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“It's one of the best jobs in the world, so I count myself as being very fortunate”

Ian Wisniewski talks with Doug McIvor,spirits manager of Berry Bros & Rudd,in London
By Ian Wisniewski
IANWhat was your route into Berry Bros & Rudd?DOUG I started in the wine trade when I was about 22. In 1990 I joined Milroy’s of Soho and had a good 10 years specifically in spirits, and even more specifically whisky, so that became my passion.I joined Berry Bros & Rudd in 2001, and when I took over the spirits buying role I started to concentrate more on Berrys’ Own Selection whiskies.IAN Do you have a favourite part of your job?DOUG The favourite part is really the job as a whole. Obviously it’s exciting when you go through the samples and find some absolute stunners there, that’s very rewarding.IANWhat do you look for in a whisky?DOUG I look for an interesting, fresh, vibrant nose, good flavour profile, and a nice finish.The thing I’m always looking for, and the whisky that gives something extra, is a really chewy mouthfeel, if you get these creamier whiskies that you can walk around the block chewing them, to me that’s the sign of a good whisky.IAN How would you describe the Berry Bros & Rudd range of malts?DOUG It’s a broad spectrum. In the Berrys’ Own Selection range we try to keep something from every part of Scotland, so we have this regionality, with about 40 different lines at any given time. Berrys’ Best is designed to be more approachable, and speak more about the region the whisky came from.Blue Hanger is our blended malt, bottled in small batches, the thinking behind that is to find the best casks we have in our inventory.We’ve just bottled the fourth release, every time it’s a little bit different.IAN How easy or challenging is it to acquire stock?DOUGWe’re actively looking in the market and building the portfolio. It’s obviously very tight in the market at the moment, and costs generally throughout the industry are going up.IANWhat’s the process of choosing whiskies like?DOUG As you can see it’s a case of samples coming from Scotland across the desk, and working with the figures seeing how much we’re going to get.IANWhat are your views on providing tasting notes for them?DOUGWe have tasting notes on the back label which are quite short, but I really try to get into the whisky and bring out the points that I think most people would recognise. When I’m nosing and tasting it’s a process that takes about half an hour or so for one whisky, sometimes longer, and you make a few notes as you go through, and draw out what you want to convey. Sitting down to actually write those few words is one of the enjoyable disciplines.IANWhat role do you think independent bottlers play in the current market?DOUG Very often we can bottle something at an age the distillers themselves don’t bottle at, we come across something that’s been put into a cask that just has its own sort of magic, and there are so many people with a passion for more from a particular distillery, and they just want to try as many different styles.IANWhat opportunities do you see for blended malts at the moment?DOUG I think there’s tremendous scope, it’s learning how certain whiskies work together, there’s tremendous scope for creating quality products.IANWhat potential do grain whiskies have?DOUG There aren’t many grain distilleries compared to malt distilleries, but it obviously plays a huge part in the world of whisky for blends.People want to understand what’s in the blends, and then they can see the full picture, so it’s educational, and grain whisky, quality wise, can be just as good as malt whisky.IANWhat do you see happening during the next couple of years?DOUG I think the whisky market in general will be pretty dynamic, in particular single malts will continue to gain popularity. We’ve got a good amount of stock that we can bottle going forward and it’s just a case of maintaining that supply. It is exciting and there is quite a lot of travelling to do to help our chosen distributors, and get close to the consumer. It’s probably one of the best jobs in the world, so I count myself as being very fortunate, and this is a fantastic company to work for.