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Issue 14 - From concert pianist to connoisseur

Whisky Magazine Issue 14
February 2001


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From concert pianist to connoisseur

Michael Jackson talks to Rachel Barrie, a woman who had childhood dreams of being a ballerina or a concert pianist, but became Glenmorangie's Product Development Leader.

Ambitions? Between the ages of five and ten, I wanted to be a ballerina. From ten to 15, I switched to concert pianist. Then I wised up, I realised that your have to be absolutely exceptional for careers like that.”

Rachel Barrie punctuates her brisk replies with a chuckle. She leans away as she laughs, head thrown back. The gesture is not calculated, but the body language is disarming. Perhaps she is thinking that this is all too stereotypical: that every little girl wants to be a ballerina. Not necessarily a concert pianist, though. Nor with such chronological precision. Five-to-ten, then ten to 15, like ages for different vattings of malt whisky. Those careers never came to realisation, but Rachel did dance: “Ballet, tap, disco ...” She still looks like a ballet dancer: small, neat, feminine, hair tied back. She laughs a bit too much for a concert pianist, though.

Despite these artistic leanings, she recalls that “at school, I chose logical and scientific subjects: maths, physics, chemistry,
biology.” Chemistry brings us neatly to smells, one of the dominant topics in both our lives. “I realised at an early age that I was very sensitive to smells. I remember things because of smells.” Like? “Music: the musty, woody, walnut smell of the piano at my grandmother's. Hill
walking: heather, the spicy smells of pine cones. Then there were the smells of the kitchen. I was always interested in cooking. My father has a good sense of smell, though my mother is b...

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