08 Apr

The Melbourne businessman who wants to change the way we drink whisky

UP with the birds and out on the waves ... that’s how David Prior likes to start his day.

“Surfing is a massive passion of mine,’’ the Melbourne entrepreneur, surfer and yoga devotee says. “So is meditation.’’

Without them, Mr Prior cannot imagine having a “life in flow’’. And it’s this positive mental attitude that guided the growth of his hugely successful organic food company, five:am yoghurt.

The health and wellbeing start-up was sold to UK consumer product company PZ Cussons in 2014 for $80 million.

Eighteen months on, Mr Prior is pouring all his energy — and money — into Scotch whisky after buying the fourth oldest distillery in Scotland.

“People keep asking, ‘What the hell are you doing, going from organic yoghurt to Scotch’?’’ he says.

“It is a big change but I don’t believe you should lock yourself into things. I’m just following a passion.”

Mr Prior bought the 200-year-old Bladnoch Distillery in the Scottish Lowlands last July and is looking to launch a 25-year-old single malt by midyear.

In the meantime, he’s delivered Pure Scot — a new, trendily packaged blended malt, priced about $80 a bottle and aimed squarely at younger Scotch drinkers.

“Our drink is for the modern at heart,’’ he says. “Those with a thirst for something different.’’

Mr Prior could almost be describing himself.

Growing up on the Mornington Peninsula, where his parents ran a food packaging business, he has always sought a “balanced’’ life — one combining “the silence of thought’’ in the surf with the “noise of (commercial) success’’.

Mr Prior, who studied marketing, looked beyond the family company Baroda for a brand he could build.

He remortgaged his Melbourne house to establish five:am in 2009. His vision was clear — to take organic yoghurt from a niche health food into the mainstream — and having achieved that, he sold up and took time out.

“The thought process was to find a business opportunity, then partner up,’’ he says.

“I chose Scotch because it’s a category that’s growing fast and something I’m really passionate about.

“I’ve been a Scotch drinker since I was allowed to drink ... sitting down with Dad at the end of the week and having a nip or two.’’

Bladnoch — dormant for years due to an ownership wrangle — presented itself “out of the blue’’, but Mr Prior had to work hard to break into the tightly held Scottish distillery world.

“The Scots are very, very protective of their industry, as they should be,’’ he says. “But they like the Aussies, the same way we like them.’’

Having secured “55 acres of beautiful land in the most stunning part of Scotland’’, Mr Prior headhunted whisky experts — including a local master distiller and blender — and commissioned “a very contemporary, lighter tasting Scotch’’ which could “define the link between provenance and progression’’.

Pure Scot was born and is being sold in Australia in a wide-shouldered, almost transparent bottle that has nothing to do with tartan or Scottie dogs.

“There are whisky bloggers out there who are saying, ‘That’s not what Scotch is supposed to look like or taste’, but that’s fine,” Mr Prior says.

“A lot of other people are telling us they love the fresh approach, the points of difference.’’

This article can be found here.

Posted in General by Alexandra Davy
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