Island life: Brendan McCarron

Island life: Brendan McCarron

In each edition we castaway one of the whisky world's great and good to see what whiskies and luxury they take with them
Rob Allanson

17 July 2020

Publication: Issue 168

Brendan McCarron is the head of maturing whisky stocks for the Glenmorangie Company. He has worked there for six years and spends most of his time working in Bill Lumsden’s whisky creation team. Before this he lived on Islay, working with Diageo looking after the Islay group: Lagavulin, Caol Ila and Port Ellen — Port Ellen being the maltings not the famous distillery. So he is used to making really strong smoky barley, and the heaviest stuff he used to sell to Ardbeg. Originally he joined Diageo as part of the graduate recruitment, starting at Roseisle, in blending and disgorging and for some time in America. Then he became the distillery manager at Oban for a couple of years before moving to Islay.

Whisky #1



I think this is probably one of my favourite Glenmorangies ever; it's 10 years old and from ex-Bourbon casks, and it's something I work on the most as it's our main product. It's just an amazing whisky that you can drink in so many different ways. Usually I drink it neat, but you can have it with ice and in cocktails, so there's no way I can't have Glenmorangie Original when picking whisky. It was one of the whiskies that got me into the whisky industry, in pretty much I think the way it happens to a lot of people, through a friend who introduced me to it. This was one of the whiskies that got me into it.

Whisky #2


14 Years Old

I lived on Islay for three years and I work with an iconic Islay whisky now. Whisky is quite an emotional experience, there are lots of memories and feelings bound up in it. My first distillery manger gig in 2009 was at Oban, and it will forever remain one of my favourite whiskies. It was also one of the first whiskies I understood that my dad loved. He was always a Talisker and Lagavulin fan, all smoke, and I was working my way up to it; Oban was one of the first places we met each other taste wise, and agreed that this was a great whisky. It always has to be on my list.

Whisky #3


An Oa

I think I have to unashamedly pick this, I love this distillery and big smoky whiskies. I used to live at Port Ellen and run along the coast, so it's one of the places I am happiest. This is a whisky I was a big part of creating. We're approaching an exciting time in terms of stock at Ardbeg, as we're starting to grow the stock. Now we have a core range going up to 19 years old. The older Ardbegs are phenomenal; as a smoky whisky gets older, the smoke tempers over time and the acids and esters go up, so you end up with this different experience of Ardbeg. The smoke is playing a supporting role to this chewy sweetness.

Whisky #4


Cairdeas 2013

You can tell I love big smoky whiskies, so I would have to go to one of the neighbours and that's Laphroaig. I used to play football for Port Ellen FC and most of the team worked at the distillery. They gave me this particular bottle as a gift when I left Islay. It sits there unopened, and I think being 'castaway' might be the time to open it.

Whisky #5



This is one of my regular whiskies, and it is just unlike any other single malt. It's a very different direction for Glenmorangie; you can still find the house style but it takes a little looking for. With the high roast chocolate malt, it has this big oily luxurious mouthfeel, with coffee and chocolate flavours. I think on a desert island this would be the one to break out later at night as the sun goes down, as I was getting ready to turn in for the night.

A Brief final luxury

The things I love are mainly whisky, but I do love to exercise and to stay fit; I thought my exercise bike, but I like to run, so I would probably do that. I also love my little Sonos speaker for music and podcasts. But I think I would have to go basic: what I would really want is a football. I have played my whole life and I don’t think I could do without it.

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