Profile: Ronnie Cox

But back to Cox. After disembarking Cutty Sark he joined the then underdeveloped brand of Glenrothes. According to Cox, the single malt market was starting to take off in the 80s and 90s and Glenrothes “hadn’t been properly marketed or packaged”. Cox and his associates wanted to do something different with the brand so a new philosophy was implemented. 

“Other people had done a one-off vintage but we were the first to apply the concept to our whole range. For commercial people it’s very hard to understand whisky vintages, because once you’ve run out of one year’s product you’ve got no more. But as wine merchants [at Berry Bros], we understood them clearly.” 

Family legacy

There’s plenty more of the Cox story to tell. There’s his love of old English longbows, which he practises “around the back of St James Palace”. Or his retirement plan to become a fossil hunter (“I’ll move down to Dorset where there are some decent fossils”). But one from the family archive ought to do it. Cue Cox: “In 1893 my great, great grandfather sold the Cardow [now Diageo’s Cardhu] distillery to Alexander Walker (of Johnnie Walker whisky) and with the proceeds he bought a motor car. It was only the second one in Morayshire. 

“Anyway, he was driving up the single track drive of the Cardow distillery when Willy the odd-job man was riding the other way on his bicycle. Willy was rather the worse for wear having had his third dram of the day and when he saw the motor car approaching he got a fright and fell into the ditch. Great, great grandfather picked him up, dusted him down and said: ‘Willy you’re a damn disgrace to your family, the distillery and everybody that surrounds you. You can’t hold your drink – what have you got to say for yourself?’ Willy replied: ‘It’s the same whisky, sir, that put me in a ditch that put you in a very smart motor car.’ ‘Good reply, Willy. On your way home now.’”