Views from the Top: Leonard Russell


Ever wondered who’s behind the brands that you sell? Here’s the seventh of nine of Scotland’s drinks bosses, Ian Macleod Distillers’ Managing Director Leonard Russell, with his plans for 2020, including a steer on what he thinks you should be doing with your business.

You’ve been MD for an incredible 31 years – what’s the secret to such longevity?

It’s a family business so it’s not so easy to get fired, and I hire people that are better than me. Success came about by investing in scotch malt whiskies and buying Edinburgh Gin at the right time. We were so very lucky that interest rates were very low and that the banks were supportive. Plus we have a very good team.

What do you love about the drinks industry?

It’s the friendliest industry I know. Distilleries exchange whiskies to make blends, so it’s convivial. Consumers are also drinking less but better.

How do you plan to drive the business forward in 2020?

By continuing to build the Edinburgh Gin brand. We’re also building a new Edinburgh Gin distillery and visitor centre in Edinburgh and rebuilding the Rosebank Distillery in Falkirk.

What is your best stress-buster?

An Edinburgh Gin and tonic. And spending time with my family. Include that last part, then I can show this to my wife.

Which piece of advice would you pass on to licensees?

Clean your toilets. Make your pub more of an experience. Retail calls it ‘in-store theatre’ and licensees should think about applying something similar to their business. Customers want to make memories.

If you had a pub what would you call it and why?

The Edinburgh Gin Bar and I’d make it just what it says. The customer is always looking for different serves, cocktails and garnishes and that’s what I’d be concentrating on in my bar.

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