Here at the Scotch Whisky Experience, each year we’re privileged to host the whisk(e)y leg of the International Spirits Challenge, a renowned global competition for the drinks industry. Judges from across the whisk(e)y world congregate for a week of intense back-to-back blind whisky tastings, recording their notes which go towards crowning the winners of the coveted gold, silver and bronze medals.
As part of our 30th anniversary celebrations, the Blenders dedicated an evening of their time to our team giving them the chance to meet this esteemed judging panel in a night that’s become known as An Evening with the Blenders. But who are the judges?
Dr Bill Lumsden
The man behind the iconic brands of Glenmorangie and Ardbeg, Dr Bill Lumsden is a familiar face to anyone with a taste for experimental whiskies. Pushing the boundaries when it comes to the chemistry behind Scotch whisky creation, especially its interaction with oak during maturation.
Read all about our staff tasting session with Dr Bill Lumsden here.
As Master Blender for Diageo for over 30 years, Caroline Martin has become something of a pioneer for women in the whisky industry, and is one of the faces behind household names such as the Johnnie Walker Experimental Series, which includes Espresso Roast and a Rum Cask Finish.
The Chief Blender of one of Japan’s biggest whisky brands, Suntory, Shinji Fukuyo has become a master at creating whiskies that are riding the wave of drinks industry trends, using state of the art distillation and maturation techniques to craft whiskies that are giving Scotch a serious run for its money when it comes to flavour profiles and award wins.
As the Master Blender for Nikka in Japan, Tadashi Sakuma’s whisky style has embraced the smoothness and consistency created through use of the continuous still (or Coffey / Patent Still as it’s often known). The result is an easy drinking whisky that’s been winning awards across the globe.
All the way from Nantucket, Massachusetts, Randy Hudson is the founder of Triple Eight, the craft distillery that’s home of the infamous ‘Notch’ (that’s ‘not Scotch’) whiskey. Randy is one of the more recent additions to the judging panel of the ISC, bringing with him a wealth of experience on small-batch whisky creation and flavour experimentation.
Master Blender at the Swedish distillery of Mackmyra, just an hour north of Stockholm, Angela D’Orazio has made a name for herself as something of an innovator when it comes to new maturation styles and flavour profiles, creating whiskies that embrace Swedish culture and geography.
David Stewart MBE
Best known as the Master Blender for Speyside whisky The Balvenie, David Stewart has been working with whisky for over 50 years, and in 2016 was awarded an MBE for services to the Scotch whisky industry. His knowledge and experience in his craft are unsurpassed.
As Master Blender for Orkney-based distillery Highland Park (the most northerly distillery in the UK!), Gordon Motion is no stranger to well-crafted flavours, having worked in roles across Edrington’s whisky brands including The Macallan, Glenturret and The Famous Grouse.
Recently taken on as Master Whisky Maker at Bladnoch distillery, as it ramps up to reopening its visitor centre in the heart of the Lowlands whisky region, Ian MacMillan is the man behind some of the whisky connoisseur’s most beloved brands, including Deanston, Bunnahabhain and Tobermory.
Billy Leighton, of Irish Distillers, is currently the only blender of Irish whiskey on the judging panel. As the Head Blender for Jameson, Billy Leighton has worked in all areas of the business as it’s grown, giving him a wealth of knowledge across aspects of crafting this much-loved icon of Irish whiskey.
Known to many simply as ‘The Nose’, Richard Paterson has been integral to the development of the Scotch Whisky Experience, having been involved in the business since its opening in 1988. For the whisky world, he’s been a master in making Scotch accessible to the masses: as Master Blender for The Dalmore and Whyte & Mackay, and for his famous nosing and tasting routine. Take a look here if you’ve not seen it in action.
Between them, these master blenders and whisky makers have over 430 years of whisky experience behind them!
But which one would you share your dram with?
Watch our birthday video here, and spot a few familiar industry faces listed above!
This blog post is created as part of the Scotch Whisky Experience 30th anniversary celebrations. To win a Morning Masterclass for two (one of the main tours at the Scotch Whisky Experience in Edinburgh), visit our Facebook page and comment on our Master Blenders post, to tell us which of the blenders you’d share a dram with and why.
The competition closes on Sunday 27th May 2018 at 18:00, and we’ll be in touch with the winner the following week. Please note, the Morning Masterclass is run by a member of the Scotch Whisky Experience team, not one of the Master Blenders above. For all competition T&Cs, see the Scotch Whisky Experience website.