10 May 2024

129th Whisky Insiders Interview - Euan Campbell

Scotch Malt Whisky Society
Head of Whisky Creation

How long have you been working in the whisky industry? 
I’ve been with SMWS for over 15 years. Prior to that I worked in a whisky shop for a few years too, so about 18 years in total. 
What has been your biggest career highlight to date? 
It’s a hugely varied role, so I get the opportunity to do lots of interesting projects and to visit many distilleries and cooperages. 
If I was to pick one recent highlight, it would have to be a recent trip to Jerez in the south of Spain. I have visited several times to source top quality sherry casks, but this time we went to make a documentary on the link between Scotch and Sherry. We explored cooperages and bodegas, and in the end, I think we created a great piece of film which gives great insight on the lengths we go to, to ensure that we use the highest quality casks for our whiskies. 
Can you remember your first dram, and indeed what it was? 
I can indeed. It was a sip of Laphroaig 10 Year Old from my dad’s tumbler. I recall being blown away by the intensity of flavour, with barbecued meats and medicinal peat reek. It was a bit of a baptism of fire! 
What does whisky mean to you? 
Whisky means flavour. Shared experiences. Community. A unique product of agriculture, chemistry, and alchemy. 
Where would you like to see yourself in five years’ time? 
Probably right where I am! Whisky is a long game. There’s something very special about seeing casks that you laid down as new make hitting maturity. I don’t think I’ll ever tire of seeing spirit develop over a number of years, starting a new maturation project as another comes to a close. The freedom to be creative with our cask stocks is very rewarding. 
What was your last dram? 
It was a dram of the deeply sherried and fruity SMWS bottling no 39.290, called “Delish!”. A great example of the Sherry cask matured whiskies available from the society. Our tasting panel were reminded of sticky toffee pudding, chocolate brownies and treacle scones. A real treat! 
Do you have a favourite whisky and food pairing combination? 
I tend to enjoy whisky and food separately, but that’s just my preference. The best combo I’ve tried was a big sherry cask dram (unpeated) with a chocolate brownie and berry compote. A Bakewell tart also works really well with that style of whisky. I’ve also enjoyed some big peated Islay drams along with a fresh Arbroath Smokie (smoked in a barrel right at the distillery!). 
What’s your favourite time and place to enjoy a dram?
At the end of a long day, when you can just really switch off with a tasty dram. A comfy chair is essential. I also enjoy a dram when making music, either playing guitar or tinkering with synthesisers. 
What do you think is going to be the next big thing on the whisky horizon? 
The industry is very environmentally aware, so I think we are going to see a lot of new technologies being embraced by distillers. I’ll be very interested to see whether there are any ingenious ways to influence flavour as new methods and equipment are developed. 
What’s the one dram you couldn’t live without? 
Whichever one is currently in my glass! 
Many thanks to Euan Campbell. Who will be our next Whisky Insider? Click back soon to find out!