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Alexander Ivchenko – Ambassador of Glenfiddich Distillery in 10 countries of our region – shared his story of the Scottish Grant family, the creators of this special vintage, and his own history.
Oleksandre, you have chosen a very interesting profession and dedicated your life to it. Tell us why who influenced your choice?
At the age of 13 I decided to enter the International Relations Department – I always wanted to enter other cultures and love my job. In the first year I did not see myself in the position of a diplomat in the classical sense. But, spending my evenings in a luxury restaurant, I discovered a way to get to know the culture of different countries through the prism of alcoholic beverages. They were created over the course of centuries, each with a history full of dramas, exactions and the spirit of the nation and the natural environment. At that time, unforgettably for myself, I started my way to the position of an ambassador. But not of the country, but of an alcoholic brand whose history resonates with me and whose organolepticism brings pleasure from the quarter of my life to this second, when the reader reads these lines. Yet I live in six time zones and, as before, I am in the excitement of what I am doing.
The world has many producers of various alcoholic beverages, why did Glenfiddich become your favorite brand? What brought you to this company?
At the beginning of the New Year I worked in a fashionable Kiev restaurant. It was an hour of XO cognac in cava, expensive oyster pots, Pini Coladas in a Hurricane glass, and wisky. My naturally curious mind struggled to solve the problem: “How can you sip pure soda without ice or juice and look as cool as a movie?” Then the search for a solution was not easy. I tried all the styles, but continued to report on the power to empty the cells. And one evening (or even at night) I poured the wine from the most, as it seemed to me at that time, unappealing green beach of the deer. And, you know, I got the answer to my first question: “You can!” You don’t need any extra ingredients or ice to enjoy the vibe, as long as you’re trying a really great vibe.
It’s been 18 years, I’ve been to hundreds of tastings, I’ve done a thousand of them myself, I’ve been to the wine institute in Edinburgh and dozens of distilleries. I share my knowledge and observations with people in 10 countries of our region and I am thrilled when I open the door to Single Malt Whisky.
What is the right way to get started in the world of skepticism?
The best, quickest, sweetest, and cheapest way is to contact a person who loves socks. A long time ago I did it this way: “Hello, Mark, I have a 15-year-old Glenfiddich, I’d like to open it with you. This wine – one of the most favorite in the profession, so you just do not ask! You get wonderful and useful experience, time with your friend and more than a dozen stories and tips. The best start.
Now I will limit myself to three recommendations:
- Buy only a quality product, it is not lower than the average price in the stores.
- At the beginning of the path, insanely, it is necessary to start with the iconic brands of the generation, this is 100% variant.
- Less is more – my personal mantra for many years.
For what immodest amount of money do you drink for the year?
Unsupportable question! I had a chance to try distilled whisky, released on the anniversary of my graduation from high school, my birth and… I was older for less than twice (but it was only once). The plaski viski could cost from 100 to 30,000 euros. The bulk of the film, with which I work, is in the corridor from 150 to 500 euros per piece. Nearly 200 different types of films I try for the year, and it is a bad year. To the good – over 300. To some of the samples, I am happy to return and recommend, and others I put aside for 3-4 years, there are those that I bring to black book. If I say that I drink at least 10,000 dollars a year, I will not be sorry.
If we take into account the world market of spirits, there are several well-known brands: Macallan, Glenmorangie, Glenlivet, Balvenie. Why is Glenffidich the best?
Without Glenffidich, we may not know the names of these brands. This distillery, which created the Single Malt category, as such, in 1963. At that time, the world belonged to blends (blended whisky), it was 100% export of Scottish whisky. We changed everything and started to talk about a completely different category of whisky, which was not known in New York or Paris. Today, Scottish Single Malt is the most expensive category of alcoholic beverages in the world, a status, taste and excellent investment. And all the malt beverage brands would not have been known for quite some time if not for the faith of the Grant-Gordon family. Of the 134 operating retailers in Scotland, Glenfiddich is the only malt liquor producer in the world to be the most prolific and at the same time the best-selling, not just for one year, but for ten years. So, we do a lot of things right. I personally, having worked in the company for 7 years, have repeatedly confirmed this.
Oleksandre, it is a well-known fact that behind any brand there is always a team. Can you tell us about the people you work with and the quality of their work?
The most important team is the team from Dufftown that produces our products day in and day out. The average experience at the distillery – 25 years, but there are legends, such as Kenney (master distiller) who has worked 49 years, Dennis (manager) – 58, Ian (senior cooper) – 52. For me, they are the most important people. They are responsible for the two most important parts of my favorite cuisine – its organoleptic and stability. When I open a 15-year Glenfiddich vintage in 2005 or 2021, I always find what I love. Our company does not have complicated divisions or confusing hierarchies, as it is a family company and has always been distinguished by its flexibility and blissful decision-making. This has allowed us to stand and be the strongest during the last six global crises in 134 years. Today we are the largest private company in the alcohol industry.