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5 Feb 2024

Meet the Makers: Paul from Glencairn Crystal

A black and white image of Paul Davidson, the managing director at Glencairn Crystal, standing in front of a wall with his hands in his pockets.
Paul Davidson, Managing Director at Glencairn Crystal
The Trust is proud to support talented makers and craftspeople from across Scotland, by selling their products in our physical and online shops. This time we meet Paul, the managing director of Glencairn Crystal.

Please introduce yourself and your business:

My name’s Paul Davidson, and I’m the Managing Director at Glencairn Crystal.

Where are you based?

East Kilbride, near Glasgow.

When and how did your business start?

Glencairn Crystal was founded by my dad, Raymond, in 1981 and is now run by myself and my brother Scott, with a team of over 70 employees.

Forty years ago, premium whiskies and spirits were invariably sold in glass bottles, but my dad believed that decanters had a more important role to play in the whisky and spirits industry. His vision was to use pioneering innovation and craftsmanship to enhance the presentation of special whiskies and spirits. Over the years, Glencairn has created thousands of bespoke decanters for most of the industry to hold some of the most sought-after spirits, including the world’s oldest whisky, the world’s oldest port, and the world’s oldest rum.

An image of a glass decanter with whisky in it, on a tray with glasses next to it.
The Pot Still decanter

What products do you make/design/create?

Innovation and design were at the forefront of our journey, and we were lucky to have an incredibly talented artist in Jim Drysdale, who worked with us for 30 years; he set the creativity bar high in the company, and we carry that on today in our design and new product development teams.

Over the years, we’ve designed and manufactured all types of things in glass, crystal, ceramics and precious metals for decanters, bottles, suites of glasses, water jugs and trophies, to name but a few. However, we are perhaps best known for making the Glencairn Glass, the world’s favourite whisky glass, and we currently sell over 5 million glasses every year in every corner of the globe.

The unique and stylish shape of our Glencairn Glass enhances the enjoyment of whisky and ensures that you can get the most out of your dram. Its tapering mouth captures those all-important aromas, and the wide bowl allows the fullest appreciation of the whisky colour with the thistle-style base designed to be comfortable in your hand.

It’s so popular we’ve given the Glencairn Glass its own website:

An image of two of the Glencairn Glasses containing whisky, with a jug of water behind them and a glass pipette laying in front of them.
The Glencairn Glass

What makes your business unique?

We’re very proud that we’ve always been a family run company, and our family values remain at the core of everything we do. I know many companies will use this in their description, but we really do knit this into the core of the business. We all spend a large chunk of our week here, so it’s up to us all to make it a fun environment when we’re here. We get the work done but with a good sprinkling of humour!

We’re very proud of our team of experienced craftspeople, some of whom have over 30 years of experience working with crystal, but equally of the younger team members forging their careers here.

A man painting a red pattern onto a glass decanter.
Painting the Ruby Pagoda Glencairn Crystal Decanter

Are there any interesting materials that you use?

We have industry-leading facilities and production processes in engraving and decorating glassware. We can apply precious metals, gemstones, etc., to decanters required by the drinks industry to make them truly unique.

Are there any eco credentials you can mention?

As a socially and environmentally responsible family business, we are strongly influenced by our next generation’s views on the environment, as they are the future of both our business and our planet.

We are committed to delivering a long-term sustainability strategy to meet the climate demands of the future. This includes a conversion to solar energy to allow the company to generate enough electricity to meet all on-site demand. We’ve also implemented a 75% reduction in gas usage, conversion to an electric car fleet, and a focus on reuse and recycling - all to work towards carbon neutral standards.

What’s your favourite thing about your business/running your business?

Friendships. Over the years, many of my customers, suppliers and staff have become great friends, and seeing my staff creating their own relationships and friendships through Glencairn is incredibly rewarding. As the film It's A Wonderful Life taught us: “no man is a failure who has friends". Going to work isn’t a chore; I love it, and being able to run the business slightly left-field keeps me amused.

What’s the proudest moment of your business career?

Successfully convincing the whisky industry that there was a need for the Glencairn Glass and that it's now helping to educate millions of people around the world.

What is your favourite Trust place?

I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve been told to grow up over the years…so it should be Kirriemuir and J M Barrie's Birthplace.

A white building with green doors and windows adjoining a red sandstone building
J M Barrie’s Birthplace in Kirriemuir

How did you/your business start working with the Trust?

I’m not really too sure, but it’s certainly over 20 years, and most probably through the trade show that used to be held in Aviemore before it moved to Glasgow.

What’s your favourite product that you supply to the Trust and what was the inspiration behind creating it?

The Glencairn Glass is my favourite product.

Before the year 2000, the whisky industry had no singular glass it could call its own, unlike champagne, brandy, or wine, so my dad – Raymond – had the vision to create a glass that would encourage people to appreciate the nose and palate of a whisky fully.

Funnily enough, his initial prototype glass was left in a filing cabinet for almost 20 years until I found it while rummaging through samples. We then brought it to the attention of the Master Blenders of the scotch whisky industry. With their guidance and expertise, the glass evolved and became the Glencairn Glass that we know and love today. We officially launched the Glencairn Glass in 2001.

A glass with the thistle etched design, standing on the floor with foliage in the background, being filled with whisky.
The Glencairn Glass with etched thistle design. Available to purchase through our online shop and at selected properties

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A bottle of pink gin stands on a polished wooden table, with a small bottle of gin to one side and a large gin glass filled with gin & tonic to the other. >