When Regis Lemaitre was in his early 20s he decided to go and live in Spain. The Frenchman doesn’t explain how he ended up in Scotland but you can bet your last Euro it was something to do with whisky. And he’s been in Scotland ever since.
Now 40 years old, Regis runs a businesses called Whisky Mad and Whisky Kilt and his life is dedicated to educating people into the joys of Scotch whisky.
But he made his name working in two of the world’s most famous whisky and golf bars, at the Old Course Hotel at St Andrews and at Gleneagles Hotel.
His success has been extraordinary. Having been appointed assistant bar manager at St Andrews he was promoted to manager within two months and has not looked back since.
Unsurprisingly he is very proud of his achievements there.
“In 1997 the Road Hole Bar which I had managed for more than five years at that point won the biggest accolade possible at the time,” he says.
“It was the first hotel whisky bar of the year in Scotland. It was achieved because the bar stocked an expression of every distillery in Scotland, proprietary or independent bottling. And it included open, closed, dismantled and mothballed, we had at least one expression on the shelf.”
Regis moved on to Gleneagles, where during three years he developed the whisky range. But he really came in to his own four years ago when he founded Whisky Mad, working as an independent consultant and whisky educator. His work takes him across England, Belgium, Luxembourg, France and Canada.
“I spread the word about whisky to the world, to the individuals I cross paths with,” he says.
“I edutain, educate and entertain. I do staff training to corporate entertainment, private whisky tastings pre and post dinner, whisky dinners, whisky tours in Scotland, Ireland and Japan, and I do some consultancy.
“My aim is to make people fall in love with Scotland and its whiskies. I rejoice at the smiles and the laughter. I look forward to all questions related to the water of life generated during my work. And I love my work. I love the reactions, the astonishment on the faces of the audience when sipping for the first time, when tasting for the first time. I stand and watch as jaws drop.
“If you asked me to say what the best moments of my job are, I’d say it’s every time I get on stage, and start speaking about whisky.
I love the product, I love speaking about it. It has to be sad that the Address to a Haggis is high on my list of challenges and moments. I do more and more of them but am still searching for my comfort zone!
Regis positively bursts with enthusiasm. And his optimism definitely extends to the future.
“So much has changed in the last few years,” he says.
“The world is discovering Scotch whisky, is falling in love with it. New distilleries are opening and some old ones are reopening. A younger generation is turning to malts and older whiskies are making it to the market. There’s a lot happening, and most of it is good.”
Name: Regis Lemaitre
Home: Alloa, Scotland
Currently drinking: Smokehead, Linkwood 1992 RWM bottling, and a cheeky Redbreast 12 Years Old
Favourite whiskies: All RWM bottling, Caol lla, Ardbeg, Mortlach, Strathisla, Glengoyne, Smokehead, Highland Park Favourite distilleries: Glengoyne, Balvenie, Ardbeg and Caol Ila