Tributes pour in following passing of Alex Smith, Founder, Global Drinks Intel

By Luke Barras-hill |

Smith was known for his brilliance as a drinks journalist and humour, warmth and compassion, according to those closest to him.

It is with great sadness that TRBusiness reports the death of Alexander (Alec) Smith, CEO and Editor-in-Chief of Global Drinks Intel.

Smith, known affectionately as ‘Big Al’ by many in the drinks industry, passed away on Saturday (17 September) at his home in West London following a long illness.

He is survived by his wife, Charlotte, and three children – Olivia, Alex and William.

Considered one of the leading writers in the beverage alcohol sector and a familiar and well-respected face within global duty free and travel retail circles, Smith joined IWSR in 1998 and ascended to Editor of the company’s Drinks Record publication.

He went on to found Global Drinks Intel in 2018, drawing on his boundless craft and more than 20 years’ experience to develop it into one of the fastest-growing trade magazines covering the worldwide drinks industry with a circulation in excess of 16,000 readers across more than 90 countries.

Heartfelt praise from the industry

After growing up in New York State and New Jersey, still home to some of his family, Smith moved to the UK where he developed his passion for rugby.

Tributes to Smith have flooded social media since news of his death emerged at the weekend.

Drink leader Maurice Doyle, who has held numerous senior positions at the likes of Bacardi, William Grant & Sons and Brown-Forman and is currently CEO at Compass Box, said in a LinkedIn post: “This is so sad. Alex was a brilliant journalist, always curious and a beautiful writer. More importantly, he was a lovely person – supportive, generous and fun. I always enjoyed our chats about the drinks industry, rugby and family. My thoughts are with his family. Rest easy, Alex.”

Former colleague John Rimmer, currently Managing Director, TFWA commented: “We’ve lost a unique individual this weekend, big Alec Smith. A mere LinkedIn post can’t do justice to Al, and no words I can find will express how much he will be missed.

A smile to toast: Smith (far left) shares a picture postcard moment overlooking the French Riviera in Cannes at the TFWA World Exhibition & Conference with fellow travel retail journalists Joe Bates (centre) and Michael Pasternak.

“My heartfelt condolences to Al’s family, of whom he was so proud, and to his colleagues at Global Drinks Intel, the magazine he founded and edited with his customary knowledge and skill.

“The times I spent with Al were among the happiest in my career, and I will always be grateful to him for the generosity he showed, the wisdom he shared, and the laughter he created. The legion of stories can wait for another time. For now, rest in peace Al. I will miss you very, very much.”

Global Drinks Intel Marketing Editor and Director Kate Wake-Walker paid tribute in a LinkedIn post to “a brilliant and experienced journalist, devoted father, superb rugby player and deeply loyal friend. Acknowledged as one of the leading writers in the global drinks industry, he was a perfectionist passionate about his craft, a hack through and through.

“He leaves a huge hole in the lives of those who knew him and the magazine will continue the high intellectual standard and tone set by his brilliance. He has three beautiful children; we join them in mourning his loss.”

Janice Hook, Owner and Joint Managing Director at TRBusiness, said: “Alex was truly a larger-than-life character. We had some fun times over the years in Cannes, he was always the life and soul of the party and will be sadly missed.”

The thoughts of everyone at TRBusiness are with Alex’s family and friends at this difficult time.

Alex Smith’s family have nominated Fight Bladder Cancer, founded by patients and carers, as its charity of choice and welcomes contact from the public, including patients, carers, medical professionals, the press and media. For more information, click here.

All images courtesy of Kate Wake-Walker.

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