Johnnie Walker has a new master blender. Yep, after more than 40 years at Diageo, we’re saying a fond farewell to Dr Jim Beveridge OBE, and saying hello to Dr Emma Walker!
Remember the name Dr Emma Walker, because she’s about to become the new master blender for Johnnie Walker. And no, she isn’t related to the Walker family, it’s just a lovely coincidence.
Walker is set to take over the reins from the legendary Dr Jim Beveridge OBE, who is retiring at the end of the year after more than 40 years at Diageo, 20 of which he spent as master blender.
Only a small, select group of people have held the role of master blender for Johnnie Walker (including founder John Walker himself) over the last two centuries or so, and Walker holds the distinction of being the first woman to take the coveted position.
The good doctor
She joined Diageo 13 years ago, and the drinks giant commented in a press release that she has gained “extensive knowledge and experience of Scotch production and innovation” working in fermentation, distillation, and maturation to develop an understanding of every stage of the whisky-making process to become “a highly respected blender”.
She also worked extensively on Johnnie Walker for the last six years, with innovations including the Johnnie Walker Blue Label Ghost and Rare series and Jane Walker by Johnnie Walker, and has spent several years working with Beveridge to develop an encyclopaedic understanding and knowledge of whisky. Now Walker will lead the 12-strong team of expert whisky makers to blend the various whiskies that make the numerous Johnnie Walker variants, which are sold in more than 180 countries around the world.
“I am honoured to take on the title of master blender of Johnnie Walker, and at an exciting time for the brand as we embark on the next step of our journey looking ahead to the next 200 years,” Walker says. “I love experimenting and innovating with flavour and we’ll be working hard to not only continue to deliver the unrivalled quality that we are renowned for but also introducing blends to appeal to a new generation of Scotch whisky fans.”
A legend moves on
She adds that she has learnt “so much over my career working with Jim,” and that his “knowledge and generosity of spirit is unsurpassed in the world of whisky.” Across his impressive four-decade career in whisky, Beveridge has been responsible for some of the world’s most popular and acclaimed Scotch whisky blends including Johnnie Walker Blue Label.
He started out as an analytical chemist 42 years ago at Johnnie Walker, and has since gone on to become one of the most highly respected figures in the industry, renowned for his tireless work, expertise, and dedication to develop flavours that are still popular today. In 2019, he was awarded an OBE by Her Majesty the Queen for his services to the Scotch whisky industry.
“It is with pleasure and confidence that I pass on this privilege to Emma. I know she will do a wonderful job as she possesses the knowledge, expertise, and dedication to make an amazing master blender,” Beveridge says. “On a personal level I am delighted for her, and I know that her wonderfully infectious personality, which made working with her so enjoyable, will bring something exciting and different to the team and, indeed, to the wider Scotch industry.”
Walker will officially hold the title of master blender from 1 January 2022, while Beveridge will remain with the business until the end of the year. We wish them both the best of luck, and offer our congratulations to Dr Walker and our sincere thanks to Dr Beveridge for all his remarkable contributions. We’ll raise a dram to him tonight.