Castaway

Desert Island Drams: Julieann Fernandez

In each edition we ask one of the industry’s great and good which drams they would take with them to our desert island. Shipwrecked this time is Julieann Fernandez, master blender for Distell Group's blends, including Black Bottle, and its Bunnahabhain, Deanston and Tobermory distilleries
By Martha Crass
Julieann Fernandez took an what may be described as an unconventional route into the whisky industry, coming from a background in forensics. It started with a passion for whisky that was sparked while she was studying at university.

She spent her university placement year with Chivas Brothers, which was really where her interest started: undertaking a combination of analytic chemistry and organoleptic work, it became clear she had a good nose for whisky as well as the practical, scientific understanding needed to support it.

After graduating, Julieann was drawn back to whisky and joined the Scotch Whisky Research Institute, working in its labs before returning to Chivas Brothers. After gaining experience in everything from working with raw materials to the art of maturation, she moved to Distell Group in 2007, first working as a blender and then being promoted to master blender.

The view over to the Paps of Jura from Bunnahabhain Distillery. Credit: Christopher Coates


Whisky #1
Bunnahabhain
Stiùireadair

With it being an island distillery, I think it’s quite fitting to have a dram of Bunnahabhain on a desert island! And out of the range, I picked Stiùireadair because it offers so much – it’s rich and sweet but still light and refreshing, and I think that’s part and parcel of it being a non-age statement. It’s got older whiskies in there, bringing the depth and maturity, and younger whiskies balancing that out, and it’s got the range of cask types, between Bourbon and sherry, making it really rounded and balanced.

Bunnahabhain Stiùireadair


Whisky #2
Deanston
18 Years Old

Deanston 18 Years Old is so true to the style and character of Deanston, and whenever I host tastings and events and we taste the 18, it’s always so popular and well received with such great feedback, and I think that makes me enjoy it even more. I think having a Deanston 18 would also really make me reminisce about the Deanston Distillery, because it’s so close to my heart – I just think it’s a fabulous distillery.

Deanston 18 Years Old


Whisky #3
Tobermory
12 Years Old

Tobermory 12 Years Old was one of the first single malts I worked on when I moved to Distell. The distillery was closed for a couple of years quite recently for upgrades, and I think that while it was closed, that’s when we really worked on the 12 Years Old. Being part of that gives me so many fond memories, and again so many fond memories of the distillery in its beautiful setting. Knowing that Tobermory made it through its chequered past, I think it would probably help me believe I could survive my stay on the desert island!

Whisky #4
Ledaig
Sinclair Series, Rioja Cask Finish

The Sinclair Series is such a vibrant colour, and it’s smoky and warming – a really lovely dram, and again one that I’ve been involved in from the start. Non-age statements can sometimes get a bit of a bad name, and for me the Ledaig Sinclair Series is so special. It has spent time in Rioja casks, and we monitored it closely to make sure that the finishing time was right.

Ledaig Singclair Series Rioja Cask


Whisky #5
Black Bottle
Original

Blends are so special to me in my line of work. We put so much work into our single malts, but sometimes the blends are forgotten about a little bit. They are so complex; you’re talking upwards of 15 different components going into these, so getting that right every time is a lot of work. For me, Black Bottle is an absolutely phenomenal liquid: it’s beautifully refreshing, and it’s got a lovely smokiness coming through right at the back. It’s a lovely dram, and one that I’m very proud to work on.

Black Bottle Blended Scotch Whisky


A brief final luxury
For me, it would need to be a pillow with a photo of my little boy on it. I don’t deal well with lack of sleep, and especially if I’ve had a few drams the best thing is to try and sleep it off…and, of course, a photo of him would definitely keep me going.