Located in Girvan, Scotland Grant’s Whisky
has hired a new recruit, Rocco the one-year-old cocker spaniel. With the full run of the distillery, his job is to sniff out the quality of the casks at the cooperage.
When he is finished with checking on the quality of the wood in the cooperage, Rocco noses the rest of the distillery to ensure that everything is going exactly to plan. If he picks up the scent of anything that requires special attention, it is reported to Grant’s associate global brand director Chris Wooff.
Rocco was trained in Pembrokeshire, West Wales alongside another cocker spaniel named Bran for this secret detection dog project, a first for the UK and Europe. The duo was trained by multi-award-winning dog trainer Stuart Phillips, which took more than six months and included a large amount of testing, training, and evaluation. By training two dogs, Stuart was able to measure their performance and ensure there was a reserve.
Stuart used a number of cask samples from the Grant’s distillery
to build a training ground for Rocco. He said: “A dog like Rocco has such a powerful natural sense of smell that my job was to help him focus on identifying specific scents in the wood, and then communicating what he’s found to the Grant’s team.”
Following their training there was only one vacancy for ‘Whisky Dog’ at the distillery and that went to Rocco.
Trainer Stuart Phillips with Rocco and Bran
Wooff said: “Wood is a natural material, and the distilling of whisky is an organic process, so our job for Grant’s Whisky is to make sure that everything is perfect as the whisky ages in the oak casks. The sense of smell of a dog like Rocco is 40 times stronger than a human’s, and we’ve specially selected and trained Rocco to pick up the scent of anything that’s not quite right as the whisky matures.
“Mechanical ‘noses’ are widely used in the wine-making industry, but we wanted to maintain the tradition of our craft skills by using a dog’s natural super-sense of smell in our quality control process. Rocco’s ability to ‘nose’ a very large number of casks in a short space of time means he is a fantastic addition to our team of craftsmen.”
To make sure that Rocco feels right at home and is on call night and day, Grant’s craftsmen have built him a kennel right outside the distillery in South Ayrshire, Scotland, and he is cared for by Team Leader Lianne Noble, who prepares his daily work schedule and keeps him fed and exercised.
Lianne said: “Word spread very quickly around the distillery about Rocco’s arrival in the team and it has been amazing to see the impact he has on everyone around him. The atmosphere lifts wherever Rocco is working, and people can’t help but smile in his presence.
“He’s a working dog rather than a workplace pet, so we have guidelines in place to make sure he doesn’t get disturbed when he’s taking a break between shifts, but the boost in morale has been a joy to see.”