“I was part of the team back at the beginning of 2009 when things were just kicking off. It is not very often that you will get the opportunity to be part of bringing a distillery back to life…I feel privileged.” – Mhairi McDonald
Mhairi McDonald is the Production Manager at the Glenglassaugh Distillery, which had its first bottling in December since being revamped in 2008 (read more: here). She has worked her way up from car park attendant at Glenfiddich to having a major say in day to day workings at Glenglassaugh.
What made you first want to work in the world of whisky?
My first job in the whisky industry was as a car park attendant at Glenfiddich Distillery during the summer between
my 5th and 6th years at school. But, it was when I was working at The Scotch Whisky Experience (then known as the Scotch Whisky Heritage Centre) in Edinburgh that I really became hooked…I just had to know more about the science behind this amazing product. That was when I discovered there was a degree in Brewing and Distilling at Heriot Watt and it all started from there.
What dram really made you become a whisky drinker?
I have tasted so many amazing drams that it is difficult to name just one. I first started drinking whisky when I started at the SWE. It was here that I really began to realize what a magical product this is. I was introduced to so many different whiskies, and the flavours and aromas seemed endless. Two that really stick out though, are Balvenie PortWood 21-year old and Aberlour A’Bunadh. When I tasted these, I was definitely converted!
How does it feel to be a part of the Glenglassaugh team at the start of its rebirth?
Exciting!! I was part of the team back at the beginning of 2009 when things were just kicking off. It is not very often that you will get the opportunity to be part of bringing a distillery back to life…I feel privileged.
Since returning to the company in March last year, I have seen so many changes, and we have now released our first 3-year old malt. All of a sudden things are really beginning to take shape.
What is your favourite part of what you do?
I love talking to the people who drink our whisky and we are getting more and more people coming to visit us at the distillery,
so taking tours is definitely a highlight. I have had the pleasure of meeting loads of Glenglassaugh fans.
I also enjoy the challenge that comes with working for a small company; I am learning so much at the moment! When you work for a big company, there are ‘experts’ in their field at every turn. Here, we are pretty much on our own, so I have to get to grips with lots of things that are very new to me. We have an excellent team here at Glenglassaugh though, and we all work together and help each other out.
What achievement are you most proud of in your whisky career?
My first solo shift in the distillery here at Glenglassaugh. I was paranoid something would go wrong, but thankfully, all was well!
Do you feel more women should or could be involved in the industry?
Yes, definitely. To both questions. For a long time, the whisky industry has been very male dominated but things are changing…there are more and more woman working in the industry, and some in very high profile roles.
Do you think the industry is looking to find ways of enticing younger/female drinkers to give whisky a try? If so, how?
I definitely think the industry is trying to appeal to the younger generation, though I’m not sure if I’ve noticed any female specific advertising. Whisky has long been thought of as an “Old Man’s” drink, but I do think this is changing. [This was] particularly [noticeable] in my experience while working at the SWE – there was a group of about 15 – 20 of us under the age of 30 really becoming excited by whisky and a mixture of both males and females.
Do you feel the perception of whisky as a “male” drink is changing at all?
I think it is, although I have never really thought of it as a ‘male’ drink myself. In my group of friends there are loads of women who enjoy whisky!