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Co-op spirits buyer receives whisky nod

Published:  24 May, 2023

Co-op spirits buyer, Jonny Grey, has been honoured with the prestigious award of ‘Keeper of the Quaich’, following on from his work in helping to drive the category forward.

The Keepers of the Quaich is an international society, established by the Scotch whisky industry to celebrate the outstanding commitment of those involved in the production, promotion and protection of Scottish whisky.

Grey has long been passionate about whisky, having Scottish ancestry on the sides of the family, and learned about the product as he grew up, spending much time in Scotland.

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His passion is clearly evident in the work he has undertaken as spirits buyer at the Co-op in recent years. In his time in the role, he has helped deliver double-digit growth in the category. Grey has also worked with smaller suppliers to develop a range of whiskies for ‘tourist’ stores in the Co-op’s Scottish portfolio.

“In Scotland, we overrange – we maximise the opportunity, and we have a really credible portfolio,” he said.

“We work with Gordon McPhail, as a third party, to really deliver in key visitor areas.”

Grey has also delivered a strong own-brand whisky portfolio, whilst working with branded suppliers on exciting cask-finished projects, helping to drive category growth and engaging with younger shoppers.

The Co-op own brand range now includes two whiskies under the recently relaunched ‘Irresistible’ premium own brand range: ‘Irresistible 12-Year-Old Single Malt Scotch Whisky’ (£26.50), an IWSC silver medal winner in 2022, aged in American oak with an oloroso sherry finish; and ‘Irresistible Single Malt Scotch Whisky’ (£20), aged in ex-bourbon casks. These complement the Co-op’s blended Scotch Whisky at £14.

Jonny Grey was bestowed the Keeper of the Quaich award at a private ceremony, along with other new recipients, at Blair Castle, in the Scottish Highlands – the historic home of the earls and dukes of Atholl.

“This means the world to me. It’s undoubtedly the proudest moment of my career so far,” Grey said.

“To be nominated and to get recognition for my personal contribution to the industry, is almost beyond belief.”

Since the formation of the Society, just over 3,000 people, hailing from over 100 countries, have been awarded this honour. Only a few candidates each year are rewarded for their exceptional contribution in supporting the scotch whisky industry. All potential candidates have to be nominated and seconded by existing Keepers or Masters of the Quaich, and must have been involved with the Scottish whisky industry for over seven years. The Society takes its name from the traditional two-handled drinking cup, which, in ancient Scottish Gaelic, was known as a quaich, a vessel associated with friendship, and the enjoyment of Scotch whisky.

Now, Grey is looking to promote and sell the virtues of the product, promoting Scottish whisky whenever he can. He has worked with key whisky suppliers to raise over £100,000 for Peatland Restoration projects, which help to restore peatland habitats to their optimum condition.