From School & Strawberries to Sherry & Scotch

The story behind the Grant’s Whisky Sherry Cask Finish.

The job – and I use the word loosely – of a Global Brand Ambassador is to visit countries round the world spreading the love about the brand one represents. The Whisky Ambassadors are a special breed. Genuinely likeable, friendly, patient, passionate, they clock up frequent flyer miles and share their love of whisky.  Often they have a history in the whisky world. Ludovic Ducrocq does not. He grew up in France and came over to Scotland to spend a couple of weeks picking strawberries and learning English. Whisky, the alluring mistress, captured Ludo’s heart.  He began his career as a tour guide, showing visitors round the Grant’s distillery in Elgin, entertaining them with his own blend of accents from France & Scotland.

I enjoyed a chat and a dram with Ludo on a warm winter’s day (like the Scottish summer, but hotter) in Cape Town.

Grant’s Family Reserve is a decent blend that has been round for more than 100 years. It is one of my everyday blends and I use it more for cocktails, mixing (mainly with fresh apple juice, quite delicious) than sipping on its own.

Ludo said that the Sherry Cask Finish has its origin in two places – the distillery in Elgin and Bodegas in Spain, specialist Bodegas whose business is to prepare casks for the Scottish whisky industry.   The traditional blend is aged in Oloroso Sherry Casks, first and second fill, generally for 3 months at first, then again for up to 5 months.   After that brief interlude the casks go to the warehouse to be used for traditional long-term maturation.

Down to the business end of the discussion – tasting.  A relatively short time in Sherry casks has made a big difference to this blend. The whisky is now more rounded, more balanced than the original. It has a much bigger mouth feel, complexity, a touch of peat, perhaps, in the finish, much more pronounced wood spices and something I would enjoy pre-dinner, a nice aperitif.

This whisky is also aimed at mixologists who would use it in cocktails to accentuate flavours of the other ingredients in the modern mixed and muddled creations.

Traditional whisky lovers looking for something a bit more special than a regular blend would do well with this on their shelves.

Back to Ludo. Whereto from here?  – A visit to Andy Watts at James Sedgewick in Wellington, then to Belarus, then Ukraine, then home to Elgin to wife and young kids and back at work with Brian Kinsman, the master distiller.  Add in some time judging at various international whisky award events and you can work out that Ludo is a busy guy.

A job – yes, it is. But you wont get anywhere if you view your role as a job. Ludo doesn’t. It’s his passion. And I am happy to have shared some of the Grant’s Sherry Cask finish with him.  Now, I have some in my glass. Slainte!

Bernard Gutman August 2012

Thanks to Marisa & Leandi of Butter knife PR for organising.

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PS – for the official biography:

“Grant’s Global Ambassador, Ludovic Ducrocq – Biography

In September 2009, Ludo was appointed Grant’s Blended Scotch Whisky’s first ever global ambassador. Tasked with travelling to everywhere the world famous blend is today enjoyed, Ludo’s role is to inspire people with the incredible Grant’s story and share his infectious passion for the award-winning Grant’s range of Scotch whiskies.

It is Ludo’s immense enthusiasm and appreciation for whisky and his reverence for the heritage of Grant’s that has earned him his appointment to the position of global ambassador after a decade with the family distiller. Much like family member Charles Gordon, who embarked on a voyage to introduce Grant’s to the world in 1909, one hundred years later Ludo now shares the exceptional Grant’s blend with a new generation of whisky drinkers.

During his time with the independent family distiller, Ludo, originally from France, developed his connoisseurship by showing the same passion, dedication and commitment to Scotch whisky that marks out the five generations of the Grant’s family, before earning his role as ambassador for the Grant’s blend. Investing time in learning the century-old skills required to understand the complexities of malt whisky production, much like William Grant did when he founded the company, Ludo moved into an old excise house located only metres away from the distillery and set about learning from the distillery’s team of coopers, coppersmiths, distillers, malt masters and other experienced craftsmen.

A self-confessed Scotophile, Ludo is a graduate of the University of Lille where he studied Scottish Literature. He embarked on an exchange programme with the University of Glasgow in 1999 which helped cement his affinity with the country. So much so that after completing his studies, he settled permanently in Scotland and decided to pursue a career in the whisky industry. He started his career in the whisky industry in 2000 as a Tour Guide at the distiller’s Dufftown Distillery Visitor Centre, in Speyside.

For the past 10 years, Ludo has also been an active member of the distillery’s nosing and new product development tasting panels. In addition, he was recently appointed as a member of the judging panel for Whisky Magazine’s ‘World Whiskies Awards’, and was recognised as a Keeper of the Quaich in 2012.

Ludo currently lives in Elgin, near Dufftown, with his family and when he isn’t away travelling spends much of his time continuing his learning in the field of whisky and keeping up with the latest distillery news. “

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