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Published:  23 July, 2008

David Robbo' Robertson, the chief nose behind Jon, Mark & Robbo's Easy Drinking Whisky Company, was born at Royal Brackla Distillery in Nairn, where his father was assistant manager. In 1994, he joined the team at The Macallan, initially as distillery manager and later as master distiller and brand ambassador. In January 2003, after securing financial backing from The Edrington Group, Robertson left The Macallan to set up Jon, Mark & Robbo's Easy drinking Whisky Company with Jon and Mark Geary.
*With thanks to Etienne at Cargo, 83 Rivington Street, London, for the use of the venue for photography.

How did you come up with the idea for the Easy Drinking Whisky Company?

Unfortunately, I can't claim any credit as it was all down to Jon and Mark. They were out wandering about in the Scottish hills, as they do, when they came up with the idea of creating a whisky for them and their mates, rather than for - and I quote - some crusty old duffer in the Highlands, sitting at home in front of a roaring log fire with a labrador at his feet'. Then they got me involved. I had known Mark for a number of years because we both worked at Edrington (The Edrington Group Ltd), and as I knew a little bit about bunging whiskies together, they asked me if I could come up with some interesting flavour styles. Eventually we drilled it down to the three that we liked best. We all love all three of them, but we've each got our favourites. Mark loves the style of The Smooth Sweeter One; I love The Rich Spicy One because it reminds me of The Macallan; and Jon is our peat-freak and really goes for the smoky, peaty, bonfire, medicinal, Islay-style of The Smokey Peaty One.

How did you create the three styles?

I was lucky because in the nosing room at The Macallan I had access to millions of bottles containing samples of whiskies of different ages, from different casks and different distilleries. So that gave us a starting point to create the three different styles. The Smokey Peaty One actually started out as two different whiskies, because initially Mark wanted a smokey whisky and Jon wanted a peaty whisky. We just couldn't decide which was best, but eventually someone poured the two whiskies together and everybody loved the smokey/peaty combination much better than the original two samples. So we went with that.

How did you take it to the next stage?

It did genuinely start as just a bit of fun, but when we showed it to our friends and families they thought we were really on to something and suggested looking for some funding to make a go of it. To Edrington's absolute credit, it bought into the idea, because the guys there loved the simplicity and waffle-free nature of what we were doing and it gave them a way of testing the market with a whisky that is completely different to the other brands on offer. They kindly gave us a little bit of start-up capital and said, Right, on you go. It's over to you guys!'

Was it hard for you to leave your job as master distiller at The Macallan?

Everybody thinks that, and to be perfectly honest, it wasn't. I had been at The Macallan since 1 August 1994 and, although thoroughly enjoyed my time there, the opportunity to create something new, maverick and quirky was something that was probably never going to happen to me again. We have a lot of freedom to do exactly what we want with this product, from the way it's packaged to the route to market. There's no baggage. So I'm chuffed to bits that Jon and Mark asked me to join them.

Why is The Smooth Sweeter One a blend of Scotch and Irish whiskies?

Well, we knew that we wanted to create a whisky that was light, gentle, easy-going and highly quaffable, so we thought about using grain whisky from Scotland, then considered malt whisky from Scotland and then tried combining both to make our own blend. But they were all slightly too oily and harsh for what we wanted. So, much as it embarrasses me to say it, this Scotsman had to look to Ireland to get the right style of whiskey for this particular product! The first bottling we did was 100% Irish whiskey from Cooley's distillery, but since then we've found some great whisky from Bunnahabhain distillery that is matured in American oak casks, and we have mixed that in with the Irish to create what we think is a world first: an Irish and Scotch blend. The Bunnahabhain has made the new bottling slightly sweeter and fruitier.

What's been the reaction from the whisky industry to what you are doing?

The reaction has been mixed. There are some people who pooh-poohed it all out of hand and said we were cheapening the image of whisky. Other people have congratulated us because we are broadening the appeal of whisky. In terms of the trade, though, the feedback has been very good and we are getting new orders on almost a daily basis.

Are you exporting yet?

At the moment we are in a number of different markets. Maxxium is helping us in the UK, and we also launched last year in Canada, Japan and South Africa. On the pad for this year are Sweden, France and the US. We have two distributors vying for us in Sweden, which is exciting, but the really big opportunity for us is the US and we are looking at launching across ten of the key states this summer.

What are your plans for the future?

We've got a new flavour style on the pad at the moment, and that will probably be more in the fruity zone. I'm sure you can guess what the name might be!

Jon, Mark & Robbo's Easy Drinking Whisky Company Ltd, Perthshire, Scotland, PH2 7XZ

Tel: 01738 493 677, E-mail: