Distillery manager going from strength to strength

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‘There is never a dull moment,’ says the Campbeltown chief of Glen Scotia distillery.

Iain Mcalister’s previous seven years’ experience with Scottish Water may have helped – although he is happy to admit that joining a distillery was a steep learning curve.

Even in the nine years since he took on his role as distillery manager with the High Street firm, there has been a sea change in Campbeltown whisky.

Iain’s working day starts at about 8am when he makes a tour of the distillery to see the staff, discuss any issues and check the production figures. Last year Glen Scotia created 536,000 litres.

Iain, 49, counts Glen Scotia’s Double Cask malt whisky winning at the World Whisky Awards as one of his and parent company, the Loch Lomond Group’s greatest achievements.

‘The engineering side of Scottish Water helped,’ Iain said. ‘There is a huge amount to learn and you have to know every part of the operation in the distillery.

‘Creating amazing malts is an art with a lot of science in the background. The product is a testament to the whole team.

‘I have no understudy and there are just eight staff, so I tend to be very hands-on. Being the manager is not just about paperwork – the work is mixed and varied.

‘The input from Loch Lomond on a day-to-day basis is minimal. They say it takes about 10 years to learn the job so I am not there yet.

‘When I started there were three of us at Glen Scotia which was coming out of the doldrums in whisky terms.

‘What you see today is what Loch Lomond’s investment has brought to Glen Scotia.’

Iain, who loved history and PE, left Campbeltown Grammar School aged 17 and, as work was scarce, he went on the fishing boats for three years.

He said: ‘It was a good start, was character-building and gets a young person into a good working ethos.

‘It was a different world, and things have changed a lot in the 21st century.

‘I was 40 when I saw my job advertised in the paper. If I had known about the complexity I might have thought twice.

‘Careers in distilling are very rewarding. Whisky is in vogue and it is a global business. I would recommend it to any young person.’