Academic input gives drinks entrepreneur reason to raise a glass

November 9, 2007

Entrepreneur David Thomson has a team of academics to help get his new brand of whisky out of the distillery and into the marketplace.

He recently bought the Annandale Distillery, built in 1883 but disused since 1919, and plans to start producing single malt there in two years.

The distillery, one of the handful to be found in the Lowlands, faces the challenge of building a brand around a relatively prosaic location compared with the Highlands setting of most whisky makers.

So Dr Thomson, who was born in the town of Annan, asked Interface to find him an academic who could pull together some information on the history and culture of the area. He was put in touch with Glasgow University linguist John Corbett.

"What I've got to ensure, as well as the quality of whisky, is that the brand has some meaning and value, Dr Thomson said.

"Dr Corbett wrote me a piece on the development of the Lowland Scots language and also wove in two good things.

"The first is that the origins of the language can be seen on a stone on a church near the distillery. He then put in some descriptions of whisky and whisky-related events in Lowlands Scots."

Dr Thomson was also put in touch with Billy Kenefick of Dundee University, who looked at the history of the area and its migration.

He said of Interface: "If I'm being honest and hard-nosed about it, for a competitive fee I can tap into a great deal of expertise. Trying to get this information myself would take me a year." When it comes to the actual exercise in branding, he has turned to Joseph Docherty, Glasgow Caledonian University marketing lecturer.

"They've put together a multidisciplinary team with experts in branding and graphics, copywriters, web designers and experts in e-commerce."

Dr Thomson said he wanted to see if academics could do the same job as well as, if not better than, private sector consultants.

"I was intrigued to see if they could do it, and so far I have been very impressed."

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