People

Managing Dalmore (Andrew Scott)

Gavin D Smithmeets the man behind the classic Highland malt
By Gavin D. Smith
Dalmore distillery is the jewel in Whyte & Mackay’s crown. Located 20 miles north of Inverness, on the shores of the Cromarty Firth, Dalmore dates back to 1839 and has belonged to the Glasgow-based company since 1960.It produces what is arguably one of the finest Highland malts on the market and holds a number of notable records. In 2002 a bottle of 62-year-old Dalmore changed hands for £25, 877.50, making it the world’s most expensive bottle of whisky sold at auction.Given all of this, and the fact that until recently Dalmore was run by one of the bestloved and longest-serving figures in the Scotch whisky industry, the pressure is on the latest distillery manager.Yet, sitting in his homely office, overlooking the calm waters of the Cromarty Firth, Andrew Scott looks more like a man who is relishing an opportunity rather than fighting to live up to his responsibilities.Andrew is very much from the modern school of distillery managers, men with degrees and formalised, structured training.His predecessor at Dalmore was another Andrew, though universally known as ‘Drew.’ The late Drew Sinclair steadily graduated through the ranks during his 40 years to the top job. Tragically, he died just a few weeks after officially retiring.According to Scott, “Drew was a very well respected man with a great, loyal team behind him. I’m honoured to take over from him. The guys accepted me and morale is good.“I had to earn their respect by proving I had the knowledge of making whisky.“Drew used to come in to look at the distillery after he retired to see how ‘she’ was doing. We both had the aim of keeping Dalmore as the premium brand it is.” Scott studied brewing and distilling at Heriot Watt University in Edinburgh. On graduating in 1990 he joined Chivas Bros as a graduate trainee, ultimately being employed by Whyte & Mackay as health and safety manager in January 2005.“When Drew retired, I came back to what I really knew.” says Scott. “I started as distillery manager at Dalmore in March 2006. Running a malt distillery, every day is a school day.” Dalmore remains a very ‘hands on’ distillery, Scott points out that “Everything is still controlled by the operators. They have real skills and take real pride in their work.“We have five houses lived in by staff, it’s very much a community. It’s the people who make one distillery different from another.” Inevitably, Scott and Whyte & Mackay’s master blender RichardPaterson work closely together, and Scott says that “There is a symbiotic relationship between Richard and I.Richard paints the masterpieces, I make the paint for him.” During the last few years, a number of vintage Dalmore bottlings have been released, most recently a 40 Years Old and a 1973 Cabernet Sauvignon finish, and Scott adds: “We currently also have a 20 Years Old single cask bottling which is only available at the distillery. We hope to follow up with a 12 or 13 Years Old single cask in the same way.“Additionally, we may also blend some heavily peated Dalmore with another Dalmore and put it into Sherry wood for a year, giving us a heavily peated and heavily Sherried expression.” How else would Andrew like to mark his mark?“I think we could do much more with the visitor side of things. To be passionate about what you do, to come to work every day and really care, makes me a very lucky man.” Amen to that.