Former Newcastle United striker Michael Owen backs County Durham whisky firm

Former NUFC striker Owen has become the latest sportsman to back a drinks brand Spey Whisky

Michael Owen and John McDonough celebrate their new business link
Michael Owen and John McDonough celebrate their new business link

Former Newcastle United striker Michael Owen is the latest footballer to lend his name to a Scotch brand after becoming global brand ambassador for Spey Whisky.

Owen has signed a three-year deal to become the global brand ambassador for Spey Whisky, produced by the Speyside Distillery, which was purchased by Harvey’s 17 months ago.

County Durham whisky dealer John Harvey McDonough, bought Speyside Distillers of Glasgow to improve his company’s production facilities and market the brand to a wider international audience.

McDonough’s grandfather, Alec,exported liquor from Sunderland to American bootleggers in the 1920s.

His grandson John went on to build up his whisky export business from an industrial park in Annfield Plain, County Durham.

McDonough came up with the idea for Harvey’s in 2001 when working for drinks giant Grand Metropolitan in Taiwan and has built up sales of £11m in the Far Eastern country.

Harvey’s buys casks of malt from a traditional Highland distillery and bottles, markets and exports it from Annfield Plain.

The Spey brand is formally registered as being from County Durham with the Scotch Whisky Association, although it is made on Speyside.

Despite its recent revival, the historic Spey has been in production since 1770 but lost the distilling element of the business at the turn of the 19th Century.

The partnership marks the first ever drinks association for retired footballer Owen, who also played for the England, Liverpool and Real Madrid.

He said: “Since I retired as a professional footballer I have been able to enjoy some of the finer things in life and enjoying a glass or two of Spey whisky is certainly a little treat I afford myself on occasion,” said Owen.

“I am really looking forward to helping promote such a prestigious brand, particularly in Asia where I am happily spending more and more of my time these days.”

A limited edition Spey Whisky branded by Michael Owen will also be released later this year, following on from his former teammate David Beckham, who partnered with Diageo earlier this year to launch Haig Club Scotch whisky.

“We are thrilled to be working with Michael, a true icon of international football as well as a great family man,” said John Harvey McDonough, CEO of Speyside Distillers.

John’s grandfather Alec Harvey exported Spey whisky from Sunderland to American bootleggers in the 1920s, where it was rumoured to be the favourite tipple of notorious gagster Al Capone.

Since reigniting the brand in 2001, Sunderland-born John has taken it to new heights and markets. It is now the third bestselling brand in Taiwan, achieving multi million pound sales.

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