“I don’t believe that anyone knows everything about whisky and that’s the beauty of it. It keeps you on your toes.” – Lyndsey Gray
In this Whisky Women interview, Lyndsey – a former tour guide and supervisor for seven years at distilleries such as Strathisla and Glenfiddich – talks about how she fell in love with whisky, how much she loves changing people’s opinions about whisky and what three whiskies she’d take with her to a desert island.
How did you first get into whisky?
I worked at Glenfiddich as a guide during my time at university but I’ll be honest – it took me about three years to appreciate drinking whisky. Trying the Balvenie Portwood was probably the moment that made me really stand up and enjoy whisky.
What inspires you most about the drink?
It has to be the fact that I am constantly learning – I don’t believe that anyone knows everything about whisky and that’s the beauty of it. There’s always something new developing within the industry. It keeps you on your toes!
You previously worked at Glenfiddich and then Strathisla – what did you enjoy most about your time at distilleries?
The social life! Okay, all kidding aside I’ve met the majority of my closest friends at both distilleries and have some of the best memories from my days there. I’ve worked with a lot of fantastic and incredibly inspiring people.
It was also always easy to learn at the distilleries – I was asked a lot of unusual questions during the eight years I was a guide and some of them I will never forget.
You’ve come on board at the Quaich Bar right at its inception – how does it feel to be involved with the project in its early stages?
It’s slightly daunting but incredibly exciting – all at the same time. The Quaich bar is so well known all over the world and there are a lot of expectations for the new bar from whisky lovers and also within the industry itself. It’s amazing to see the changes that are happening every day and to be part of the decisions going on there. I just can’t wait for all of you to see it!
What are you most excited about when it comes to the new project?
Oh, so many things. It’s been an absolute joy to work on my own tastings and projects for the bar – I have a lot of ideas up my sleeve. I’m currently working on a whisky and chocolate tasting and it’s amazing to get the opportunity to work alongside a local chocolatier and to support what the north east of Scotland has to offer.
Two projects I’m really looking forward to getting off the ground are a women’s whisky club and also a project to celebrate the locals in the area who work in the distilleries – from managers to technicians. I have learned a lot over the years from the people that some would say are behind the scenes – I could listen to their stories for hours.
What are you most proud of when it comes to your work?
I love that moment where you’ve been part of someone going from a blunt “I don’t drink whisky” to that surprised expression of “actually…” – there’s nothing better than knowing that you’ve changed someone’s thoughts about whisky and getting them interested.
Do you think more women could or should be involved in the world of whisky?
There are women already working in the world of whisky, some of which, are in very important roles. I think what is important is that people start to realise that it isn’t a shocking fact anymore that women work in the whisky industry or that they drink whisky. The majority of people that I have met over the years assume that I don’t drink whisky and are always incredibly surprised to find out that I do. I will always remember when I was once asked about what whiskies I drink and I was told in response that “Talisker isn’t a female whisky.”
Why would you recommend someone to embark on a career in the whisky world?
Because it’s been the best years of my life so far… and I’ve had the privilege to work alongside some of the most amazing people. It’s an industry that is steeped in history with a bright future ahead of it – what more could you ask for?
Desert island drams: What three would you take with you and why?
I was dreading this question. It’s difficult to say because I’m always changing my mind….though I would have to say an old bottle of either Convalmore or Glenglassaugh (simply for sentimental reasons that my granddad worked at both distilleries). Balvenie Portwood for the fact that it was the first whisky I tried and loved and it obviously has a lot of memories around it. Lagavulin 16 because it completely changed my taste in whisky – as a Speyside quine I never thought I’d touch smoky whiskies and survive!
What is one of your favourite memories involving whisky?
I don’t think I could possibly say as there are so many.. but most of them involve something called a whisky challenge which I don’t think I should elaborate on!
But a main favourite is probably when Colin Scott, master blender at Chivas Brothers, signed a bottle of whisky (which was a gift for my boyfriend at the time): “to sexy, from sexy” – which was his own idea I may add! I actually still have the bottle!