23 October 2019

Whisky Insiders Interview No.100 - Nick Savage

Bladnoch Distillery

Master Distiller


How long have you been working in the whisky industry?
I started working in the Scotch whisky industry in 2007, with Diageo at the technical centre in Menstrie. The main focus there was around cask maturation, losses and innovation, but it was great to be immersed by all the other areas of the technical aspects of spirits production.

What has been your biggest career highlight to date?
Thus far, it would have to be being part of the Macallan in 2018. I believe that 2018 was genuinely a game changing year for the Macallan, with the new distillery, new releases (including their oldest ever release), innovations and continuous breaking of auction records. It’s a year that I can’t see being replicated ever again, so it was a privilege just to be involved.

Can you remember your first dram, and indeed what it was?
From memory, my first Scotch dram was Johnnie Walker Black label. My first overall dram may well have been Jameson, but I’d be lying if I said that was 100% true!

What does whisky mean to you?
Skills, knowledge and experience! Once you understand what goes into producing whisky, you can appreciate the history and personalities that may have gone into making it. Mash men, still men, coopers, blenders, warehousemen, farmers and bottlers, to mention a few professions that apply their skillsets to producing whisky, and it takes decades and generations to build the knowledge and experience.

Combine that with the fact that the production time is also spread over many decades, and they craftsman may never even meet, means that whisky is something special and I appreciate every dram regardless of the brand. Imagine if whisky could talk!

Where would you like to see yourself in five years’ time?
Still being challenged and learning, together with growing the Bladnoch brands. Laying stocks down today in the manner we are at Bladnoch, in 5 years there’s some stunning whiskies coming on stream and that’s very exciting!

What was your last dram?
It was in the whisky making room, and it was the new Bladnoch 26 Year Old!

Do you have a favourite whisky and food pairing combination?
Whisky and cheese are normally my favourite if done well. Both have strong characteristics and work well together in general, and there’s many variations on styles and flavours, so pairing can work very very well!

What’s your favourite time and place to enjoy a dram?
I have two main occasions that stick out. Firstly, in the summer months with a nice American oak style, refreshing and potentially mixed with tonic or soda, enjoying with friends in the garden until the early hours. In Scotland at the height of summer there’s time when the sun doesn’t set and being outside in the garden with friends all night long is great.

The second occasion is in the middle of winter. Snowing outside with the log burner on and sharing a dram with someone close like my wife, dad or best friend. More Spanish oak and sherry cask styles, which warm you and it can be a great memory!

What do you think is going to be the next big thing on the whisky horizon?
The industry will continue to grow at a similar pace we’ve seen in the past few years. However, the challenge will be how we do this sustainably is going to be the main challenge, with respect to how we integrate with our environment. Therefore, I would envisage many innovations in this area in the coming years, which not be seen directly in the market, but will have a huge impact on the industry.

What’s the one dram you couldn’t live without?
It’s not so much the drams I can’t live without, it would be the moments that go with the drams. I tend to link the dram to a memory or an occasion, so I wouldn’t ever want that to change.

Many thanks to Nick Savage for being our 100th Whisky Insiders interviewee. Who will be our 101st? Click back soon to find out!