One of my favourite personal whisky stories, one that I tell every chance I get, involves a trip to Scotland in 2013. There, I met Ian Logan, international brand ambassador for single malt brand The Glenlivet, who was kind enough to drive me around to visit the Glenlivet and Strathisla distilleries.
While at the Glenlivet distillery, we visited one of the warehouses, and I saw a cask that had 1977 on it, my birth year. I mentioned this to Logan, and he said, “Ha! I have something for you.”
So off he went to his car, parked just outside. He opened his door, reached into his glove compartment, and took out this bottle of super dark whisky, and handed it to me.
“That’s a 1977 Glenlivet, aged in first-filled sherry hogsheads. We just emptied the cask yesterday.”
I had been saving that bottle of precious liquid gold ever since, only taking and sharing a few drams at a time. I’m planning to save most of it for my 50th birthday, but when I heard that Logan was coming to Kuala Lumpur last December, I knew I had to share some with him.
To my surprise, Logan actually remembers the exact whisky that was in that bottle, and even how it tastes and smells. I guess that’s what happens when you’ve been in the Scotch industry for 30 years, and brand ambassador for The Glenlivet for the past 15 years.
Logan was in town to conduct a few intimate sessions for the Malaysian chapter of the Glenlivet Guardians, a whisky community set up by the brand that holds regular events that tend to do things out of the norm.
Among the Guardians activities that have been organised in the past include pairing the whisky with the likes of coffee, steak, roasted pork, ice cream, Spanish jamon and even Indian food. There have also been sessions where Guardians were treated to a haircut, a shave, given a crash course on buying suits, or given a chance to go on a trip to Scotland to visit the distillery.
Logan, who was part of the initial team that set up the Glenlivet Guardians, said the idea behind it dates back to 2005. “We wanted to bring whisky fans together and offer them a more hands-on experience of the Glenlivet, as well as a link to myself and (Glenlivet master distiller) Alan Winchester,” he said. “Most people will never be able to get to the distillery. But now they can e-mail me directly or Alan, which makes everything suddenly seem a bit more personable and approachable.”
One of the things that works quite well for the Guardians as well is that they try not to be too formal.
Logan explained. “Too many people take themselves way too seriously in this industry. Sometimes we forget that the whisky is the star. It’s the whisky that puts you where you are, not you. So you always respect the whisky.
“These days, I turn up at whisky shows and people see me as Ian The Guardian (his handle on Twitter and Instagram is @iantheguardian). Most people don’t even know my surname, they probably think it’s ‘The Guardian’!” he said, laughing.
According to Logan, there are now Guardian chapters all over the world, with more than 200,000 members. While he always saw the potential for the Guardians to grow exponentially around the world – “It’s the No.2 brand of single malt in the world after all” – he never really saw it expanding the way it did.
“I’m the only one left that’s from the original team that set up the Guardians. If you joined today, your membership number would be 200,000 plus. Mine is No.4!” Logan mused.
Among the most active chapters include the ones in the United States, Taiwan, and of course, Malaysia, where there are now two separate chapters, one conducted in English and one in Chinese.
“One thing I like about the one in Malaysia is that it probably has some of the most active Guardians in the world, and they tend to do things a bit out of the box. They’ve done a pairing of whisky and coffee, which I’d never have thought of doing!”
Logan reckons that what makes the Guardians work so well is the innate curiosity that single malt drinkers tend to have, whether it’s tasting new whiskies, or just trying new experiences.
“The whisky’s just a common link. People who drink single malt whisky tend to be very curious people who like to learn and enjoy different experiences. So when you have speakers talking about different topics or the chance to do something different, these are the sort of people who really buy into these things,” he said.
Ultimately, Logan is thankful that the Guardians have allowed him to travel the world and meet so many whisky fans on the ground. “To be able to travel the world and to sit down with people and have a dram, and listen to their stories, is a huge privilege for me. My job is to share my passion and my knowledge of The Glenlivet with them. I don’t claim to be a whisky expert, I’m just a really lucky whisky fan!” he concluded.
For more information about the Glenlivet Guardians Malaysia, visit the official website.