In 1887, William Grant founded an independent, family-owned distiller in the United Kingdom. However, it wasn't until 1963 that United States markets were able to purchase their Single Malt Scotch whisky. After 125 years in the industry, William Grant & Sons wished to commemorate the milestone with valued partner Young's Market Company, also celebrating the same number of years in existence. Per Simon Hunt, President North America at William Grant & Sons, “Our commitment to innovative approach, long-term perspective and an entrepreneurial mindset has allowed us to successfully grow our businesses, and working together we've experienced record growth for our portfolio of premium spirits brands.”
Last year, representatives from Young's Market Company visited the Glenfiddich Distillery in Scotland to begin research on a unique Single Malt for exclusive distribution to their employees. The bottling was a blend of American and European Oak casks, fitting for the occasion. Presentation of the special edition took place this week, and we were invited to sit down with executives from both companies and discuss not only the collaboration, but their commitment to family values.
What are the parallels between Young's Market Company and William Grant & Sons, both celebrating historic anniversaries this year?
Young's Market Company: They are both family organizations. The fact that they have gone five generations is remarkable, when you realize we've been doing business together since the late fifties. Through that relationship is the understanding that trust and transparency and all the things that make a business relationship so important. It all comes down to people. That's what makes the world go around. If two families can communicate through the generations through different people that work there, that basis of integrity and honesty will last for 125 years.
William Grant & Sons: It's not about a quarterly earnings report. It's not about one number for a year. This is about many generations. When you have a set of values that you are aligned on, combined with a long-term vision as to what you want to do, it really makes a fantastic partnership and allows you to enjoy the success that both companies have. On the one hand, you've got such a dynamic history and heritage. On the other side, it's pretty awe-inspiring that we all need to lead for future generations. But that legacy does rely heavily on the history and heritage. Both companies recognize the importance of both sides of the equation.
Tell us about the benefits that you've both seen throughout your history as family-owned companies.
William Grant: There's something more important than selling a case of whisky or vodka. Friendships, honesty and integrity are what life's about. Not so much the product as developing the relationship with our suppliers. It's very rewarding. When you have the benefit of enjoying those relationships, and wanting to work hard for somebody, that's what makes it all go around.
Young's Market: The long-term point-of-view is helping each other to succeed over a long period of time. Invariably, things do go wrong. Two family businesses have survived World Wars and Prohibition, Depression and everything else. Having a partnership with trust allows you to navigate the more difficult times and come out in a much better place.
How did you begin working together?
Young's Market: People are gonna drink. My dad used to operate a simple business. You buy it. You put it anywhere else. You get rid of it. Something happens, though, in between the time you buy it and should sell to the retailer. We were able to resolve this through transparency. The families don't try to mess each other up. They have a goal, and they have fun. They trust each other to move product by building displays and through marketing. That's why it carries on for so long.The business is only, legally, 80 years old. Everybody thinks it's been around forever. During repeal, there were 33,000 bars in New York City during Prohibition.
Explain the story behind this special bottling of Glenfiddich.
William Grant: It's a unique blend our Master Distiller, Brian Kinsman, helped create. It's been finished in European Oak and American Oak chosen by both teams to reflect the heritage of both companies. It was created for the 3,700 employees within Young's. It's a gift, basically commemorating our relationship and our success together.
Part of what's special about it is the fact that when we told Brian about this project, he didn't think twice about parting with what he was working on, which frankly was creating exceptional bottles of Glenfiddich for retail sale. He parted with that to work on a very nice expression for the Young's team.
What are your future plans for each company, and how do you see the industry growing in the next century?
Young's Market: Craft spirits are probably the hottest thing in the industry. We've added a lot of craft specialists on our staff. And William Grant has also seized this opportunity. They have a lot of brands in that realm. We see this trend continuing; it's very positive. The businesspeople are getting more informed, more knowledgeable about what they're drinking. It's very healthy for our industry.
William Grant: It's different than trends that are going on in the industry. Our meeting today was spent figuring how to partner to get better. How do we use each other's strengths and abilities to build mutual success? That's part of the formula for our growth for the next 125 years. Our future success will be a combination of trying to lead some of the trends that are happening in the industry, combined with the sustainability of our existing brands, like Glenfiddich. If we can balance those two, make sure we're leaving a solid legacy of new and old for the next generations, I think we've done our job. We're making decisions now as to what people will be drinking in 50 year's time. That long-term outlook, with the relationship we have with Young's, will continue to be successful in the future.