BE KEEPER OF THE QUAICH
ICOME from a whisky production background so I spent a long time in distilleries making whisky before going out onto the road. What I love about moving into an ambassadorial role is travelling around the world and seeing people taste it. I can sit in front of 300 Japanese bartenders in Tokyo or be in a pub in Glasgow.
People want to enjoy quality these days. Single malt is not a drink you drink fast; you can sit back and relax with it, it’s not about drinking that bottle, it’s about sipping away. That’s what people want; people are drinking less but higher quality.
With BenRiach, my blood, sweat and tears went into that whisky. It was like pumping the blood back through its veins again in bringing that distillery back to life. Tobermory is my home-town distillery on the Isle of Mull; I moved to Elgin and the BenRiach distillery had been sitting empty for two years. When I first walked in, I felt quite sorry for the distillery, it looked neglected and needed a lot of work. For the first six months, we didn’t even switch on a bit of machinery, the place was stripped down, built back up and brought back to life.
It’s very humbling that I’ve been invited to become a Keeper of the Quaich. You have to be elected by a Keeper who has been one for ten years and, even if you’re nominated, it goes to the board and then they decide if you’re worthy enough. It’s an honour to be invited to join the bunch of whisky heroes. Consumers want more knowledge, more details – that’s why I went into it.
Some people think of single malt as out of their reach or a premium spirit typically associated with an older gentleman. However, that’s changed dramatically in the last five or six years. I go out in the markets now across Asia and into America and see that consumers are evenly split between men and women and younger; so there’s whisky for everybody.
We’re not pigeon-holing whisky; it’s appealing to a very broad cross-section of consumers. We don’t aim at any generation, it’s dangerous to do that. If you start concentrating on one,