His journey starts as a 9-year-old skipping school to sweep up pipe ash from the malting floor. Jim learned his craft with his hands; he doesn’t use a hydrometer to measure alcohol content, he shakes a sample and counts the bubbles, and how long they take to pop, he tests the distillation temperature by pouring it on his hands. Jim is a true alchemist; he’s the whisky Gandalf crafting magical, never before seen, world changing whiskies using nothing but his hands.
He was taught to taste and appreciate wine before he hit puberty, not allowed to eat until he could name what was in the decanter on the table.
After spending his entire life dedicated to the wine business, a single taste from an unknown distillery forced him to abandon his life’s work and set him on a path to destiny.
Mark revitalized a distillery, never backing down from the challenges of the titans and multi-national corporations, forcing a reluctant $3 billion global industry to follow his lead.
The first member of his family to attend university, he combined his chemistry degree with his business acumen, buying three long-forgotten distilleries during a historic depression for the whisky industry. He reopened them, created a legion of fans all over the world and eventually sold his BenRiach, Glendronach, and Glenglassaugh distilleries for more than $400m.
Then 71 years old, the newly made millionaire refused to rest. Using his fortune to wade back into business he bought another forgotten distillery. His experiments with wood and the aging of whisky are second-to-none.
Dr. RACHEL BARRIE Hon. DSc.
Part of a new generation of scientists leading the way in the blending of single malt whisky, Dr. Barrie had created a number of gold-medal winning whiskies, before taking over for none other than Billy Walker at the distilleries that he sold in 2016. Always leading with her senses, instincts, and heart, she feels that her job is an art form that benefits from science, not the other way around.
He was the master whisky blender at Glenfiddich and the Balvenie for more than 50 years before focusing exclusively on Balvenie in 2009. He is the original innovator, his Balvenie DoubleWood widely regarded as the first and finest example of combining two different types of oak when aging the same spirit.
Kelsey started at William Grant in 2014 as a Technical Graduate of the Girvan Distillery laboratory. She made headlines upon being named Apprentice Malt Master of The Balvenie in 2018, where she has apprenticed directly under David Stewart.
Adam started at Bruichladdich distillery in 2004, first working in the shop and the warehouses. He soon became an apprentice under the tutelage of Jim McEwan and he worked his way through the ranks (including warehouse, mashing, distilling, and bottling) before taking over as Head Distiller when McEwan left in 2016.
Allan was one of the very first hires at the newly reopened Bruichladdich in 2001. As Jim McEwan’s other apprentice, he began to focus more and more on the running of the business, becoming one of the youngest Distillery Managers in Scotland when he took over the day-to-day at 28 years old. A native Ileach, Allan is the third generation of his family to work in the island’s whisky industry.
Liam Hughes and his Glasgow Distillery won The Scottish Whisky Awards Single Malt Distillery of the Year in 2020, an auspicious achievement for a firm that has only been selling whisky since 2018.
A transplanted Irishman, Hughes and his small outfit had already created a large following for their Makar Gin while their whisky aged.
Stephen is Director of Prestige and a fourth-generation family member of independent bottler Gordon and MacPhail. In 2019 he was bestowed as a Master of the Quaich, the whisky industry’s highest honor, and in 2020 named to the Walpole Power List as one of the 50 Most Influential People in British Luxury.
STUART & RICHARD URQUHART
Brothers Stuart and Richard Urquhart (along with cousin Stephen Rankin) are fourth-generation members of the Urquhart family, which has owned Gordon & MacPhail for more than 100 years. Stuart is the operations director, focusing on distillation, maturation, and bottling of the company’s whiskies. He also oversees the company’s vast library, some of the oldest and rarest whiskies in the world. Richard is the company’s head of sales for the Americas.
A whisky veteran of nearly 30 years, Keith has been with Benromach Distillery since it reopened in 1998. A proponent of hands-on, traditional whisky making, he took over running the distillery in 2000 and has held that job for 20 years now. Under his leadership, the resurrected distillery has increased production by more than 200%. in the world.
Eddie Brook is yet another apprentice of Jim McEwan, but his role in whisky and gin production was a bit different. Eddie grew up regenerating rainforest on his family farm in Byron Bay, Australia, where the distillery now lies. He met Jim while working for Bruichladdich in Australia. After years of friendship and tutelage, the two teamed up to open Cape Byron Distillery, which sells a variety of spirits, including a soon-to-be release single malt whisky.
Chris has been the CEO of independent bottler Douglas Laing since 2018. He first joined Douglas Laing in 2013, the same year he was inducted into the Keepers of the Quaich after stints at Morrison Bowmore, Cellar Trends, and Tennents.
One of the most well-known and prolific whisky writers in the world, Charles is both a historian and a nose. His friendly wit and wisdom make him one of whisky’s most sought after speakers and masterclass teachers. He has written more than a dozen books. He has been a Keeper of the Quaich since 1992 for ‘his services to Scotch over many years’ and he was elevated to the rare honor of Master of the Quaich, whisky’s highest accolade, in 2009.
A UK-based spirits journalist, whisky specialist and consultant, Becky has been writing about drinks for over 13 years. She was editor of Scotchwhisky.com and global trade title The Spirits Business, and among her many accolades, she recently became the first journalist to gain a General Certificate in Distillation (GCD) with the Institute of Brewing and Distilling. Becky is an advocate for breaking down cultural misconceptions about whisky, and in 2018 co-founded the Our Whisky movement to promote whisky as a diverse and widely accessible drink. Becky was named Whisky Communicator of the Year 2020 at The Scottish Whisky Awards.
NEIL RIDLEY & JOEL HARRISON
Joel Harrison & Neil Ridley (aka The World’s Best Spirits) are known for their wide reaching work across print, radio and television, documenting not just whisky, but trends in spirits, bars, and cocktails from around the world. Both are Keepers of the Quaich, and members of the Compagnie des Mousquetaires d’Armagnac.
Blair is passionate about whisky and in addition to founding World Whisky Day, he is also the author of the bestselling Pocket Guide to Whisky. Having served whisky to over 5,000 people at more than 150 events, it’s clear that Blair is in high demand. And whether as a consultant to the whisky industry, a writer or judge for whisky competitions, it’s becoming rarer these days that he’s not involved with prestigious whisky related events around the world.
If you’re really into whisky, you know Ralfy. His formula of consistent, analytical, well-spoken whisky review videos has made him a bit of a cult icon. With more than 36 million YouTube views, Ralfy’s reviews guide many aficionados when choosing whiskies from all over the globe. And for those fortunate to share a dram with him while he holds court at the Bon Accord in Glasgow, they will find he is quite generous with history, facts and figures from his encyclopedic mind.
Iain sees whisky as a time machine, transporting you back to memories from the past. His past found him mistaking his father’s dram of single malt whisky for apple juice at 6 years of age, and while he didn’t quite appreciate it then, after years of bartending and some additional tutelage with wines, he made his way back to single malts. With North Star Spirits, his independent whisky bottling company, Iain has succeeded in selling time travel, at around 24 -36 bottle releases per year. North Star was named Independent Bottler of the Year 2020 at The Scottish Whisky Awards
Also known as “Whisky A Go Girl”, Jenna is a self made whisky writer and blogger. After her husband introduced her to single malt whisky at their home in Los Angeles, she dove nose-first into the world of spirits. Now having enjoyed incredible drams all over the world, she continues to make a name for herself, working as a brand ambassador and educating people about whisky.
Having been brought up on Daill Farm on Islay, Rachel is a proud Scot and remains close to Mother Earth. She is the Owner and Manager of Islay Whisky Academy. Offering tours, educational courses with diplomas and hosting events, Rachel is a one stop shop for all things whisky on Islay.
Lachlan is the now former head distiller at the Glasgow Distillery, where the gins, rums and whiskies that he oversaw, continue to win awards. He returned to his native Australia in 2019 to open his own biodynamic rhum distillery.
Noted whisky writer Josh Peters is the author of The Whiskey Jug website and an upcoming book on American Whiskey. He is also the co-organizer of the Southern California Whiskey Club, the largest whiskey club in California.