Slàinte mhath!

  • By Stewart Christie
  • 30 Oct, 2017

Mark Thomson is simply the best chap for the job - Ambassador to Scotland for Glenfiddich Single Malt Whisky and a man of Distinction and Style

Name: Mark Thomson
Occupation: Ambassador  
The Stewart Christie fitting room is now famous world wide for holding three different ages of Glenfiddich, and many clients have enjoyed a dram whilst being fitted. Out of the three, which age do you think echoes Stewart Christie most closely?

Well, although they are age statement whiskies, each a little older than the previous, it's incredible how different they are and how they appeal to a different palate - but I'd have to say our 15 year old solera reserve, because like Stewart Christie, it has its foundations firmly secured in tradition whilst being able to be creative and try new techniques. You see, the Solera vat is a large oak holding vessel of around 30,000 litres. It's not for maturing whiskies the rules state you can't age in anything larger than 700 ltrs, but we use it to "marry" three types of Glenfiddich - 15 from American oak, 15 year old from European oak and a small proportion of 15 year old is transferred from used American oak into virgin oak before all three join each other in the vat - which has never been emptied since 1998. It creates a nutty, dryer style of Glenfiddich - which is a little different from the light fruity or rich fruit of the 12 and 18 year old expressions. A sort of cousin in the family - fits, but a bit quirky. I see SC in a similar way - happy to provide the traditional but not fearful of trying new shapes and styles.

With the launch of the new Glenfiddich IPA does this spell a new direction for William Grant & Son's with modern twists on traditional ideas? And whose bright idea was this one?

In reality, the company has always been innovative. We were the first distillery to actively promote single malt outside of the UK - only as recent as 1963. We created the process of "finishing" (transferring matured whiskies to a second cask for an additional flavour spike such as rum/red wine) and as a family owned company we have the freedom to play. Experimentation is the key - challenging the norm raises opportunity for creative thinking and from this, new ideas are born. Brian Kinsman, our Malt Master, is tasked by the family to trial and test many different whisky innovations - some work, others don't but the learnings we take from this help us make informed, calculated decisions when the need arises.

The Experimental Series is just a way of us showing what we have always known or created. It's a side step from the core range you may recognise - a different bottle design, different liquids. Still Glenfiddich - but with twists here and there. It's far more accessible to the new whisky drinker, less "stuffy" and appeals to those with a curious mind. The IPA cask finish was actually born from a conversation with a local craft brewer over three years ago now - and after many attempts and dead end paths, Brian and the brewer got the balance of hops and brightness from the beer to marry perfectly with Glenfiddich. It's a great doorway whisky - light, round and with a familiar hoppy note to the nose.  
We know that being with family and working for a family run business is very close to your heart, being back in Scotland it seems now you have your perfect balance?

Aye. I've been down in London for 16 years, but of course travelled a lot back home to the distillery - so I never felt disconnected. But having sold up and moved back to Edinburgh, there is such a difference. In the past, I was always at work when my feet were on Scottish soil. Always bringing Glenfiddich to life in a small bar or a large concert hall - but never just for myself. To be able to wander into my local bar now, and just have a dram for myself and maybe catch up with pals is just superb. I've fallen back in love with everything I forgot what was good and great about Scotland. From its cities to its hills, I just cannot get enough of it.
After spending many years south of the border, you have now seen sense and returned home, how does it differ promoting the Scottish Brand of Glenfiddich from home territory?

Terrifying - you can get away with just having a Scottish accent south of 'The Wall' but up here you have to know your stuff. It helps I've been in the industry for many years and have a technical and chemical grasp of production as well as knowing the history and styles of many of the world drams now. It's true that I've hosted events where guests have been drinking whisky longer than I have been alive - but those are sometimes the most revealing of events as you discover that many whisky drinkers would not dare dream of making a cocktail with their prized single malt - or even, heaven forbid - add water! Across the world, whisky is enjoyed in many different ways and I find it a shame that some individuals stick to just one way and one way only. That's like only ever having sex in the missionary position! Scotland obviously has a long relationship with the water of life, but it does shock a few to learn we didn't invent it - and neither did the Irish. I'll just leave that one there for now.

Glenfiddich gets involved with many smaller niche events, understanding your customer is as important in Whisky as it is in Tailoring. What has been you favourite event this past year?

Easy - the Glenfiddich Festival Experiment. At the start of the year, I wanted a way of bringing on-trade (bartenders) to the distillery in a different way - so 35 of us camped out at the water source of our distillery, the Robbie Dhu. Enjoying campfires, a star filled night, stories from distillery workers and a midnight outdoor cinema - it was magical. We had such good feedback from the guests at this first experiment, we wanted to scale it up, so in September we invited 350 bartenders to the distillery land to thank them for their support and energy. I think of it as a mini festival, with bands such as Twin Atlantic and The Fratellis playing, comedians, acrobats, food trucks and of course, whisky. At every turning point I saw familiar faces relaxing, laughing and enjoying the party which was over two days with everyone camping again. It was a very proud moment for us indeed. People are still talking about it now and we are looking to host it even bigger next year.
Tweed and whisky go hand in hand, if we were to create a cloth for Glenfiddich, what elements do you think it should contain?

It would need to be hardy - to stand up to what may be thrown at it. Glenfiddich is one of the few remaining distilleries to still be run by the same family that built it and we've had to stand many a challenge in our 130 years. Would it be possible to make it a little water repelant? Because, you know - I can be clumsy with my drink sometimes. A cloth which would seem at home in the rolling hills of speyside, but equally as comfortable at a London style bar. It would also no doubt have a few hidden tricks up its sleeve- perhaps looking ordinary, but far from it - An innovative weave with hidden talents.
If you were to open a bar anywhere in Scotland, where would it be and how would it be decorated? Are you more antlers and oak, or modern art and glass?

I've looked at a few places over the years and they have all been very different. From a truly remote bothy to a city centre skyscraper. I think I'd be more modern, but with a nod to the past. Clean lines, and wee booths to loosen the night in with pals. Some of the best whisky bars I've been in are some of the most traditional - and they always make me feel relaxed and at home. I think once a bar makes you wonder if you are wearing the right thing or cool enough to be there, it's lost the very essence of hospitality. Give me a barstool and a clean bar to lean on and I'm happy. Anyone can open a bar, and stock it to the rafters with all manner of whiskies but the best bars are run by those who can connect the customer to the whisky. With a story, a smile or some unheard of piece of historical fact about the dram they've chosen. It's this connection that makes it work and welcome. Makes it memorable and even if it's tucked away and not in the best location, customers will choose to make the trip to say hello and spend time there. I can list a few prime examples which may not ever make the pages of a glossy style mag, but would be in my top ten all time bars to drink in.

''I've worked closely with SC for a few years now - and every time I walk in, I get a lift of excitement to see what's new. What's changed and of course what's in my size. I've always liked tailoring and when SC started to make my suits, they approached it in a wonderful way - understanding my lifestyle and what inspired me to understand what would suit me, what I'd like and of course what it needed to stand up to! The history of the shop is magical but it's the confidence they have in weaving a new history into the SC fabric. Bold designs, new tweeds, sharp cuts or snazzy accessories, they have a great underlying passion to make every customer feel exceptional from the moment they walk into the store. This is how retail should be - passionate employees, looking to fulfil the requirements of the customer as best as possible, and focus for however long it takes on getting the right outcome. Of course, there is normally a queue for the fitting room, but I think that might be more to do with the whisky you'll find in there once you're in''. -  Mark Thomson 

Stewart Christie & Co. Tales of Tailoring

By Stewart Christie 30 Oct, 2017

Mark Thomson is simply the best chap for the job - Ambassador to Scotland for Glenfiddich Single Malt Whisky and a man of Distinction and Style

By Stewart Christie 01 Oct, 2017
A welder and restorer of stained glass windows by trade, cycling enthusiast by heart. Mark Stevens is the quintessential gentleman ready and impeccably dressed for any jaunt, come rain or shine. 
By Stewart Christie 24 Aug, 2017
We recently spent some time in the shop catching up with one of the elite players of Scotland's Rugby Team. Sam has the charisma and charm that is a perfect match for his classic style and passion for the well loved sport. A scrum half, leading the pack, sporting the Scotland regalia on the pitch by day, classic-timeless gentleman, clad in tweed by night, Sam Hidalgo-Clyne, professional rugby player, shares his experience representing the country's national team as well as his fondness for well-tailored, classic attire.
By Stewart Christie 27 Jul, 2017
Jack Lowden, one of Scotland's greatest contemporary talents who has recently starred in the closing film of the Edinburgh Film Festival, England is Mine, as well as Christopher Nolan's epic blockbuster, Dunkirk, spent the afternoon with us at Stewart Christie talking all things Morrissey, theatre, Nolan and Spitfires. From Essex to Oxton to London, Jack has embraced his profession both on stage and screen in a massive variety of roles. Read on for a little insider of his experience pursuing a rather exciting career. 
By Stewart Christie 26 Jun, 2017
It was a complete pleasure to meet and dress the eminent actor, author and director Mr Richard E. Grant. Daring to be different and breaking away from the black tie, he cut a dash across the red carpet in our stone prince of wales check three piece in the light summer weight tweed. At the Edinburgh International Film Festival opening party. And of course, we asked him a few quick questions and cordially invited him to our prestigious Stewart Christie & Co Gentleman's Club.
By Stewart Christie 08 Jun, 2017
All garments and tailoring by Stewart Christie & Co in collaboration with Edinburgh based bridal designer, Rowanjoy.

For any special events, weddings, or the need for specialised tailoring, head to Stewart Christie for the best traditional service and expert consultation email

Photography: Laura Meek,  
Models: Abigail Gliksten and Tabitha Stevens
Gowns: Rowanjoy,  
MUAH: Mairi Gordon, http://mairigordon
Styling: Vixy Rae
Flowers: Kirsty Downie

By Stewart Christie 07 Jun, 2017
Francois and Nella, artists from France, friends of Stewart Christie and lovers of all things Scottish, had the dream to venture over to Skye for a timeless wedding at Dunvegan Castle. Dressed in fine tweed and tartan, of course.

From the finely crafted wedding ensembles, including a Victorian inspired bespoke gown to the immaculate and well preserved interior of the castle, the day easily alluded to what could have been experienced a few hundred years back for guests at a Lord and Lady's special day. Not to mention, the weather was particularly mild, unexpected, but happily welcomed by all, which led to a most exquisite sunset to polish off such a classic affair.

Nella wore a hand made Stewart Christie 'Inverleith' Cape, made from a beautiful soft lovat green herringbone tweed from the Scottish Borders. The Kilt Jacket and Waistcoat were tailored for Francois in a matching tweed to compliment his beautiful bride. He was proudly adorned in his Ancient Clan Farquharson Kilt and sash. The outfit was completed with a hand crafted sporan by McRostie in a chestnut bridal leather. We were proud there were a number of other guests dressed head to toe in our finely tailored tweed and tartan garments.

Following the wedding day, Francois and Nella strapped on their hiking boots along with their wedding outfits for a walk through the wooded Fairy Glen, just around the corner from Uig, for a romantic and equally magical morning, surrounded by inspiring nature to further embrace the beauty of Skye over their fairy tale wedding weekend.

By Stewart Christie 16 May, 2017

Ian was brought up in Fife, but finally settled in Edinburgh, with his wife and two sons. Before becoming a full-time novelist, he had a rather wide variety of character building jobs, such as a grape picker, taxman, alcohol researcher, hi-fi journalist, college secretary and punk musician-to name but a few. Now his immense passion and knowledge for music and writing go hand in hand. We had the great pleasure of Ian's company in the Oxford Bar for a quick pint and a catch up, after measuring him up in the store for his first Stewart Christie bespoke three-piece, in a soft grey lambswool tweed to be completed for the Edinburgh International Book Festival, where he will present various events in true Scottish style.

Name? Ian Rankin

Profession? Novelist

Do you usually complete your work and then get it published or have you got some novels that you’ve secretly shelved that you may finally release at a later date?

I've only got one unpublished novel - my very first. Unlikely ever to see the light of day. It was a not very funny comedy set in a Highland hotel. There is one novel, Westwind, which was published, but I was unhappy with. I've never allowed it to be reissued. 

Very interested to know what you are currently working on that we may look forward to?
This is a sabbatical year. I am tinkering and pottering, but not doing a novel. A few short stories, meetings about film and TV. Travelling to festivals far and wide to promote Inspector Rebus' 30th anniversary.

It’s incredible that Rebus has been translated into 22 different languages, have you ever read them in other languages? We understand you resided in France for a while. It must be quite a strange feeling to see them in French, not that you would read it, but is there anything that would make you read any of your novels again once you've written them?

Translated into 35 languages - I need to update the information available online! I lived in France for six years but it wasn't translated into French until after I'd moved back to the UK, which was a bit annoying. I only ever reread my novels when asked by my publisher to provide the introduction to some new edition. 

Where do you find your inspiration in Edinburgh for such crime stories? Do you have a few "favourite haunts" you like to go to and write, or are you one of those writers who is constantly inspired throughout the day, like Alexander McCall Smith, who is forever writing?

I write seldom. I'm certainly no McCall Smith. The man is a machine. I hang out in pubs, especially the Oxford Bar. I eavesdrop on conversations. I go for drinks with retired cops. I am also a news junkie, and often get ideas from newspaper reports and such like.

We know you have a great passion for music. In a recent interview with Tim Burgess at the book festival, we experienced your immense knowledge of artists and albums, it was an interesting talk. Would you host or partake in more of them this year?

Like most crime writers, I am a frustrated rock star. Putting so much music in my books has led me to form friendships with a host of musicians, which is a lovely bonus. I will be interviewing at least one musician at this year's festival - but it's under wraps at the moment.

By Stewart Christie 20 Apr, 2017

We spent the day with Dominic Le Moignan, a London based Actor and Creative Director up Arthur's Seat to test out the performance of his bespoke three-piece in a rifle green barathea.

By Stewart Christie 13 Apr, 2017

Scottish comedian and formally BBC Radio Scotland presenter, of 18 years', Fred MacAulay is a long standing and valued Stewart Christie customer. We spent the afternoon asking him a few questions about the comedy circuit and his lesser known passion for outdoor pursuits.

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