Island life: Alan Winchester

We send some of the whisky world’s great and good to a desert island. What will they decide to take with them?
By Rob Allanson
Having spent more than 40 years honing his craft, Alan Winchester, master distiller of The Glenlivet, is steeped in whisky tradition.

His journey began as a tour guide at the Glenfarcas distillery back in 1975, a job that would spark a lifetime of passion and commitment to the whisky industry. From the beginning, Alan was interested in every aspect of the trade, having worked as mashman, brewer, and stillman, before being appointed as master distiller of The Glenlivet in 2009. As the ultimate guarantor of The Glenlivet, he is responsible for carrying on the legacy set by The Glenlivet’s founder, George Smith, who pioneered the celebrated Speyside style and established The Glenlivet’s position as the definitive Speyside single malt.

Alan has certainly lived up to that reputation. He is the man behind The Glenlivet Founder’s Reserve, the number one single malt innovation globally in the past five years (IWSR, 2016), and more recently crafted The Glenlivet Captain’s
Reserve, a new single malt whisky selectively finished in high-quality cognac casks.

Alan does not leave his passion for his vocation at the distillery and maintains a personal interest in the history of the industry, inspiring the creation of The Glenlivet Smugglers Trails in 2007; it allows members of the public to retrace the footsteps of the whisky smugglers of old, as they transported their renowned illicit whisky out of the Glenlivet valley.
Alan is a true icon in the whisky industry, taking home the ISC 2018 Lifetime Achievement Award earlier this year, and continues to innovate and challenge the category.

Whisky #1

The Glenlivet

18 Years Old

Nothing quite captures the quality and smooth, signature style of The Glenlivet better than The Glenlivet 18 Years Old – my personal favourite in our collection of single malt whiskies.
The honey-rich maturity and depth is amazing on the palate, with a wonderfully long finish and a hint of spice. It’s my go-to dram in the evening after work, and I get a real sense of pride whenever I drink it, not only for myself but for everyone who’s involved in creating it at our distillery.

Whisky #2



Not only is Aberlour the town where I grew up, it is also the first distillery I worked at when I joined Pernod Ricard 25 years ago. Hand-made from start to finish, Aberlour A’bunadh is one of those whiskies that leaves a real lasting impression. Natural, straight from the cask and with the influence of sherry, each batch is created to ensure a rich and complex flavour of moist raisin, and homemade fruit cake. If I’m going to be stranded on an island, I want this whisky with me.

Whisky #3


12 Years Old

I’m quite the fan of single pot still Irish whiskies like this one, with a great body and a nice, long finish. The style and heritage of Irish whiskey is also really fascinating and definitely adds to the character.

Whisky #4



A lovely expression with heavy aromas of cotton candy and caramel, encased in a gorgeous bottle. The Glenfarclas distillery also holds a special place in my heart, as it’s where I started my career as a tour guide back in 1975. It’s also right next door to the farm which was owned by my great-grandfather and is still in the family today.

Whisky #5

Highland Park

18 Years Old

Ah, another excellent whisky with a slight peat that’s a real pleasure to drink. It’s produced in Orkney, just a wee distance from where Colin Scott, custodian master blender at Chivas Brothers, was born.

A luxury item…

I’d take an illicit still so I could continue practicing my distilling on the island. Much like the settlers who took their stills with them to the four corners of the world, I’d honour that commitment on the island. I’m not sure how long I’d last without food, but I wouldn’t be short on quality whisky, that’s for sure.