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Issue 68 - A spirited career (Tom Aitken)

Whisky Magazine Issue 68
December 2007

 

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A spirited career (Tom Aitken)

Ian Buxton looks back at the career of one of the whisky world's titans - Tom Aitken.

After nearly 40 years experience in the drinks industry, and with a career that has embraced gin, cachaça and coffee liqueurs as well as Scotch whisky, it might be expected that Tom Aitken has some interesting views.

It proved so when I met with him at Whisky Live Glasgow to reflect on his career and look at the industry he loves.

But, first, who is Tom Aitken?

He's one of the industry's great unsung heroes – a blender.

Recently retired after 17 years with Bacardi, Tom has fulfilled the role of master blender at John Dewar & Sons in Glasgow since Bacardi acquired that company in 1998.

In fact, quite remarkably, he can claim to be only the sixth Master Blender for Dewars, but he was a remarkably prolific and successful one, as a string of awards and medals testify.

But that's jumping forward. What was the journey that took Tom to this elevated and distinguished position?

He entered the industry in January 1970 as a shift chemist with Inver House Distillers.

As Tom recalls: “During my time in the laboratory I was involved in the analysis of all raw materials, bi-products, new make spirit and mature whisky. I analysed neutral spirit produced on site used in production of vodka and gin and tested botanicals, formulations and the final product. When Inver House produced Heather Cream Liqueur, I was involved from the start.” So a varied role, then, and great training for his next move to Teachers, where he set up new laboratory facilities and then moved to quality co...

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