“Whisky, especially in the UK, has an image of old men – it’s sad but true. A more even gender balance would benefit the industry as a whole.” – Michelle Myron
Michelle Myron is a German speaking tour guide at the Glenfiddich distillery in Dufftown. She also runs her own business – Speyside Tours – a part of which takes visitors to the region on walks to see the distillery sites past and present, and teach them about whisky history.
In this Whisky Women interview, Michelle speaks about her earliest memories of whisky, the eeriness of visiting closed distillery sites and why the spirit inspires her.
What are your earliest memories of whisky?
My first involvement in the world of whisky was as a child, when I used to go to my uncle’s work. He was a warehouse man at a Dufftown distillery. We would go to his work at the weekend and even then I loved the smell that hits you when you open the warehouse door. The warehouses were a great to play hide & seek in; obviously in those days health & safety wasn’t such an issue!
What inspires you about this spirit?
The history of whisky, how it has evolved, the regional variations, the provenance and the integrity of the product: these are all factors which inspire me and maintain my obsession with whisky!
I also really enjoy it – it is a great pleasure for me to nose and taste whisky and the fact there are so many means that I am always finding new favourites, which change depending on the time of day or occasion.
What was one of the first whiskies you tried and loved?
I was influenced greatly by my dad’s tastes. Speyside malts were predominant in the house so I believe Macallan was my first dram. Because of the extensive use of sherry casks it was quite sweet and a good one to start with. I still drink Macallan today and feel that it is a good example of an elegant Speyside whisky.
What is your favourite aspect of what you do at the distillery?
Converting the non-whisky drinkers! And introducing visitors to expressions other than the 12-year old is interesting too – it shows the difference time makes but also lets them experience the 15-year old which is the Solera expression.
In the in-depth specialised tours visitors get to see the famous Warehouse 8 and the home of the Glenfiddich Solera Vat – this is a special place for me and feels very magical since Glenfiddich was the first to pioneer the Solera system in whisky production.
You also run whisky tours in Speyside. What made you want to do this?
I started Speyside Tours because of an obvious demand. When speaking to visitors at Glenfiddich I realised they would fly into Edinburgh, drive up to Speyside, do Glenfiddich, Loch Ness, Skye and then go back to Edinburgh. I would say nearly 70% of tourists follow this route, but there is much more to see and do, many attractions off the tourist trail.
Due to my love of whisky I started to offer the Dufftown Distillery walk, which takes you on a “Dramble” around the nine distillery sites of Dufftown, past and present. We conduct nosing and tastings but also give insights into the history of whisky in Dufftown. People learn about what life was like for the distillery workers, from the 40s through to the present day and the stories of how workers would get one up on the management, which people love to hear.
What do you enjoy most about doing the whisky walks?
I love meeting people from around the world who have an interest in whisky; I never fail to be impressed by the international interest in our whisky. Personally, I also like when we visit the mothballed Parkmore distillery – it is still so intact and has an eeriness to it, you half expect it to start up production or a warehouse man to come out and tell us to get out of the way. I like also the visit to The Balvenie, to see the maltings there and the smell of peat on a Scottish summer evening, to know this has been done like this for the last 120 years.
Do you think more women should or could work in the whisky industry?
I definitely think more women should enter the whisky industry and at all levels. Whisky, especially in the UK, has an image of old men – it’s sad but true. A more even gender balance would benefit the industry as a whole.
What is your favourite memory involving whisky drinking?
My most cherished memory of drinking whisky is the times doing so at home with family and friends at Hogmany. There are always lots of people in a confined space and a neighbour will come in with bagpipes – very stereotypically Scottish but true. The noise is deafening in a confined space – more whisky is then required. There’s lots of arguing over the best whisky but at the same time, we’re all there, enjoying our national drink!