Interview/chat with Ronnie Routledge.
Ronnie. Great to see things moving for you again. Paul McLean met Ronnie at his new office in Dufftown 1st November. Interview (or should I say – a wee casual chat over a dram or two) with Ronnie Routledge. I have known Ronnie for many years now and when I bumped into him recently in Elgin, we agreed to meet up in Dufftown when the new office was opened. It’s happened! The new Stilnovisti office and show room in heart of Scotland’s Malt Whisky Capital – Dufftown is open!
Ronnie, can I ask you to briefly go over your history as many may not know it! I started life in the wine trade as a stock-controller with a small family importer but quickly moved to Gordon & MacPhail, initially on a maternity cover position. I quick made the position of Retail Manager and stayed with them for 16 years where I learned my whisky knowledge. G&M gave me a solid grounding in whisky and as a keen drinker of the stuff became to appreciate the vast depth of their cask portfolio.
From there I joined Duncan Taylor for 4 years before joining the small team that brought Glenglassaugh back to life as Account Manager looking after the UK market and hosting VIP visits to the distillery. After being made redundant with the Benriach buy-out, I ended up back at Duncan Taylor in Huntly. I then took a year and a half out of whisky, at a time in my life when I wanted to do something completely different, so accepted a position as Sales Development Manager with Rizza’s ice cream, also based in Huntly. However my heart was never quite in it as my passion has always been in the whisky world so was keeping my eyes and ears open.
How did you come to be with Charlie Maclean (our whisky club Patron) in Poland and get this gig? Krzysztof Maruszewski, CEO of Stilnovisti contacted me looking for a contact that may be interested in running his new office in Scotland, and of course I was interested myself. After things were agreed he then asked me to help out at a Whisky Festival in Jastrzębia Góra, Poland. A lovely town on the Baltic coast. I was to meet Charlie at Copenhagen airport and of course shared a couple of shandy’s.
Can you explain who Stilnovisti are? Stilnovisti is the oldest alternative investments company in Central and Eastern Europe. Managing investments for private and corporate clients in Poland and abroad, focusing on assets such as wine, whisky and art. Also brokering whisky casks and arranging bottlings where required. Investing in single malt Scotch whisky is becoming increasingly popular. Sales of Scotch whisky have increased significantly in recent years. According to the Scotch Whisky Association, in just the first half of 2013, the value of whisky exports went up by 11 per cent compared with the same period in 2012, reaching almost half a billion GBP. We focus on investments in cask whisky which, according to experts, is currently the safest and most attractive form of investing in alcohol.
What is your day to day role? I am Sales Director for Stilnovisti, based close to home in Dufftown. My job is to sell casks of whisky to investment speculators or for private and commercial bottlings.
What’s your favourite part of your role? It’s too early to tell but I would imagine it’ll be nosing and tasting cask samples. And of course meeting old friends, new ones too.
Do you often meet up with the “Official Moustache person”? And what is his role? No not really, I’ve not seen much of Charlie since my days whisky judging for Scottish Field magazine, so it was good to catch up with him in Poland. I saw him again at the Keepers of the Quaich banquet at Blair Castle a couple of weeks ago. Charlie is friendly with Krzysztof, our CEO and does a bit of work with him here and in Poland.
In what regions, countries, markets are your products available? Ask me that question next year please.
What do you think the most common whisky misconception is? That whisky still ages in glass. The number of people who have said to me they have a 40yo Macallan at home as they bought their 10yo thirty years ago!! The other is how 3 basic ingredients can have such different results from different distilleries. The lay man doesn’t appreciate the importance of things like the style of water and yeast, the length of the fermentation, the size and shape of the stills, the importance of quality casks. There’s so many factors and influences involved that will have a role in shaping your aged whisky.
If you could change just one thing about the whisky industry, what would it be? The UK duty rates. We really should be encouraging our new generations to drink whisky, sensibly of course, however we don’t and that’s a great shame. A huge cut in duty would help introduce youngsters or entice them away from the flavourless mixing spirits that many of them do drink because they are affordable. Think of the knock on effect for employment in Scotland too.
How is the future looking for you? The future’s looking great thanks. I’m very much looking forward to building Stilnovisti as a brand and selling casks to everyday consumers who would usually struggle to get their hands on a cask of good Scotch whisky. If they want it bottled under their own label and shipped overseas, we’ll do that for them too. A one-stop whisky service.
The founder and president, Krzysztof Maruszewski has been investing client’s funds, mostly in wine, whisky and fine art markets since 2006, and has vast experience in managing alcohol-based assets worth in excess of £26 million and is the most experience fund manager in the alcohol market in Central Europe. Privately he is a patron of the arts and is passionate about whisky and a Keeper of the Quaich. Also a Director, Colin Hampden-White another Keeper of the Quaich. Originally from Edinburgh, Colin is not only Editor of Whisky Quarterly Magazine but also runs the London office. He is a very accomplished fine art (and whisky) photographer and has worked with The Times, New York Times and Decanter Magazine. His passions are wine and whisky which he has been collecting for more than 10 years, and is an authority on investment alcohols.
It was good meeting again, now that he is Dufftown based, it will happen more often! I hope this gives a wee insight into Ronnie’s daily role and some insider answers about his employers. Ronnie is also a Keeper of the Quaich.
Paul McLean www.whiskytours.scot