Born October 4, 1923; Died July 28, 2013
Charles Craig, who has died aged 89, had an excellent nose for a decent whisky but he once managed to buy a distillery without realising it.
A drinks industry executive, trained in the blending of rum, gin and whisky, he arrived in west Scotland from his native London in the 1960s to take on the running of an ailing distillers.
After a spell living in Helensburgh, he and his family moved to Glenpatrick House, Elderslie. It was only when they investigated why the water supply was via an eight-inch pipe they discovered it came from a loch some miles away. It turned out the property had previously been Gleniffer Distillery, founded in 1833 under the name Glenpatrick Distillery.
He had no idea of the home's heritage when he agreed the sale. But, intrigued by its history - it had closed in 1894 - he went on to write Glenpatrick House, Elderslie: The Story Of An Unsuccessful Distillery.
However, he is best known for his mammoth book The Scotch Whisky Industry Record, the definitive account of the whisky industry's development from 1494-1993 and regarded as the industry's history bible. It was written after he finally retired from a career in the drinks business spanning 50 years that included a management buy-out of the outfit he came north to run, Invergordon Distillers.
Born in Battersea, his mother died of tuberculosis when he was six months old and his father deserted him to go to America. Raised and home-schooled by his grandmother, he started work at 14 as a delivery boy for a printing firm in Rye, Sussex.
He then worked as an office boy for solicitors before moving to law book publishers, Sweet and Maxwell as a clerk. During the early years of the Second World War he was a full-time air raid warden in Richmond, Surrey, where he met Audrey, who was to become his wife.
In May 1942 he joined the Royal Corps Of Signals and was posted to 80th Field Regiment, Royal Artillery, attached to the 52nd Lowland Division, whose divisional headquarters were at Aberlour, Speyside. After two years of training the Division moved into the Low Countries in the autumn of 1944 and he was involved in the famous Battle Of The Bulge in the Ardennes in the winter of 1944-45.
After passing a War Office selection board as an officer cadet he and Audrey married and he was commissioned into the Highland Light Infantry. In February 1946 he was posted to the Royal West African Frontier Force in Sierra Leone before returning to civvy street the following year.
He began work in October 1947 as a wine and spirit sales clerk at Woodheads Brewery, London, later moving to become assistant manager to Charrington Brewery's wine and spirit subsidiary Marshall Taplow Ltd. He was now training in the manufacturing and blending of rum, gin and whisky, looking after many major whisky brands, including Mountain Music and Crown Vat.
He became a lecturer for The Scotch Whisky Association, was appointed a director of Marshall Taplow and in 1964 served as president of the City Of London Licensed Victuallers and became a freeman of the city.
In 1967 he applied to be managing director of Invergordon Distillers Ltd, a poorly-performing subsidiary of London Merchant Securities. Based in Glasgow, he worked with production manager Dr Chris Greig and, together with their team, they turned the business around, acquiring other distilleries including Bruichladdich, Jura, Tullibardine and Deanston.
By 1978, when the company was acquired by the Hawker Siddeley group, Invergordon was the sixth largest blended scotch whisky business in the world. However, he retired in 1983, becoming part-time chairman of Invergordon.
He and his wife moved south again, to Colchester, where he helped out with son Nigel's bookshop.
But he never truly retired and in 1988, he and Dr Greig led a management buy-out of Invergordon Distillers, borrowing more than £90million to complete the deal and take the company off the Stock Exchange and 18 months later the company was re-floated. He retired as chairman in 1991. Whyte & MacKay took it over in November 1993 for a reported £382million.
Latterly, Charles and Audrey lived in Great Bookham and a few years after her death, in 2005, he moved to Weybridge, where his fridge was always stocked with a supply of Highland Spring water to accompany his selection of whiskies.
He is survived by children Michael, Nigel and Alison, five grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.
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