Profile: Speyside born and aged

24 January, 2019

While all this was going on, the affable Winchester kept on distilling and ageing.

Asked what product, development or initiative he is most proud of, he says: “I have been involved in whisky for more than 40 years, and I’m proud of all the distilleries and the whiskies I’ve worked with. Being made master distiller in 2009 was a great honour though. The Glenlivet was most notably one of the first to start the style of the modern whisky industry. Most recently, I was immensely proud to have been involved in The Glenlivet Captain’s Reserve. The idea of Captain’s Reserve was formulated by listening to customers and them wanting something different. So it introduces the richness of one style – of the cognac – to the fruity-floral style of The Glenlivet. It’s been a fascinating example of how The Glenlivet can be adapted by the use of a cask. It’s obviously great to see work like that coming through.”

You have to ask the obvious question: What is your favourite drink? And you get the obvious answer: “A dram of The Glenlivet 18 Year Old with a spot of water.” But Winchester goes on to list:

“Aberlour A’bunadh. Not only is Aberlour the town where I grew up, it is also the first distillery I worked at when I joined Pernod Ricard 25 years ago. Handmade from start to finish, Aberlour A’bunadh is one of those whiskies that leaves a real lasting impression.

“Redbreast 12 Year Old. I’m quite the fan of single pot still Irish whiskeys like this one, with a great body and a nice, long finish.

“Glenfarclas 1958 is another favourite. A lovely expression with heavy aromas of cotton candy and caramel, encased in a gorgeous bottle. The Glenfarclas distillery also holds a special place in my heart, as it’s where I started my career as a tour guide back in 1975. It’s also right next door to the farm which was owned by my great-grandfather and is still in the family today.”

What does he do to relax: “I’m very keen on hill walking. I’ve climbed all of the Munros (the most significant mountains in Scotland at more than 3,000ft/914.4m), according to original compiler Sir Hugh Munro) and the outlier tops. I love going out into the wide, open spaces. I love exploring the area around me because you can lose yourself in the mountains behind the distillery.”

If he is stepping down, what is he going to do? “Lots to see and do. I would like to visit and see cognac being distilled.”

So what would be the Winchester epitaph? “Someone who listened to a teacher’s (not the brand) advice: ‘When you get a job, get one you enjoy doing.’”

There’s no rifling with Winchester.

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