Born: September 26, 1934; Died: February 8, 2012.

Chris Greig, who has died aged 77, never intended to become a whisky industry veteran. It was serendipity more than anything else that set him on that road.

But it was a career for which the Kirkcaldy-born biochemist turned out to be eminently suited – even if it did mean him surreptitiously avoiding the odd nip in favour of ginger ale.

His success in the drinks trade also made his currency soar as a highly-respected and influential member of the board of countless companies, so much so that he was renowned as a serial non-executive director.

The son of a Fife electrical dealer, he was raised in Alyth during the Second World War and then in Dundee, where he attended Harris Academy, before gaining his first degree, an honours in biochemistry from St Andrews University.

A grant from the Medical Research Council then helped him to complete a doctorate in London but academic research was not for him and he was determined to return to and remain in Scotland. He began applying for available posts in Scotland and more or less fell into the drinks industry simply because a suitable job materialised.

"I answered an advertisement from the Distillers Company, who wanted someone to join their research department," he later recalled. "That was how, in 1960, I landed at their premises in Menstrie, near Stirling."

His boss was head of research Dr Magnus Pyke, who would go on, in retirement, to become an enthusiastic, if slightly eccentric, television star explaining science to the masses in shows such as Don't Ask Me and Don't Just Sit there.

However, the job was still too academic for Dr Greig's liking and, anxious to get into management, he jumped at the chance of moving to Invergordon Distillers Ltd, working initially in research and development. He then got involved in production, becoming managing director in 1983 and moving south when the business became based in Glasgow.

He and his wife, Anne, whom he had met through a university charities committee and married in 1960, set up home in Ayrshire. They bought a farm near a hamlet that shares its name with the Russian capital and he took great delight in issuing his telephone number as Moscow 232.

By this time the business had been bought by the Hawker Siddley Group and in 1988 he and the chairman led a management buy-out. Their aim was to get the company listed again within three years. It took just 16 months with profits rocketing by 44% between 1988-1989. The company was later taken over by Whyte & Mackay and he found himself out of a job.

But the whisky industry had clearly agreed with him: during his time at Invergordon the company enjoyed huge expansion, opened its own malt distillery at Tamnavulin-Glenlivet, acquired the Glayva liqueur and Mackinlay's and counted Isle of Jura, Tamnavulin, Tullibardine and Bruichladdich among its malts.

Though proud of the success of the product, he drank little himself and while a daily stream of visitors always expected, and received, the customary welcome dram at Invergordon, he employed an effective tactic to guarantee he remained compos mentis – a secretary who always knew to give him ginger ale.

As a workaholic he would have preferred a job to the financial benefits resulting from the takeover and he was soon back in the business, this time as chairman of William Grant & Sons Ltd.

He also served as non-executive chair of the brewer Belhaven and PPL Therapeutics, the biotechnology organisation behind Dolly the cloned sheep, and as a non-executive director of Robert Wiseman Dairies, the Glasgow-based European patent and trademark attorneys, Murgitroyd & Company and Cypex Ltd.In 2009 he was appointed chairman of Coatbridge-based Lees Foods and at the time of his death was still involved with more than a dozen companies and a director of five.

A man who was never ready to retire and who could not bear idleness, he was also involved in a number of charitable causes including the Green Belt and Civic Trusts and the Airborne Initiative, a boot camp to help young offenders stay away from crime. He believed it had been tremendously beneficial and was sorely disappointed to see it lose its funding.

At home he enjoyed pheasant shooting and farm management. Having moved from Ayrshire in 1989 and bought a farm in East Lothian, he acquired another farm in Fife only a few weeks ago.

He also travelled extensively with his wife, particularly to the Caribbean and Lombok, Indonesia, and spent his 70th birthday in Florida enjoying the thrills of a rollercoaster for the first time.

An avid collector, he had editions of Brewing and Distilling International going back to 1961, and, not unsurprisingly, an extensive variety of whisky miniatures. "He loved whisky. It was his life," said his wife Anne.

She survives him along with their son Ian, daughters Susie and Sally and seven grandchildren.