10 March 2016

Whisky Insiders Interview - Keith Cruickshank

The Benromach Distillery Company

Distillery Manager


How long have you been working in the whisky industry?
I’ve been working in the whisky industry for the past 25 years. I started out working for Chivas Brothers, beginning on the shop floor before moving to become Warehouseman and Distillery Operative, doing a little bit of everything, from cask handling to production, along the way. Then in 1998 I joined Benromach, working for 16 of my 18 years here as Distillery Manager.

What has been your biggest career highlight to date?
That’s a tricky one to decide. I don’t know if I could pick just one highlight from the past 25 years, but personally I would say that having the opportunity to revive Benromach Distillery and being part of the growth and successes over the years is definitely a big highlight. Also being able to see someone buying a bottle of Benromach and enjoying the whisky we’ve put so much time and effort into creating. That’s very special.

Can you remember your first dram, and indeed what it was?
My first dram would have been a Bell’s 12 Years Old. Believe it or not, I actually didn’t start drinking whisky until I was about 30. As you get older your palate starts to appreciate things in a different way, and I think that you begin to enjoy the finer things in life, such as whisky.

What does whisky mean to you?
Whisky has given me a lot of opportunities in my life, and has opened a lot of doors for me. Put simply, it’s what I do and what I’m passionate about. Several members of my family worked in the industry for so many years that it has almost become a way of life for me. Very few people these days have the opportunity to go from working on the shop floor to achieving Manager level, so I’ve been very privileged.

Where would you like to see yourself in five years’ time?
In five years’ time I still see myself at Benromach. I’ve been part of the Benromach journey right from the beginning, and we’re still learning and growing every day. In the last few years alone we have increased production over 200%, so in five years’ time I would like to see us reach the potential of what the brand, and the distillery, could achieve, and I hope to be right here steering the ship with the team.

What was your last dram?
The last dram I enjoyed was a Benromach 10 Years Old, which is currently my whisky of choice!

Do you have a favourite whisky and food pairing combination?
Whisky and food is a strange one, I like chocolate and cheese with whisky, and strangely enough Benromach goes well with both. Personally I prefer Benromach 10 Years Old with cheese, because I think you get even more flavours from the whisky, but there are so many options when it comes to food and whisky.

What’s your favourite time and place to enjoy a dram?
Without a doubt my favourite place to enjoy a dram of Benromach is at home.

What do you think is going to be the next big thing on the whisky horizon?
For the industry as a whole I think we need to continue to ensure we are delivering exceptional products to consumers across the world who are seeking authentic, high quality products with real provenance. Single malt whisky fits well with these aspirations. There continues to be exciting opportunities in both emerging and traditional whisky markets, as well the opportunity of attracting new consumers to single malt.

Here at Benromach it’s about looking ahead at how we’re going to grow and mature. We’ve now got a Benromach 5, 10 and 15 Years Old. We also recently released a rare and exclusive whisky crafted at the distillery before the Urquhart family, owners of Gordon & MacPhail, revived it in 1998. It’s all about looking ahead to how Benromach develops and grows over the coming years. I tend to look at our Benromach range as a family. We can see the difference in age and maturation in each of our expressions, just as we can with a family.

What’s the one dram you couldn’t live without?
At the moment it would have to be Benromach 10 Years Old, it’s a perfect example of what we do at the distillery and the ideal dram to showcase the classic pre-1960s Speyside character.
Many thanks to Keith Cruickshank. Who will be the next Whisky Insider? Click back soon to find out!