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Issue 69 - Taking over returns

Whisky Magazine Issue 69
January 2008


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Taking over returns

Ian Wisniewski meets the nextgeneration of Scottish blenders who,like their American counterparts already featured in this issue,are taking the industry into the future.

Ultimately, everything depends on the master blender.After all,however rigorous the production process and wood management, it's up to the master blender to maintain a consistent flavour profile for established brands.And as distilleries keep extending their portfolios, a master blender's creativity and ability to innovate is another vital skill.

Consequently, this role requires extensive experience, and entails significant responsibility.

Meanwhile,every master blender also needs to discover and nurture the next generation, who will continue their legacy.

“The first test is someone's general knowledge of Scotch whisky, and level of interest, followed by a nosing test:we're looking for someone who has the ability to not only detect odour sensations, but accurately describe them.This requires daily practise, and thinking with your nose,having a quick sniff of everything you come across to build up a mental reference,and to be expressive with the words you use,”says Stephanie Macleod, Dewar's master blender.

Joining Dewar's in 1998, Stephanie had a Food Science degree from the University of Strathclyde,where she was also a sensory analyst studying the maturation of Scotch whisky.After running the Spirit Quality Laboratories at Dewar's head office in Glasgow, Stephanie was appointed blender designate in 2003, and began a three year training period with master blender Tom Aitken, who retired in 2006.

A science degree is now a standard qualification for potential master b...

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