Bermondsey, and at about 10.00 the telephone would ring to tell you to come to lunch. You’d go and see the supervisor of the bond or the bottling line, go back to the flat, shave, put on a suit, get back at 12.00 and be given a half bottle of sherry which was yours until lunch. You’d get home about 6.00, rather the worse for wear, and go to bed. Then sometimes you were made to be host, and given about two weeks’ warning: the guests would be bankers, or people from companies like ICI and Shell. You’d choose the menu and be given access to the cellars; you had to meet and greet, do the introductions, carve – I was about 20. It was the best university in the world.’Gloag’s early experience was nearly all in wine rather than whisky. He worked for a retail chain and did stints managing shops: ‘My float and my cash register were never right; I caused enormous chaos. I trashed about five of their shops and moved on.’ He worked in Bordeaux for négoçiants Calvet (on the bottling line, the least exciting part of any establishment) and did a harvest at Château d’Angludet in Bordeaux. Then he went to Australia (his father had some wine connections with New South Wales) before coming home in 1969.‘I was brought up to drink good wine and appreciate wine. You didn’t know what bad whisky tasted like. In those days you had a drinking repertoire: you went from cider to beer to gin and orange or gin and tonic. I never drank whisky until I was 28 or 29. I’ve always said, you’ll never drink whisky until you’re comfortable drinking alone. It’s for when you give yourself a reward – what a marketing word. Over the years people have said to me that we must get young people drinking whisky. Well, my children don’t drink whisky. Young people don’t. It’s a fact of life. Although brands like J&B and Cutty Sark have made it into a chic club drink, and that’s very clever. Of course I tasted whisky before that age, but it was alien. I can understand people not liking whisky. But when you come to it you like it a lot. ‘I don’t drink malt whisky yet. I can appreciate it, and I can tell a good dram from a bad dram, but I’m not a malt drinker. In my humble opinion the malt whisky industry is only just getting itself into a proper situation. In the eighties everyone thought that malts would be a wonderful panacea for their cash-flow problems: it’s dead easy to make and put in bottle. But you never know what you’re getting. If you had a three-star, five-star and seven-star system, and it was priced accordingly, you’d know what you were getting. As it is it’s confusing.’ Last year Gloag moved from Perth to France. ‘I’m still very involved; I’ve got e-mail, I talk to the office every day, I get my instructions every day. But I seemed to have gone from always being the young person in the company to suddenly being the old person. I grew up as a young person in a fairly aged environment, because we had no middle management. Now all my contemporaries have gone. I had trustees, but I didn’t have a father figure, although I had mentors.‘I’d been there for 28 or 29 years, and I felt I’d missed my children growing up. I had to make a clean break, and France was the logical place. I have no idea how long I’ll stay, or what I’ll do in the next few years. I’m involved in various things in the company, but the structure has changed dramatically. I probably wouldn’t fit easily into modern companies. When you need about six people in the personnel department there’s something wrong – and it’s not a big company.’ His work now consists of being a brand ambassador for The Famous Grouse – a role that means being the public face of the brand, ‘going to talk to someone in America, having lunch with politicians, inducting a sales force, or just being nice to people.’ (Hosting those lunches early in his career could hardly have been better training.) He also has time to do the garden and have a proper life. ‘I think that I have a lot of influence in the company, but I probably have none at all.’ But he agrees that if Highland Distillers wanted to do something with which he strongly disagreed, he could stop it. His children probably won’t go into the company. ‘They’re both daughters. The older one might. The other is a travel agent. I suppose I persuaded them not to; they should have their own careers. I grew up with sometimes having the accusation of nepotism. But if they wanted to join, and they met the criteria, I’m sure they could. But it’s still a very masculine industry.’ No, probably Matthew Gloag wouldn’t fit easily into a modern company – and for that I’ll raise another cheer.