By Rob Allanson

The Big Chair

The siren call of whisky writing proved too much
So here I am, back again in the big chair. I find a magazine in rude health, a testament to Rupert's steady hand on the tiller here and the impressive line up of writers, designers and staff that keep this mighty ship of a publiation going. Now I am looking forward to taking this title from this issue into the future.

To say the last three years have been a blast would be an understatement. The role with Grant's has taken me around the world, meeting some interesting and fascinating people, and of course sharing some incredible whiskies. It truly was a privilege to meet and share a glass with so many great people around the world who are passionate and dedicated to raising the whisky category in consumers' minds; not an easy task as you can imagine.

It was also an honour to work alongside some very talented and knowledgeable people in the whisky industry, such as master blender Brian Kinsman, the distillery teams at Girvan and Dufftown, and of course my fellow global ambassadors. These are the true whisky experts, the icons, the people you should meet at shows, the guardians of the liquid but also the stories behind the brands.

Learning and getting new insights into the whisky industry and the business of making and marketing whiskies has certainly increased my desire for more knowledge about this global phenomenon.

There are still things about whisky that make me giddy and speechless. For instance one afternoon I was with Brian and a certain Mr Broom. We were blending at Girvan, and Brian had assembled a raft of samples, several of which were heavy with sulphur and one was a huge peat monster. It was clearly possible to avoid using these samples in the blend, but in a moment straight out of The Matrix, Brian showed us something amazing. He put the whiskies together and created a blend heavy on the sulphur. Then added the peat; the end liquid surely would be strange - a mix of cabbage and peat essentially.

But this was to be one of those moments where you wanted to plug yourself into the master blender's head to see the thinking, skill and craft behind creating a blend.

After adding the peat, the sulphur was dialled back, adding another whisky the whole thing sweetened up and the peat disappeared.

A giddy moment: where had the peat gone and how? There are some moments you realise you might be in the presence of genius.

The one group of people I would like to single out and mention in despatches are my fellow Grant's ambassadors. It's funny when you live and work in each other's pockets for short intense bursts of time, working hard and playing hard, you form a very strong bond. Couple this with an annual week of blending, distilling, learning, walking, and one year a spell of sea swimming, the phrase 'friends not colleagues' does not cut it. So for the record: Mat, Ansis, Rohan, Nikita, Kaloyan, Tshepo and Sandile it was an honour and a real pleasure gentlemen.

After all that some of you might ask why did I leave such an awesome job?

Well, you see the love of this big chair and the call of journalism was too much. I always wanted to be a journalist, basically to emulate my childhood hero, the globe trotting boy reporter Tintin.

The pull of writing is strong and I could not pass up the opportunity to write and commentate on whisky in all is guises from around the world. Writing about this industry ticks two massive love and happiness boxes for me after all.

The whisky world is such an exciting and fast changing one at the moment, and is showing no signs of slowing down at all.

Companies are increasingly looking to new emerging markets, such as Africa, China and India to expand horizons, so we can expect some interesting whiskies in the future.

It is my hope, that with the tremendous writers we have stationed around the world, we will continue to bring you the most interesting and engaging stories from across the whisky world.

With that in mind, and a grateful nod in Rupert's direction, here we go...