Pretty huge news emerged on Instagram yesterday as Brendan McCarron revealed that his time with The Glenmorangie Company is drawing to a close after seven years. The former head of maturing whisky stocks will be moving to Distell to become the brand’s new master distiller, where he’ll work with its considerable Scotch whisky cohort. This includes Bunnahabhain, Tobermory and Deanston distilleries as well as Black Bottle whisky.
It’s a striking revelation as it appeared that he would be the natural successor to Dr Bill Lumsden, Glenmorangie’s director of whisky creation and because he’s enjoyed so much success with the brand. Both Glenmorangie and Ardbeg Distillery have released all kinds of wonderful new expressions over the years under the duo’s stewardship. We’ve also heard that the news came as a surprise to Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton (LVMH), the owner of The Glenmorangie Company.
In a post on his personal Instagram account, McCarron commented “So I have a bit of news. I’ve just accepted an offer to be the master distiller for Distell. I’m going to work with the team responsible for Bunnahabhain, Tobermory and Deanston distilleries as well as blends such as Black Bottle and my first time working on gin too”. McCarron added that he is “beyond excited to get started”, and has been enjoying his “research“ recently, in particular tasting Tobermory 12 Year Old. He signed off by stating that he was very sad to leave the Glenmorangie company after “7 great years”, but that he can’t wait to get started in the new role.
We reached out to McCarron and he informed us that he’ll likely start working in his new role next month. He’s based near Deanston and will split his time between there, Tobermory and, of course, Islay, as well as Distell’s new multi-million-pound blending and disgorging centre in East Kilbride. “I am becoming like a proper west coast distiller,” McCarron remarked to us. He also says the role he’s taking will mean more time working in distilleries. “One thing I do miss is production, the hiss and singing of the stills as the steam goes through them. There’s an energy to production which I haven’t had in this role which has been nosing, blending and travelling. I’ve always missed the connection to the distilleries. So this ticks every box. I’ll be directly in charge of production.”
Ultimately, the allure of the new gig and what it entails is what has sold McCarron. “I’ve done stuff I wouldn’t have imagined being a working-class boy from Coatbridge, I’ve drunk Krug in five-star hotels, drunk amazing whiskies with incredible people in China, Russia and various parts of the States. And got to work on incredible whiskies. But it’s been seven years. Bill’s still got lots that he wants to achieve. I could continue to work under Bill but I love the idea of Distell saying, here’s what we want to do, here’s what our plans are, here are our liquids,” he explains. “I’ve always loved Deanston, Bunnahabhain and Tobermory. It was the distilleries, the liquids, and seeing the investment that’s going into the company. All this appealed to me. My boss, Julian Patton, told me about his plans, how much he believed in the whiskies. And I do too. Being the master distiller of three distilleries you love, it’s hard to say no.”
McCarron was also keen to thank everyone for the response he’s had, commenting. “My phone was dead this morning, I had so many missed calls and messages that it drained the battery. There have been lots of lovely messages coming in.” He also said that Bill is sad to see him go, but is excited for him too, saying that it’s “an amazing role but they are lucky to have you”. McCarron added that he “didn’t anticipate me leaving. I didn’t anticipate me leaving. But, when a role like this appears, you can feel the energy in the company. It’s impossible to say no.”
Before working for The Glenmorangie Company, McCarron had managed Oban Distillery, was the group manager of Lagavulin, Caol Ila, and Port Ellen Maltings on Islay, and helped to design Roseisle Distillery – the first distillery to be built in Speyside for 30 years. His new employer Distell is a South African-based producer and marketer of spirits, wines, ciders and ready-to-drink products (RTDs). The company was formed in 2000 by the merger of Stellenbosch Farmers’ Winery (SFW) and Distillers Corporation. In 2013, Distell purchased the Scotch whisky business of Burn Stewart Distillers from CL Financial for £160m and took on its impressive portfolio, which includes the aforementioned distillery giants as well as brands like Black Bottle and Scottish Leader.
We wish him all the best and can’t wait to see what he does at Distell. Slainte, Brendan!