December 23, 2013 – Charles Gordon, one of the pioneers of the Scotch whisky industry, has died at the age of 86 in New York City. Gordon was the great-grandson of William Grant, the founder of William Grant & Sons, and served as the company’s life president upon his retirement as chairman in 2008. He joined the family-owned company’s board as a director in 1953.
Gordon is widely credited with turning single malt Scotch into a worldwide drink when he decided to put the company’s marketing muscle behind Glenfiddich 50 years ago, labeling it as a “single malt” for the first time. While some malts were exported outside Scotland previously, Glenfiddich became one of the first with a global presence and helped pave the way for the global boom in single malt sales. In a statement, his son and current company chairman Glenn Gordon praised his father’s legacy:
“We are all very proud of my father’s achievements in his very full and energetic lifetime, and give thanks for the legacy that he has left us with. He touched the lives of many, many people and will be sorely missed by all. In our family and our business, which my father always intertwined, he very much believed in a spirit of partnership. In his memory, we will continue to build this spirit, and with it our independent family business, for future generations”.
Gordon was also responsible for overseeing construction of the company’s Girvan grain whisky distillery in 1963, which became the principal source of grain whisky for the Grant’s blended Scotch whiskies. He was noted for riding his bicycle around the distillery grounds to supervise the construction, and some historians note that workers responded by welding the bicycle to one of the distillery’s cooling towers on the first day of production. Ironically, that day was December 25, 1963 — and Gordon passed away almost 50 years later to the day. William Grant & Sons marked the 50th anniversary of Girvan’s commissioning this year with the first official distillery bottling of Girvan single grain whisky, and plans to release several more expressions in 2014.
A personal note to show the esteem his employees had for him…several years ago, I had asked a William Grant & Sons executive in New York City to help me arrange an interview with Charles Gordon. While we were discussing the idea and Mr. Gordon’s likely reticence, he told me Mr. Gordon would probably want to know my questions in advance. As a longtime journalist, I told him that I never give questions in advance…even when I interviewed the President of the United States in 1992. He responded “But Charlie is far more important than the President!” Regrettably, we never got a chance to do the interview.
Our condolences go out to the Gordon family and everyone at William Grant & Sons.
Links: William Grant & Sons