27 October 2011

Whisky Insiders Interview - Rachel Barrie

Morrison Bowmore Distillers

Whisky Creator & Master Blender


How long have you been working in the whisky industry?
I've been working in the industry for over 20 years. In that time I’ve worked as a research scientist at The Scotch Whisky Research Institute for 4 years, and put my heart and soul into Glenmorangie and Ardbeg over the past 16 years (of which over 8 years were as Master Blender). I've also selected hundreds of single casks for The Scotch Malt Whisky Society.

I’m now about to enter an exciting new chapter in my whisky life, as I embark on new whisky adventures with Auchentoshan, Bowmore and Glen Garioch single malts at Morrison-Bowmore distillers.

What has been your biggest career highlight to date?
Being promoted to Master Blender in 2003 and developing the recipe for Glenmorangie Signet (made from high roasted chocolate malted barley) voted Best Highland single Malt in the 2011 World Whisky Awards.

Can you remember your first dram, and indeed what it was?
The first dram I can remember was a tiny dose of a ‘hot toddy’ at my grandparent’s railway cottage in Stonehaven back in the winter of 1976. I was 7 years old and had terrible earache and my grandma’s hot toddy did the trick and gave me a wonderful comforting feeling that I can still remember to this day. As a child, I also used to dip my finger in my Dad’s single malt and have a wee taste, and I’ve been enjoying whisky in small doses ever since.

What does whisky mean to you?
Whisky is an adventure, my passion and favourite hobby (and my job too of course !). It’s the outlet for my imagination, creativity and quest for knowledge, as I try and get to know every drop of whisky I’m working on (I’ve dipped my nose into around 85000 casks at the latest count !) Whisky continues to bring exciting new challenges and chapters to my life, through working on new whiskies and making new friends through a shared common passion for whisky.

Where would you like to see yourself in five years time?
Still working in the wonderful world of whisky! I’m so lucky to have been given the opportunity to work with great malt whiskies. I’d like to create more new whiskies whilst continuing to dip my nose into all the whisky stocks for which I am a custodian. I’d also like to become an advocate for the Scotch whisky industry, spreading the word on Scotland’s finest drink.

What was your last dram?
Bowmore Tempest, a sensational spicy-sweet super-teasingly smoky dram which I enjoyed in the Whiski rooms in Edinburgh.

Do you have a favourite whisky and food pairing combination?
I have many favourites, a couple of simple combinations I’ve tried recently for the autumn include the warm malty spiciness and subtle smokiness of Glen Garioch 1986 paired with full flavoured Criffel cheese and Bowmore Darkest 15 years old paired with 80% cocoa dark chocolate, it’s a superb rich and indulgent smoky combination.

What’s your favourite time and place to enjoy a dram?
Indoors, it would have to be back home in Aberdeenshire with my dad enjoying some rich Highland drams after my mum’s home-cooked roast dinner. Outdoors, it would have to be out in a boat on the ocean (preferably off the coast of Islay with a salty Islay single malt) taking in all of nature’s tempestuous elements.

What do you think is going to be the next big thing on the whisky horizon?
I think vintage whiskies are going to make a big return; superb hand-selected years and casks that are one-off limited editions, unique in taste and highly collectible.

Also, I think we’ll see experimentation with traditional methods, taking a step back in time to old malting processes and different cask seasoning treatments to how things used to be done historically, but with 21st century knowledge, attention to detail and focus on taste.

What’s the one dram you couldn’t live without?
To be honest, I couldn’t live without the next dram I’m about to create, with the thrill of creating an enigmatic taste profile that’s going to wow people across the globe. Creating whisky is my passion and appreciating it my hobby, when there’s so much wonderful malt whisky to be made and enjoyed, why settle for just one?

Many thanks to Rachel Barrie. Who will be the next Whisky Insider? Click back soon to find out!