The Business of Scottish Gin - Glencairn Crystal

Scott Davidson, New Product Development Director at Glencairn Crystal.

Published: 24th February 2024

A diverse range of businesses and organisations support the Scottish Gin supply chain. From packaging specialists and printers, botanical merchants and still makers, spirits organisations, and industry bodies, each with an essential role in supporting the brands and businesses that comprise the Scottish Gin category. In The Business of Scottish Gin editorial series, we speak with the key people, businesses, and organisations contributing to and supporting Scotland’s growing Scottish Gin industry.

In this feature, we speak with Scott Davidson, New Product Development Director at Glencairn Crystal. Based in Scotland, Glencairn Crystal has been designing and manufacturing a range of premium crystalware and glassware for consumers and businesses for over 40 years. Learn more about Glencairn Crystal, the challenges, innovation and the role Glencairn Crystal has in the world of Scottish Gin and spirits.

Scott Davidson, New Product Development Director at Glencairn Crystal. (Pic: Courtesy of Glencairn Crystal)
A small selection of glassware designed and manufactured by Glencairn Crystal. (Pic: Courtesy of Glencairn Crystal)

Can you tell us a bit more about the history of Glencairn Crystal?

Glencairn Crystal, based here in East Kilbride, Scotland, was founded by my father Raymond Davidson in 1981. He believed that decanters had an important role to play in the whisky and spirit world. His vision was to use pioneering innovation and craftsmanship to enhance the presentation of his customers’ brands, adding value to any whisky (or any other spirit) contained in a Glencairn Crystal decanter.

Over the years, we’ve designed, created and delivered bespoke decanters to hold some of the rarest and most sought-after spirits, including the world’s oldest whisky, the world’s oldest port and the world’s oldest rum. 

We’re also the creators of the world’s favourite whisky glass, The Glencairn Glass, and we sell over 5 million of these glasses each year. We also produce a wide range of glassware, including The Glencairn Gin Goblet and our Mixer and Copita glasses, all available via our website.

Four decades on we now have three generations of the Davidson family in the company, along with our valued team of over 70 staff. As we continue to grow and evolve, our focus on family values remains at the core of our business.

Glencairn Crystal founder, Raymond Davidson, believed that beautiful decanters and quality glassware could complement the qualities of whisky and spirits. (Pic: Courtesy of Glencairn Crystal)
Glencairn Crystal employs a team of highly skilled designers, makers, artists and craft people who help design and manufacture premium glassware and bespoke glassware gifts. (Pic: Courtesy of Glencairn Crystal)

As a business in the world of spirits, how has Glencairn Crystal had to adapt and innovate to meet changes in the world of spirits?

In the past, when a crystal decanter was selected as a packaging option, it was a relatively uncomplicated brief. It involved a simple off-the-shelf decanter, which would be adapted by engraving a logo where there was a space, generally between the ornate cutting and decoration on the decanter. The next part of the process was sourcing an individual cork, which would be hammered by hand into the stopper to create the finished crystal decanter.

Today, it is produced as a controlled container with any number of possible combinations of unique finishes, complex decorations, metal fittings and special closures. The technology that has gone into bringing this together is much more sophisticated, which has taken our team over 40 years to develop.

When people hear Glencairn Crystal, especially whisky drinkers, they think of the Glencairn Glass. Can you tell us a bit more about the process you went through to create this iconic glass? 

The Glencairn Glass was created and officially launched in 2000. My father’s vision was to create a glass that would encourage the user to fully appreciate a whisky’s nose, palate and qualities while also being a sturdy glass within a bar environment. My father’s initial glass prototype had been relegated to the filing cabinet for almost 20 years until my brother Paul (now Glencairn Crystal’s Managing Director) found it whilst rummaging through samples.  

The glass prototype was brought to the attention of the Master Blenders of the scotch whisky industry, and with their guidance and expertise, the glass evolved and became the Glencairn Glass that we know and love today. The design of The Glencairn Glass, with the tapering mouth, captures those all-important aromas and makes it easy to sip from. The wide bowl allows the fullest appreciation of the whisky colour, whilst the thistle-style base design makes it highly comfortable to hold in your hand. 

The Glencairn Glass was designed for whisky drinkers to help them capture the character of the dram in their glass. (Pic: Courtesy of Glencairn Crystal)
Glencairn Crystal sells over 5 million Glencairn Glasses every year, making it the world's favoured whisky glass. (Pic: Courtesy of Glencairn Crystal)

Why do you think Scotland has seen such a big growth in the number of gin distilleries and brands?

The explosion of Scottish Gin and the broader gin category has allowed many distillers to be creative with their recipes and distillation process. This creative freedom means distillers have been able to develop premium spirits with diverse and unique flavour profiles, so no two gins are identical. The same goes for branding and packaging, with more bespoke bottles appearing and strong brand stories that capture a sense of place; the Scottish Gin category, in particular, provides consumers with a rich and diverse range of Scottish Gins to pick from.

Many early leaders in the Scottish Gin category, like Caorunn, Hendrick’s Gin, The Botanist and Edinburgh Gin, helped inspire other Scottish businesses to start their own Scottish Gin brand and launch a Scottish Gin. Our whisky history and heritage have also played a role in Scottish Gin’s success thanks to Scotland’s global reputation as a country that knows how to distil and produce premium spirits and is home to globally recognised spirits brands.

What are some of the challenges the business has faced and how have you overcome them?

A very positive challenge we’ve had to overcome is catering to an increasing demand for our products and services. We have recently expanded our site in East Kilbride with an investment of over £2 million; our new-look premises include an impressive refurbishment, a new bespoke Glencairn Glass style reception area and a substantial new building added to the original Glencairn factory and warehouse site.

We have been the market leader in the specialised design and decoration of glassware for over 40 years. We’ve constantly challenged ourselves to be a market leader, and not just following or resting on our laurels, but continually pushing our business forward, evolving and growing to be unique in the marketplace. Our investment reflects this ambition, and our continued investments will help ensure we stay relevant to the needs of our customers as their needs continue to evolve.

How important is sustainability to Glencairn Crystal as a business?

We’re committed to delivering a long-term sustainability strategy to meet the climate demands of the future. Some of the steps we’ve taken as a business include a conversion to solar energy to allow the company to generate enough electricity to meet all on-site demand, a 75% reduction in gas usage, conversion to an electric car fleet and a focus on re-use and recycling, all steps helping us as a business work towards carbon neutral standards.

The Glencairn Gin Goblet was designed to hold the perfect balance of gin, tonic, ice and garnish. (Pic: Courtesy of Glencairn Crystal)
The Glencairn Mixer features the same innovative features as The Glencairn Glass, but is designed for spirits that use a mixer. (Pic: Courtesy of Glencairn Crystal)

Can you tell us a bit more about what other services and products Glencairn offers?

As previously highlighted, we created The Glencairn Glass to enhance the whisky-drinking experience. Subsequently, we’ve also developed, designed and produced a range of other glassware that compliments other spirits, including gin. For example, our Glencairn Gin Goblet is designed to celebrate and elevate the gin-drinking experience with a generous bowl to hold the perfect measure and mixer with ice. It has an elegant stem to keep your hand from warming the gin and a shaped lip for easy drinking that stops the water tension and ice from spilling over the rim. Its purposely tapered curved design allows aromas to develop in the bowl, helping to capture and lift a gins aromas.

Our take on the classic copita, the Glencairn Copita Glass, was created at the direct request of several of the world’s leading master distillers who had been searching for a consistently sized, quality nosing glass with a lengthened stem for laboratory use.

Many spirits are enjoyed with a mixer, ice and garnish. Our Glencairn Mixer Glass was created at the Canadian whisky industry’s request to fully appreciate your dram neat before you add a mixer or ice. The glass incorporates a tulip shape to enhance its nosing function and the enjoyment of your drink.

We’re known internationally as one of the finest crystal decanter and glassware manufacturers, having been at the cutting edge of high quality decanter and glassware design, innovation, and creativity for over four decades.

Where would you like to see Glencairn as a business in 10 years?

I would love to see our business continue to grow, along with continuing to grow our reputation for what we do, meeting our customers’ needs at every stage. I would also love to see our range of products continue to grow. We still have a lot of people and spirits we want to develop products for, along with showcasing our products to the on-trade and hospitality sectors and educating them about why our glassware can help benefit their patrons and customers.

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