“The direct contact with consumers is incredibly satisfying. Watching their perception of the product change and listening to them wax lyrical about a particular whisky is the part of my role of which I will never tire.” – Susan Morrison
Susan Morrison is the Director & General Manager of The Scotch Whisky Experience in Edinburgh, which helps dispel myths around the drink and open it up to a wider audience. She has been drinking whisky and involved in the industry since the late ’80s and is one of only five women to be made Master of the Quaich.
When did you first start drinking whisky?
In 1988 when I first started work as a seasonal tour guide whilst studying languages at university.
Was there a particular whisky that really struck you?
I have a huge raft of favourite whiskies – and the list is continually changing, but I suppose I will always have a soft spot for the two which really started my love of whisky – Macallan and Cardhu.
Have you seen any changes to the number of women coming through the SWE in recent years?
Not in terms of percentage. Surprisingly we have consistently seen a straight 50/50 mix over the years; however, I would definitely say that the female percentage has become far more interested – and that there are a greater number of women taking part in both our tutored tastings and Scotch Whisky Training School than ever before.
Do you feel more women should or could be involved in the industry?
Absolutely, and there are more and more women becoming involved. When I first started in the industry most of the women you met worked in marketing; however, now there are many more women involved in all sectors of the industry including production.
Do you feel the perception of whisky as a “male” drink is changing at all?
Yes – I think it is changing slowly. Although I sometimes find this a difficult question to answer as I have indoctrinated all my female friends over the years, so in my social circles whisky is not at all thought of as a ‘male’ drink.
Do you do anything at the SWE to try and attract female drinkers?
We have never set out to attract female drinkers specifically, as our whole reason for being is to make Scotch Whisky more accessible to all, and dispel the myths and stereotypes which surround the product especially in the UK market.
What is your favourite part of what you do?
The most rewarding is conducting tastings, running our Scotch Whisky Training School or training our own new recruits. The direct contact with consumers is incredibly satisfying. Watching their perception of the product change and listening to them wax lyrical about a particular whisky is the part of my role of which I will never tire.
However, the favourite part of what I do is continuing to learn myself, and meeting other individuals who work in the industry and sharing their knowledge and thoughts on Scotch Whisky.
What is your best memory of whisky drinking?
There are so many, but perhaps the two most prominent are – the first time I really enjoyed and appreciated a dram, and really got it! And secondly when I was made a Master of the Quaich at Blair Castle last year by the Keepers of the Quaich – it was a real honour, and I feel very privileged to be one of only five women who have been promoted to the rank of Master.