Meet The SMG Team

Charles Maclean

Chief Whisky Advisor

Charles MacLean has been writing about Scotch whisky for thirty-six years, and has published seventeen books on the subject. He was described by The Times as “Scotland’s leading whisky expert” in 2014.

He sits on several judging panels, including that of the International Wine & Spirits Competition, has chaired the nosing panel of the Scotch Malt Whisky Society since 1992, and advises many whisky companies on cask selection and flavour profiling.

He was the founding editor of Whisky Magazine and foreign editor of Whisky (Russia); writes regularly for several international magazines and websites and is a frequent commentator on TV and radio. He was chief presenter of the TV channel and starred in Ken Loach’s film The Angels Share, which won the Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Festival in 2012.

In 2009 he was elected Master of the Quaich, in 2012 won the I.W.S.C.’s ‘Outstanding Achievement Award’ and in 2016 was inducted into the Whisky Hall of Fame.

His book “Scotch Whisky : a liquid history” was the first spirits book to win a James Beard award.

William Fountain

Managing Director

William Fountain has significant experience in collecting and trading rare whisky, as well as brokering fine art and luxury collectables globally over the last 15 years.

Based in Hong Kong, William is now concentrating all of his efforts on developing the rare whisky market in Asia, benefitting from a network of private collectors and driven by high demand for investment grade whisky. Being a keen collector of single malt, William has been involved in bringing one of the oldest Scottish whiskies to market and through a great team of industry professionals will continue to ensure single malt whiskies reaches new heights in an already very well-established global market.

His passion for knowledge in these areas are key to the success and drive of Premier Whisky and ultimately the reason behind bringing together world renowned experts that will take the industry to the next level.

Michael Cottingham

Taiwan & China Advisor

Michael began a business career in Asia, setting up and operating several companies in the F&B field. He maintains directorships of several food and entertainment outlets in China, notably the Sasha’s and Zapata’s groups.

In a shift of direction, Michael set up Cottingham & Co. in 1992, and began importing alcoholic beverages into Taiwan. He grew Cottingham into a leading service provider for international premium beverage brands in Taiwan handling sales, distribution, marketing and brand development. Carlsberg became a partner in Cottingham in 2008, and the company was renamed Carlsberg-Cottingham. Carlsberg have now bought the company, renaming it Carlsberg (Taiwan).

Michael set up Cottingham (Shanghai) in 2010, and the company imports international brands into the vibrant China market, under the leadership of my son, Andrew. The focus is currently on Single Malt Scotch, and they also import Tito’s Handmade Vodka.

In Taiwan, the focus on importing and marketing international beverage brands continues with Cottingham Ltd. Cottingham handles Tomatin Single Malt Scotch, Antiquary, Lismore and Big T. Cottingham also handles the Douglas Laing range of Single Malt Scotches. We are also sole agents for the Brown-Forman range (Jack Daniels, Woodford Reserve, Early Times, Gentleman Jack, Herradura, El Jimador, Finlandia, Chambord, and Sothern Comfort).

The Cottingham Group now represents and provides services to international alcohol beverage brands throughout Greater China, including China itself, Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan.

In October 2012 Michael was honoured to be inducted into the “Keepers of the Quaich” for services to Scotch Whisky.

John Rhodes

Hong Kong & Macau Consultant

John is a co-founder of the HK Whisky Festival which had its inaugural event in February 2016. The HKWF has gone from strength to strength always with the focus of education and experience as the main ingredient for the event. The second festival in 2017 established it as having the deepest quality and range of whisky in show in Hong Kong whilst the 2018 show set its place as the premier whisky event in the city.

John Rhodes is a Scotsman in Hong Kong having lived here for more than 25 years. He is currently the agent for the Glencairn Whisky Glass, Scotland’s only Official Whisky Glass. He has been trained by the Aroma Academy which specialises in the aromas of whisky and teaching people how to identify the key aromas in any whisky as well as to appreciate this most complex of spirits.

John is also an importer of single cask whiskies from Scotland into Hong Kong focusing on whiskies with character. He owns and operates specialist whisky shops in TST with a particular focus being single malts and single cask bottlings from key Independent Bottlers.

Tony Huang

Creative Director

Tony’ is located in Taiwan where he leads from the front in the whisky packaging industry. His work is considered by many to be the very best in the industry and his hand crafted box presentations are used by the likes of Karuizawa, Gordon & Macphail, Glenfarclas and more. Tony is Premier Whisky’s exclusive design consultant who helped achieve a stunning box and bottle design for our latest Gordon & Macphail 70 year old, releasing November 2019.

Eric Piras

Resident Cigar Expert

Eric Piras has a high public profile, significant management experience in the tobacco trade and a strong global expertise in sales and marketing for premium and machine-made cigars. Based in Hong Kong, Eric has more than 20 years experience in the cigar industry in Asia-Pacific and is one of the highest profiles in this sector. Prior to creating his company Cigraal Ltd., Eric joined Altadis (later acquired by Imperial Tobacco Group) in 1999 and travelled the globe setting up and strengthening distribution channels for the world’s number one cigar maker. Previously, Eric was the Regional Director for The Pacific Cigar Company, Habanos’ exclusive distributor in Asia-Pacific and Canada, largely contributing to the building of their brands and the development of the Casa Del Habanos franchise in these regions. Eric’s wide knowledge extends from tobacco growing to manufacturing, marketing, distributing and ultimately the pleasure of smoking a cigar! Eric is also proud to be a cigar expert in the Tasting Panel of Cigar Sense (

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