My path to becoming a Master Blender was unusual… I first started out in the steel industry after graduating as a Chemical Engineer, but circumstance led me to change my career path early on. I began my career in the whisky industry in my late twenties when I took up a role at Strathclyde Distillery as a Shift Manager. As well as my shift work, I wanted to attain the highest qualification in distilling available, so I joined a vocational course and took on extra work to develop training manuals for the distillery teams. The extra work I was putting in was soon noticed and this led to an opportunity to look at Allied Domecq’s Grain Strategy.
After this, I took up the position of Maturing Inventory and Planning Manager, controlling the filling and laydown of new make spirits, as well as cask purchasing and managing a team that selected the casks required for blends based on the Master Blender’s recipes. This was my first real insight into the role of a Master Blender.
In 2005, I took on the role of Bulk Stocks Manager for Fortune Brands in Scotland. Here, I set up filling policies, stock systems, spirit trading and warehousing agreements for the new company, all under the watchful eye of Master Blender Robert Hicks. I was lucky enough to develop new products with Robert during my first few years at the company. He was a great mentor and kick-started my interest into whisky as a product.
In 2014 when Beam Inc was bought out by Suntory and Beam Suntory was formed, I was awarded the role of Senior Manager – Inventory Management & Spirit Quality, managing the inventory of both Beam and Morrison Bowmore, including Auchentoshan, Glen Garioch, Laphroaig, Ardmore, Teacher’s and of course, Bowmore. Then, when Rachel Barrie, Master Blender at the time decided to leave, I took on the extra role of Master Blender. The dual role of a Master Blender and Inventory Manager is fairly unique in the industry, as normally each role would be carried out by different individuals. For me, it has been very rewarding role and I’ve enjoyed every minute of it.