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Issue 114 - From the crease to the stillroom

Whisky Magazine Issue 114
September 2013


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From the crease to the stillroom

Like many a Yorkshire lad Andy Watts grew up in the 1960s and 70s dreaming of becoming a professional cricketer. He had the talent as a batsman and medium-pace bowler to make those dreams a reality, playing first-class cricket with Derbyshire County Cricket Club. Watts then moved to South Africa to play for a team based in the Cape winelands, eventually settling down and raising a family.

Thirty years later the 53-year-old Englishman is still pretty handy with the willow, but is better known as the master distiller at Wellington's James Sedgwick Distillery, and a passionate advocate of South African whisky.

Q: Andy, once you were living in South Africa how did you end up working at the James Sedgwick Distillery and becoming master distiller?

A: This is a book on its own! The shortened version is that I was in the right place at the right time on more than one occasion.

It was cricket, which originally brought me to South Africa. I coached at schools throughout the Boland region and then also played for Wellington and Boland. At that stage of my life I had already fulfilled my dream of being a professional sportsman. I just had no idea of what was lying ahead for me.

The journey to the James Sedgwick Distillery began in 1986 when at a social gathering I met the directors of Morisson Bowmore, which was doing business with Stellenbosch Farmers' Winery (SFW) where I was working.

This meeting resulted in a technical exchange being set up whereby I would go to Scotland and wo...

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