Sir Alistair, who has regularly featured in the list of Britain's highest paid retailers with annual pay of almost pounds 1m, said he plans to tend his Aberdeen Angus cattle at his home in the Scottish borders, continue breeding horses and do a little writing.
"I feel pretty good about it [the retirement] and I feel very confident about my successors. I've been in the food industry for 39 years and it has always been the plan to go at 60."
He plans to do some venture capital work, backing young managers in the bio-technology, travel and computer science sectors. His writing plans include a foreword to a book on Trollope and a choral piece which will be performed by the Scottish chamber orchestra next year.
Sir Alistair co-founded Argyll in 1977. In 1986 the company lost out to Guinness in the hotly contested battle for United Distillers. The company now has sales of pounds 6bn.