14 July 2023

124th Whisky Insiders Interview - John Campbell

Lochlea Distillery
Production Director

How long have you been working in the whisky industry?
I've been working in the whisky industry for just over 28 years. I started on November 14th 1994 at Laphroaig Distillery, painting the numbers on the casks. I then worked through all of the different roles, gaining technical accreditations along the way and became Assistant Distiller in August 1999. I then became Distillery Manager on January 19th 2006 and stayed in this role for over 15 years, becoming the longest ever serving manager in Laphroaig’s history.
What has been your biggest career highlight to date?
Representing the Scotch Whisky Association for their 100th anniversary celebrations in 2013. I helped prepare a single malt at the George Washington distillery in Mount Vernon. We produced 30 bottles of single and double distilled whisky and the first pair sold for $30,000. I am lucky enough to have a pair in my collection.
Can you remember your first dram, and indeed what it was?
Yes I do! It was Laphroaig 10 year old and I received it as part of my allocation for working at Laphroaig distillery. I wanted to understand about what I was making and it’s fair to say that it was a surprising dram for me even although I worked there!
What does whisky mean to you?
Whisky is part of my everyday life and my lifestyle. It’s my work and I am keen to understand all things about it to keep developing myself so I can be better at what I bring to work every day. I also love socialising with a wee dram and often get tastes of what other friends within the industry are doing - I do buy a few bottles that pique my interest. I still feel after over 28 years I have so much to learn.
Where would you like to see yourself in five years’ time?
I still see myself at Lochlea, I feel the potential is huge and I want to keep working towards achieving this with the team here at the distillery. Lochlea is off to a very good start, and we need to keep pushing.
What was your last dram?
Lochlea Ploughing, I am on a US tour right now and we leave the peaty offering until last in our tastings. So I am tasting a lot of Lochlea right now and seeing what’s going on in the US market compared to the UK is really interesting.
Do you have a favourite whisky and food pairing combination?
I like single malt whisky with lots of different types of cheese, that’s a real treat. I love finding flavour combinations and taste experiences within this - this is my guilty pleasure! My favourite combination right now is Manchego cheese and Lochlea Fallow.
What’s your favourite time and place to enjoy a dram?
That’s a tough question - I think I just need good company and good single malt to create memories. My most recent occasion would be sitting in a house in Malibu with an actor friend, an MMA fighter and a couple of others whom are all very serious whisky people and just sharing their feelings and flavours that the whisky was giving to us: I love this bit!
What do you think is going to be the next big thing on the whisky horizon?
Provenance and environmental impact should be the next big thing. Consumers are ever more increasing the demands with regards to these areas, rightfully so from my values perspective. All of my whisky roles have focussed on all or parts of this, whether this be on Islay getting a sustainable supply of peat, or in Ayrshire working towards a sustainable single site.
What’s the one dram you couldn’t live without?
Just one, oh dear that’s very hard! I guess it would have to be Lochlea Ploughing, as I feel it represents me as a whisky! It has both an Islay peated element and a lowlands unpeated new spirit coming together to create a beautifully complex peated whisky that will show strong elements of both and it’s just super tasty on its own.
Many thanks to John Campbell. Who will be our next Whisky Insider? Click back soon to find out!