Whisky Magazine Issue 20
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Charles MacLean meets Evan Thomas Cattanach, long-term Distillery Manager and now Director of Scotch Knowledge for Schefflin & Somerset in New York
Evan Thomas Cattanach made malt whisky for 33 years before becoming a Global Brand Ambassador for Johnnie Walker and the Classic Malts. His tall and imposing figure, invariable dressed in the kilt, is well-known by lovers of Scotch whisky in five continents.
CM I think you are a Highlandman, Evan?
EC Yes, I was born in Kingussie in 1935, just down the road from Dalwhinnie Distillery. For generations my people have come from there. We are called ‘the race of the wild-cat', Clan Chattan, which includes the Macphersons and the Mackintoshes, and are supposedly descended from a Gaulish tribe – the Catti – driven out of Gaul by the Romans.
CM Do you number many distillers among your ancestors?
EC Many distillers, both legal and illegal. But also farmers, engineers and soldiers – and shinty players: Kingussie is the heartland of shinty. I joined the whisky industry in 1961 and have worked in 15 distilleries; as Manager at Linlithgow, Lagavulin, Dalwhinnie, Caol Ila, Coleburn and Cragganmore, then Cardhu between 1986 and 1993.
CM You will have seen some changes …
EC I have. I first worked at Balmenach Distillery at Cromdale, Speyside. Like most distilleries in those days, it was direct fired by coal. The fire had to be stoked manually, and when the stills came in, physically pulled out, so the still would not boil over. There were no sight-glasses in the spirit stills at Balmenach; we had to judge how high up the neck of the still the low wines were rising by bang...