Whiskey galore for Tullamore
Her route to the top job at William Grant was a circuitous one. Born in north Yorkshire, David studied engineering at Cambridge, sponsored by British Aerospace. “I started out designing aircraft,” she explains.
After university, she joined Thorn EMI, where she made the move into marketing.
“I think I was a better marketeer than an engineer. It was just one of those things. I was good at sciences at school so I went that route at university.”
After a spell marketing snack foods at another company, David left for Bacardi, another family-owned spirits group, where she spent 15 years.
“I moved to Bacardi as marketing controller for the UK, then I was marketing director for the UK and then managing director for UK and then I ran the UK, Ireland and Holland. I was global chief marketing officer there for a number of years, too.”
She is credited with the successful launch of Bacardi Breezer into the UK. “It was the right product at the right time. It looked good, it tasted good and it exploded in the UK.”
Does she still enjoy a drop of Bacardi from time to time? “I tend to drink Hendrick’s, which is my favourite, if I’m honest with you. One has to be loyal to the brands that you look after.”
She took over the top job at William Grant in August 2009, a logical upward move in her career. “William Grant are of a size where lots of people know each other. We’re not small but we’re certainly not one of the big players. The key thing is to capitalise on the strengths of what you are.”
The company celebrates its 125th anniversary this year but nothing more than an internal celebration is planned.
While the family still controls the business, no member of the clan currently has a senior role in the running of the company.
David thinks her first alcoholic drink was a sup of someone’s Advocaat liqueur one Christmas as a kid. “I certainly didn’t want to drink anything afterwards,” she says.
She’s hazy about her first “real” drink or when exactly it was imbibed. “It was probably sweet wine to be honest with you. I don’t drink sweet wine anymore.”
So how big could Tullamore Dew become?
Initially, David is cagey speaking in generalities about it having “loads of potential”. “Ultimately, I can’t tell you how much bigger it is going to be. That would be folly but substantially bigger than it is today,” she adds.
After a bit of chipping away, she eventually relents. “ five to 10 years it could become a 1 to 2 million case brand. It’s about growing it in a way where the consumer is pulling it off the shelf … rather than it being pushed on price or pushed into too much distribution, too quickly.
“At the core is building the relationship with the consumer such that they choose it by name and want to pull it off the shelf.”
Position: Chief executive, William Grant & Sons.
Age: 50 in November.
Lives: Sunningdale, England.
Hobbies: Bridge, skiing and keeping fit.
Something you might expect:She “loves” all of William Grant’s spirits.
Something that might surprise:She’s a big darts fan.
Irish whiskey globally is really an undervalued category.It’s so small versus its potential