Gordon & MacPhail – The drinks wholesaler to watch

Voted Drinks Wholesaler of the Year at the 2016 Retail Awards, Gordon & MacPhail is one of the UK’s leading specialist wholesalers and distributors, stocking over 3,500 products, including an extensive portfolio of whiskies, wines, spirits and UK specialist beers and ciders.

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Gordon & MacPhail also bottles more than 300 expressions of single malt whisky under various ranges, selling them throughout the UK and exporting to more than 50 countries worldwide. In 2009 and 2013 the company won the prestigious Queen’s Award for Enterprise in International Trade.

The business owns the Benromach Distillery on the outskirts of Forres. Stephen Rankin, Director of UK Sales at Gordon & MacPhail spoke to Wholesale Manager.

WM – You were voted Drinks Wholesaler of the Year at the 2016 Retail Awards. What sets you aside from the competition?

I believe we are known for our extensive range of high quality products, with a particular strength in the whisky and our exception levels of customer service. We strive for really high service levels throughout the entire company:

exceeding the customer’s expectation is one of our core values, along with “going the extra mile.” We also provide excellent customer support from our sales executives and office team. All our team members have fantastic knowledge about our products and are very good listeners who are always looking to add value and do more than just selling in boxes.

WM – You’re based in Scotland; do you cover the whole of the UK?

Yes, including Shetland and the Scottish Isles, Northern Ireland, Wales and throughout England and the Isle of Wight.

WM – Do you supply other wholesalers and cash & carry outlets from your range?

We have a range of distributor products, for which we are the exclusive stockists in the UK. We supply these to other wholesalers and openly support them in their route to market.

WM – How do you work with wholesale customers to help develop their range?

We believe in sharing our strong product and market knowledge with the customer and provide sampling events, staff tutorials and training. We also arrange “Meet the Maker” type events and tastings for customers.

WM – What current trends have you noticed in the market?

The growth of premium products is clear to all, however it is now more than just attractive packaging. Provenance and substance are key.

Malt whisky is an excellent example. It continues to grow across both the on and off trade and our success with our Benromach whiskies is testament to this market demand.

The growth of gin and craft spirits has been outstanding. However with so many coming to market the consumer is looking beyond the label – scratch the surface and there has to be a strong reason to believe in the product. Gordon Castle’s award winning gin is a fabulous example, where the botanicals are grown in the walled garden at the castle. We select our products on the basis of their proposition, story and quality.

The market is full of people keen to explore and experience new things and these consumers are excited about trying different variations of a product. The growth in interest in imported whiskies from around the world like Paul John from India, Jack Ryan from Ireland, Garrison Bros from Texas and Blanton’s from Kentucky goes hand in hand with this trend. Craft vodka and rums are also showing positive signs and two that exemplify this point are Arbikie Single Estate Vodka and Dark Matter Rum, both made in North East Scotland, an area reputed for the quality of its produce.

WM – How are you responding to the boom in microbrewery products?

We moved away from selling the large brands 15 years ago and focused on only supporting microbreweries from all around Scotland as well as England. We were ahead of the curve and at one point stocked every Scottish microbrewery available in bottle. That is more of a challenge today, so the principles I’ve already mentioned apply and as a result many of the companies we support are family businesses like ours that produce stunning products. We are very proactive in supporting these breweries and have created opportunities for many to undertake tasting events within our customers’ outlets. We have also supported Octoberfest events as a sponsor.

WM – How have recent health concerns influenced your product range?

Our focus has always been on quality and we have stocked the likes of premium fresh juices and expanded the range we offer. We have also added low and no alcohol craft beers. We encourage and support the Drink Aware Campaign via all our brochures and communications.

WM – Can customers order your products online?

Not at present but we offer every other form of communication and ordering method including email, phone, personal face to face contact with a human(!) and telesales, EDI and fax. Online selling is something we are looking at.

WM – What’s in the pipeline for the brands that you manufacturer?

We own Benromach Speyside Single Malt Distillery and recently launched a new 35 Year Old, with the initial allocation for the UK selling out within a matter of days.

The next batch is available now. For the off trade we have a new gift pack with an eye towards Father’s Day. This features the award winning 10 Year Old, which is our core product within the range. We are always thrilled by the feedback on the quality of the whisky from the UK and all around the world and this endorses our principles of using the finest ingredients, first fill sherry and bourbon casks and hand orchestrating the production and maturation of the spirit by our three distillers.

For our Gordon & MacPhail malts we are expanding and developing our “Wood Makes the Whisky” campaign, which helps educate trade and consumers alike about the influence of wood on spirit and how our 120 years’ experience in this area influences the outstanding quality of single malts in our ranges. It also helps bring an element of theatre to consumers, with samples available and a micro website supporting the campaign.

WM – What major changes will we see from Gordon & MacPhail this time next year?

We will be continuing to invest in our staff’s education and development. We’ll also be doing what we do best – continuously listening to customers and reviewing the market and our range to ensure we’re providing the best products and service possible

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