire smoke against the rich sherry influence, the saline balanced against the vanillin of American oak. It was one of the first whiskies that helped me realise just how complex and well-balanced malt whisky can be.
What does whisky mean to you?
Whisky is both pleasure and business and it’s a privilege to be able to call it both. I enjoy whisky in my downtime and have a joy in discovering new brands that are innovative and engaging and pushing the boat.
Within a business context whisky means working hard to deal with the demands of the day-to-day running of an operating distillery and all the challenges that are associated with that. 
Whisky also means creativity. Leading on new product development, creating new blends, trialling new spirit and wood combinations, purchasing casks and planning out our future spirit in the long-term are all aspects of my role and daily work life. 
People and whisky cannot be separated. I have many personal friendships that have come out of working in this industry; It’s full of wonderful and passionate people – both within the wider industry and within the distillery itself. We have a fantastic team of really engaged and passion-fuelled team members who are as enthusiastic about creating, talking and loving whisky as much as I am.
So, for me whisky means a lot of different things, each one contributing and adding colour to my life.
Where would you like to see yourself in five years’ time?
Our distillery is still young and at the beginning of an exciting growth phase. With new staff bringing great experience to the team and a site expansion now under way, we have a solid long-term plan. Details of which will be revealed in due course, but there’s lots of exciting developments in the pipeline. Watch this space.

Product wise, we’re continuing the experimentation seen in our Glasgow 1770 Small Batch Series by using a variety of exciting cask finishes across different spirit types with many exciting upcoming releases. Our Banditti Club Rum continues to go from strength-to-strength, and we will have more innovative limited-edition releases coming out this year and beyond.
What was your last dram?
The latest in our Glasgow 1770 Single Malt Small Batch Series: Red Wine & Ruby Port Cask Finish. This is a combination of both peated and unpeated (triple distilled) whiskies, that have been initially matured and then finished in two different combinations of casks - so four cask influences and two spirit styles within the final marriage that has been bottled. Like the rest of our Small Batch Series, it’s a limited release with the stock now coming to an end. I'll be sad to see it go.
What’s your favourite time and place to enjoy a dram?
Sitting with a quality dram at the end of a busy day on the sofa is always enjoyable and is certainly known to happen. However, the most enjoyable whisky I drink is probably the cask samples within our tasting room with the distillery team. Opening up new samples with a sense of discovery and anticipation is a thrill. You may know on paper what is in front of you, but until you pour it into your glass and taste it you don’t quite know. Those moments when the contents of your glass really jump out to you and you realise that you have unearthed something unexpectedly spectacular is particularly special.
What do you think is going to be the next big thing on the whisky horizon?
The change in the industry over the past couple of years has been astonishing, especially with many new distilleries having been built in the last 10. With such a strong established industry already existing, it’s interesting to see what is coming from these new distilleries who are determined to bring something new and exciting.
We were part of that initial new wave of single malt whisky distilleries and seeing many more join us is very exciting. The lowland region in particular is booming and seeing so many contemporaries start to produce whiskies in and around Glasgow and Edinburgh adds to the rich tapestry of talent and storytelling that makes up the whisky industry.
What’s the one dram you couldn’t live without?
The whisky that started it all, Glasgow 1770 The Original. The Original is initially matured in first-fill bourbon before a finish in virgin oak. An incredibly well rounded, delicious and refreshing whisky that will always hold a special place in my heart.
Many thanks to Mike Hayward. Who will be our next Whisky Insider? Click back soon to find out!