Whisky: Held in honour
Mark Angus, retail sales manager of whisky distributor Gordon & MacPhail’s shop in Elgin, has just been made a Keeper of the Quaich in honour of his special commitment to the Scotch whisky industry.
He tells Martin Green about his time in the sector.
How did you get into drinks retailing and how has your career progressed?
I have worked in the retail trade since I was 14. My father owned a local grocery shop and it has been in my blood ever since. I started helping out after school and, on leaving school, I joined the supermarket chain Fine Fare. Over the next 25 years I moved through the various chains – Gateway, Asda, Morrisons and Tesco – before moving across to Gordon & MacPhail where I have been for nine years. While working in these supermarket chains I learned the trade by being adaptable and working across all the departments. I spent my time working in the wines and spirits departments along with all the fresh departments.
What were your first experiences with Scotch whisky?
I started my whisky journey when I joined Gordon & MacPhail as retail manager. The whisky room is such an important part of the business and my job. Customers from all over the world come to visit the spiritual home of the company. I learned from [owner Urquhart] family members while they did tastings with customers. The versatility of the spirit piqued my interest and I had a real desire to learn more. Gordon & MacPhail facilitated and assisted with my whisky education. I joined the tasting panel, visited distilleries and attended the Gordon & MacPhail whisky course at Moray College.
Why do you think it stands out as such a magnificent spirit?
Above all for its versatility. It’s a wonderful spirit, uniquely different from distillery to distillery, and diverse in flavour, depending on the length of maturation and cask selection. So many flavour profiles are on offer – sherry, vanilla, toffee, peat smoke. There definitely is a whisky for everyone. There is such an interest in whisky at the moment, it is an exciting industry to be a part of. I love the buzz of presenting a whisky tasting and the sense of anticipation as the participants wait to learn which whiskies they will be sampling.
How has the industry changed during your time at Gordon & MacPhail?
How has consumer knowledge progressed and how do you see that all developing? The consumer is becoming savvier. The enthusiasts understand the concept of an independent bottler and are keen to engage. The internet and social media have made whisky more mainstream and invaluable information and facts are available at the touch of a button. This has helped to introduce whisky to younger consumers who have tested the market with gin and vodka. Letting them sample and explore all the flavours of a single malt is a must.
What are some of the best whiskies you have enjoyed throughout your career?
I am very fortunate with my position at Gordon & MacPhail as it has opened the door to whisky retailing – a unique and eclectic avenue. I have had the opportunity to meet and network with a number of whisky writers. As a judge for the Scottish Field Whisky Challenge, I have worked alongside some amazing people in the industry.
I am a member of the Gordon & MacPhail taste panel, a group of colleagues who sample all the expressions produced by Gordon & MacPhail, including some of the finest new expression of single malt Scotch whisky.
I have nosed and tasted some of the great Gordon & MacPhail bottlings: Generations Mortlach 75 Year Old, Generations Glenlivet 70 Year Old, as well as the entire Private Collection range to commemorate the transition from the third to the fourth generation – Linkwood 1953, PC Glenlivet 1952, PC Mortlach 1951, PC Strathisla 1957. Of course, I cannot leave out the Retail Exclusive. Each year I have the privilege of selecting five single casks to be bottled and sold exclusively by the shop.