He may have spent 40 years in the whisky business, but Stewart Laing has big plans for the future of his new business and is in no mood to step back from the hustle and bustle.
The former partner in independent bottler and blender Douglas Laing & Co has recently set up Hunter Laing & Co in central Glasgow after deciding to split from his brother Fred, who he worked with for four decades.
“It worked beautifully for 40 years but as we have grown older, my brother and I, we developed different views as to the way forward for the company, which is a fairly regular occurrence for family companies. We decided to be grown up big boys and amicably split the assets 50/50,” he told me in a recent interview after the 1 May split.
The division means the new Hunter Laing & Co (named after Stewart’s middle name) will own Old Malt Cask, the Old & Rare Selection, Douglas (of Drumlanrig) range of Single Malts, Douglas Blend, House Of Peers, Sovereign Single Grain and John Player Special blend as well as the bottling facility in East Kilbride. Fred, meanwhile, retains the original business name (Douglas Laing & Co) and brands Single Cask Provenance range, Director’s Cut, Double Barrel, Premier Barrel, Clan Denny Malts and Grains, Epicurean Blend, the King Of Scots range, McGibbon’s and Big Peat.
One of the main reasons for the split, according to Stewart, was his desire to work with his two sons, Andrew and Scott, who are themselves established in the whisky industry with their company Edition Spirits.
“My father had my brother and myself but I wasn’t able to work with my sons at Douglas Laing. It’s a great pleasure and pride as a father to have my two sons involved. They know their way around whisky so it will be great to see what their younger legs and more agile minds are able to do,” he said.
But despite the addition of two younger team members, Laing said he is no where near backing out of the whisky world yet.
“I’m still up for the fight and still got the buzz and the day I don’t is the day I will decide to retire but that’s not going to be any time soon,” he added.
What the future will bring he, of course, isn’t sure. Looking back over the past decade, he said he wishes he now could have predicted the huge boom in Scotch globally.
“I wish I knew five years ago what I know today, I could have gone to town buying stock. But it’s taken everyone by surprise and I don’t feel embarrassed to stand up and say I didn’t predict the growth of emerging markets and the middle class wanting to consume Scotch over tequila or vodka,” he said.
With all the positivity in the market at the moment, he said the new company are planning to continue to develop.
“We have a number of new and exciting brands in the pipeline and we’re fortunate in stock situation and trading relationships so we’re able to move forward in a way that will differentiate us from the competition,” said Laing. “We have our beliefs, our plans and if they come to fruition then hopefully there will be more to talk about.”
For more information, visit the company’s new website which will be going live at the end of May here.