BE KEEPER OF THE QUAICH

The Herald Magazine - - FIRST UP - S T E WA R T B U C H A N A N , WH I S K Y E X P E R T

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,

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