From a lowly start as a tour guide at Glenfarclas distillery, Alan Winchester has risen to hold one of the most sought-after positions in the whisky industry – master distiller for The Glenlivet. He started at the distillery in 1979 as a cooperage labourer and worked his way through cleaning to firing the still, brewing and then, in 2009, to be a master distiller.
On the way, Alan has picked up a wealth of experience, which has made him one of the most knowledgeable distillers in Speyside. We look forward to welcoming him to The Whisky Exchange Whisky Show.
A graduate of Heriot-Watt university's prestigious brewing and distilling course, Alex Chasko started his career as a brewer at the Bridge Port Brewery in Portland, Oregon. However, his love of spirits and distillation took him halfway around the world, where he took over as innovations manager at Cooley distillery in Ireland.
When the Teeling family, owners of Cooley at the time, sold the company and started a project to build a new distillery, Alex went with them as one of their first employees. He was a key part of the team who designed and built the new distillery, and is now responsible for the development, distilling and blending of Teeling's new whiskey range.
James Nelstrop, Andrew’s father, had a dream: his own distillery in England. A builder and farmer by trade, Andrew built the St George’s Distillery in 2006 in Norfolk, but soon realised that producing whisky was a full-time job. In 2007 he closed down his building company, the distillery its last project, and became the managing director of The English Whisky Company.
Andrew sees his position as ‘dogsbody and accountant’, working closely with chief whisky maker David Fitt to ensure that the distillery produces the best whisky possible. However, as those who have met Andrew at tastings or at the distillery – which now receives more than 40,000 visitors a year – will attest, he is an enthusiastic brand ambassador for both English whisky and British spirits.
Born in West Lothian in 1972, Brian studied chemistry at The University of St Andrews, where he met his wife, Lisa. He graduated in 1994 with a first class honours degree and, whilst no formal qualification is required to be a Malt Master, his scientific background and pioneering outlook helps him understand the character of the whisky, the effect of maturation and the possibilities of an ageing whisky.
Brian joined William Grant & Sons in 1997 and soon became an apprentice to David Stewart, Scotland's longest serving Malt Master. Working alongside David for eight years, Brian learned his craft an inherited a passion for whisky. In his role, Brian is responsible for continuing the legacy of William Grant's ambition to create 'the best dram in the valley'. He is in charge of everything from cask selection and overseeing the marrying process to the maturation process within the warehouses.
Brian Nation joined Irish Distillers in 1997 straight from university. A qualified engineer, he oversaw projects in the company's environmental department until 2002, when he became more involved in the production process.
He continued to work in whiskey production while studying to be a distiller and in 2006 was awarded the Worshipful Company of Distillers award for achieving the highest results in the Institute of Brewing and Distilling exams – he is the first Irish distiller to win the award.
Brian trained for ten years at Midleton under former master distiller Barry Crockett, and took over the role when Barry retired in 2013. He is now responsible for the production of all of Irish Distillers whiskey, combining his modern take on whiskey making and engineering with the knowledge and tradition he learned during his long apprenticeship.
Starting work in education and the media in the 1980s, David moved into the wine trade and managed a busy bar in the City of London. In 1990 he left the capital and moved to East Anglia, where he worked for the civil service for more than a decade as a manager. In 2001 he returned to the drinks business and joined Greene King, where he began to learn the art of brewing. After six years he had become a shift brewer, with extensive experience of beer-making.
In July 2007 David joined the newly established English Whisky Company, training with head distiller Iain Henderson, formerly of Laphroaig, until his retirement later in the year. Since then, David has overseen the growth of The English Whisky Company from being a newcomer in the industry to becoming a respected producer. His work with cask management has led to their development of a number of interestingly finished and matured whiskies, and sneak peeks into their warehouses show that they have a lot more up their sleeves.
Born in his grandmother’s house in the village of Bowmore on Islay, Edward ‘Eddie’ MacAffer began his career at Bowmore in July 1966, aged just 18 years old. He has since had one of the most enduring and successful careers in Islay’s Scotch whisky history.
Before this, Eddie joined the Merchant Navy in 1965, sailing between Greenock, Jamaica and British Guyana with cargoes of sugar. Following the British Seaman’s strike in 1966, Eddie returned to Islay and asked James McColl, then manager of Bowmore Distillery, for a position at the distillery. He started work in the warehouses.
Working in almost every department of the distillery since then, from the malt barns to the stillhouse, Eddie has dedicated his life to producing excellent whiskies.
His passion saw the distillery set a precedent for the procurement of top quality casks for maturation. This included Oloroso casks from Jerez, Spain which would eventually become a milestone in the story of one of the most collectable whiskies of all time – Black Bowmore. Arriving at Bowmore just two years after the iconic casks were laid down for maturation, Eddie has been an integral part of the Black Bowmore series from its infancy and will be pouring the second edition during his masterclass at The Whisky Show.
A graduate of Reading university, Ian returned to Taiwan and was part of the team who opened Kavalan in 2005. Along with his role as master distiller, he also travels the world as a brand ambassador, presenting the whiskies he has helped to create to whisky fans around the globe.
Ichiro Akuto was born in Saitama on the outskirts of Tokyo in 1965 into a family that has been making sake since 1625.
After studying at Tokyo University of Agriculture, where he majored in Fermentation Science, Ichiro started working for Suntory in 1988.
In 1995 he joined the family sake business, also producing whisky, which his father ran in Hanyu. However, as a result of the economy, the business ran into difficulties and was eventually sold in 2000 with Hanyu distillery being destroyed in 2004.
Akuto-san established Venture Whisky in September 2004, and launched Ichiro’s Malt whisky, bottling the remaining casks of Hanyu, most notably with the pioneering Card Series range of single casks releases.
With the distilling and production experience gained at BenRiach and Karuizawa distilleries, Ichiro built Chichibu distillery in November 2007; the first spirit flowed from the stills in March 2008.
Ichiro and his whiskies have won many accolades, including World Whiskies Awards and Whisky Advocate Awards.
Martine Nouet was born in Normandy. Having nosed calvados from her childhood at family dinners, it was only natural that she kept the memory of those superb eaux-de-vie and progressed to broader spirits later in life.
Currently living on Islay, home to some of Scotland’s most celebrated malts, she particularly enjoys writing about Scotch Whisky. Martine has pioneered a new trend in the world of whisky: the sensory idea of pairing whiskies with a suitable food counterpart.
She is a specialist in matching food and whisky, and regularly hosts whisky dinners in France and in Scotland. She always, however, endeavours to take a new and dynamic approach to tasting, often exploring other pairing routes such as linking the tasting to art, music, or even fabric textures.
Martine was bestowed the title of Master of The Quaich in April 2012. She will be signing her latest book 'à table, whisky from glass to plate'.
Matt Hoffman is not only the driving force behind production at Seattle’s Westland Distillery, but also a key member of the American Whiskey production scene. As a director of the American Craft Spirits Association, a founder of the American Single Malt Whiskey Commission, and a member of both the Institute of Brewing and Distilling and the American Society of Brewing Chemists, he both contributes to the science of whiskey making and helps guide and promote the American whiskey industry.
Most recently, he was recognised as one of America’s ’30 under 30 tastemakers’ by Forbes Magazine and was the second distiller to be named a Rising Star by StarChefs magazine.
Diageo plc is the largest brand-owning company in the Scotch Whisky industry and Nick Morgan’s knowledge of these brands, the men and women who created them, and the strategies which made them world famous, is unsurpassed.
His previous role as Scotch Heritage Director was to champion the deep-rooted heritage of the company and its brands. Prior to that, he directed Diageo’s global malt whisky marketing team, leading key innovations such as the development of the Talisker™ range and the introduction of the Special Releases programme.
Nick Morgan joined United Distillers (now Diageo) in 1990, when he established the world’s largest collection of historical material relating to the spirits industry. He earlier taught modern Scottish History at the University of Glasgow.
He speaks regularly and presents master classes at whisky and drinks festivals and conferences, including in New York, New Orleans, London and South Africa.
Ryan Chetiyawardana is a veteran of The Whisky Show, having been involved in our cocktail program since 2011. We are pleased to welcome him back after a couple of very busy years away.
Originally destined to become a chef, Ryan moved from in the kitchen to behind the bar, where he found his true calling. After stints at Bramble in Edinburgh and 69 Colebrooke Row in London he set out on his own, and has since become one of the most sought-after bartenders in the business.
The four most recent bars that he has helped open have gone on to win national awards and feature in the top 40 of Drinks International's World's Best Bars list. His first cocktail book is a go-to guide at Whisky Show HQ, his drinks have been featured on menus around the world and he was named Innovator of the Year at the 2014 Imbibe awards.
White Lyan, his award-winning Hoxton cocktail bar, is in the middle of a rebuild, and we look forward to quizzing Ryan about what's next.