The “marketing genius” who masterminded the rise of several Speyside malts has been hailed for his lasting contribution to Moray’s economy following his death.
Hugh Mitcalfe was buried at Kinloss Abbey this week after dying at the age 84.
He has been commended for leaving an “indelible mark” on Glen Grant, and for being part of the team that “built the Macallan”.
And his widow Kirsteen said his devotion to his children and grandchildren was unmatched, despite a busy career that took him across the world.
Mr Mitcalfe was born in Northumberland and read law at Oxford University before becoming a lawyer at his father’s office in Newcastle.
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He married Kirsteen in 1959 and, during almost six decades of wedded bliss, the couple had four daughters and 11 grandchildren.
Two years after the wedding, Mr Mitcalfe was offered a position as marketing director at Glen Grant by his wife’s father, Major Douglas Mackessack, who ran the distillery at the time.
After moving to Moray in 1961 the couple spent the rest of their life there, living in Brodie and latterly Findhorn.
Dennis Malcolm OBE, the master distiller at Glen Grant for more than 50 years, told ScotchWhisky.com that Mr Mitcalfe was responsible for its hugely successful expansion into Italy.
Mr Malcolm said: “He left an indelible mark on Glen Grant.
“Through his endeavours, Glen Grant really made it in Italy. We were selling nearly half-a-million cases there in the 1970s.
“The more he sold, the more we had to produce. We worked longer hours and the men made more money, so he was basically our hero.”
After 20 years with the Rothes-based plant Mr Mitcalfe moved to work at Macallan in a similar role.
The company’s managing director from 1978 to 1996, Willie Phillips described him as “the marketing brain behind the Macallan”.
Mr Phillips added: “He knew we had a good product that was pretty well-known in Speyside, but actual marketing of Macallan in bottle there was none – and, to be honest, we didn’t know how to do it.”
Mr Mitcalfe’s humorous cartoon adverts for the whisky, placed next to The Times crossword, led to increased demand for the malt which went on to achieve global renown.
Former director of The Macallan Distillers Ltd, David Cox, added: “‘Hugh was intimately involved in every stage of The Macallan’s transition from being a top-class malt for the blenders into a powerful brand in its own right, thereby laying the foundations for the global fame to come.”
Moray MSP Richard Lochhead said Mr Mitcalfe had left an “incredible legacy”.
He added: “Today’s success in the whisky sector is down the huge contribution of people such as Mr Mitcalfe and I offer my condolences to his family and friends.”
Mr Mitcalfe retired when Macallan was taken over in 1996.
In his later years the marketing guru enjoyed various country pursuits and spending time with his dogs, but looking after his grandchildren became his “favourite hobby”.
Mrs Mitcalfe added: “My husband was a marvellous and very proud father and grandfather, he took an enormous interest in everything his daughters and grandchildren were doing.”
For more on Mr Mitcalfe’s career, visit www.scotchwhisky.com/magazine/latest-news/22641/scotch-marketing-genius-hugh-mitcalfe-dies/