Golf & the Scotch Whisky Industry
The link between Scotch whisky and golf runs deeper than geography...
"ONLY golfers need apply" – probably not what you will ever read in a job advert, writes Rupert Patrick, CEO of WhiskyInvestDirect. But in the Scotch whisky trade golf features prominently.
Moving to Edinburgh for a job in the whisky trade was already a good thing, and even better when I discovered in my first summer there that I'd be playing inter whisky-company golf matches, on Wednesday evenings.
No-one minded you leaving the office at 4.30pm so long as you were headed for the golf course where business would continue, albeit in more relaxed circumstances. It was a great way to learn about the other Scotch whisky companies, their brands and the people behind them.
My employer at the time was a small company, and it relied on building solid supply relationships with the bigger players. And aside from the lunch or dinner table, what better place to network than the golf course where you've got a good few hours to blend conversation and competition?
Do deals get done on the golf course? I've seen a few. But when I worked for the Bourbon whiskey company Jim Beam, I discovered an even stronger link between grain and golf.
Beam, Titleist and Footjoy were all owned by the same parent company. Imagine my delight when I realised that not only did I get a generous bottle allowance but I was also entitled to discounted staff rates on golf clubs and balls. And thanks to the subsequent purchase by Beam of Laphroaig distillery, I've still not exhausted my supply of balls with the Laphroaig logo.
I smile when I address every shot. And if I lose it, hey, that's good advertising.
The biggest Scotch brand is at it too – Johnnie Walker is closely associated with golf. Indeed, one of the hot invites of the whisky trade calendar is the Johnnie Walker invitation golf day, played this year at The Queen's Course, Gleneagles. And despite the sale of the hotel this summer, rumour has it that the deal will continue there. Not that there's a shortage of alternatives, of course.
Dig a little deeper and it's easy to see the close geographic link between golf and whisky. The eight distilleries on Islay are all within a short drive of the famous Machrie golf club – a golf and whisky paradise that would be overrun if it weren't for its remote island location. But back on the mainland, there is Cambeltown's famous Springbank distillery and Machrihanish golf club down the road. Two real gems in their respective worlds.
There are numerous other pairings of distilleries and golf courses, but perhaps the most recent example tells the story perfectly.
A caddie at Kingsbarns golf club, in Fife, heard so many visitors sound disappointed when they discovered that the nearest distillery was more than 50 miles away, he came up with a plan to build one right there. It's now in full production.
Whisky and golf are no doubt good partners, and I'm not the only one to have played rather better after a long lunch and a wee dram.