Young Whisky Ambassador of the Year 09

An Inteview with Mark Watt by Whiskies of Scotland.com

Whiskies of Scotland: Congratulations Mark on becoming the first Whisky Magazine Young Whisky Ambassador of the Year. How does it feel to win this prestigious award?
Mark Watt: It was a great honour and surprise to become the first winner especially when you look around the industry at some of the competition that is out there. I think that it is an excellent idea for a category as so many of the younger generation of the whisky industry spend so much of their time travelling the world promoting whisky.
WOS: Let’s start at the beginning. When did you first develop your interest in Scotch Whisky?
MW: My interest really began when I turned 18 and started working in the Quaich bar of the Craigellachie Hotel. At the time I had very little knowledge of whisky other than an occasional sip of whisky growing up, a infamous evening with a bottle of Grouse and the fact that it seemed to make Dad enjoy his fishing a lot more! The Quaich bar had around 550 single malts in it at the time and I got the job there allegedly because I could reach the top shelf! Under the stewardship of Mark Alexander (now at Drummuir Castle) and Duncan Elphick (now at the highlander Inn, Craigellachie), I soon picked up a love for whisky.
WOS: How was life growing up at the Macallan distillery?
MW: I loved growing up at the distillery! For many it would have been too quiet but for me I enjoyed the freedom we had – to go wherever we wanted and do whatever we wanted. We had a real community spirit and everyone got on and every door was left unlocked – apart from the warehouses obviously, but I did fall off a warehouse roof once, but that’s another story.
WOS: Did you always aim for a career in the whisky industry?
MW: From an early age I wanted to be a farmer – like my Dad, but I soon discovered that they had too tough a life and had to work very long hours for very little return. I went through school with no real idea what I wanted to do but thought that some form of marketing might be an option although a weeks’ work placement at Tamdhu distillery when I was 16 gave me some insight to whisky. It was only when I started working at the Craigellachie Hotel and was serving a large sector of the whisky industry that I started to aim for a job in the industry.
WOS: That leads on to my next question. What was your first job in the industry?
MW: My first “grown up” job in the industry is the one I am in now, with Duncan Taylor. Before this I have worked for the Craigellachie Hotel, Macallan Distillery, The Scotch Malt Whisky Society, Royal Mile Whiskies and The Easy Drinking Whisky Company as well as doing a few freelance tastings – every job I have ever had has been whisky related – well unless you count picking tatties!
WOS: Has there been any other jobs/experiences that have helped you bolster your knowledge?
MW: Obviously everyday is a school day when working alongside Euan Shand so I have learnt a lot from him and not all about whisky! Working at the Quaich bar I picked up a lot from people in the industry who stayed at the hotel. At the SMWS I had the opportunity to learn a lot about the joys of single cask whisky and the joys of proper whisky – non-chillfiltered and at natural colour. Being on the tasting panel at the Society chaired by Charlie Maclean was a great experience.
WOS: How did you become involved with Duncan Taylor?
MW: Following on from studying it was time to start thinking about a real job and so I wrote to the majority of the whisky industry and thankfully Euan gave me a job! I had met Euan a few times in the past at the SMWS in Leith and once at a whisky festival in The Hague. I finished University on the 28th of May 2004 and Started with DTC on the 1st of June 2004 so I guess you could say I got lucky.
WOS: Duncan Taylor has had a fantastic selection of whiskies over the recent years; can you pick a favourite?
MW: To pick one favourite would be impossible – there have been so many, some of the obvious stand outs have been the Bowmore 1966’s the Springbank 1967’s and any of the old Highland Parks. Anyone who knows me will know that I have been championing Caperdonich for many years and the quality of our casks still remain at the highest level with the latest batches of 1972’s (especially cask 7419) being exceptional. Also early on at DTC I tried a 1967 Miltonduff cask 1014 that would definitely be one that would be up there. The great thing about working with DTC is that we are always unearthing new gems and it doesn’t matter if it is a big named whisky it can still be phenomenal whisky – take any of our Imperials or our recent Royal Lochnagar bottlings and you will not be disappointed.
WOS: Your job at Duncan Taylor has taken you all over the world; do you have a favourite place to travel?
MW: Indeed the job has taken me around the world and to some weird and wonderful places. Before I joined DTC I think I had visited about 3 countries but now I think I am up to nearly 30 different countries, in the last 5 years. Every place has its charms but for me I would have to say that Japan is my favourite place to visit, the people are extremely friendly, and the culture so different from our own. Some of the best whisky bars in the world are in Japan and I try to visit them as often as I can. Also their whisky is not too shabby either!
WOS: There has been a lot of buzz about the Huntly distillery; how are things moving along?
MW: The guys are on site as we speak preparing it, in order to begin the build.
WOS: What is your ambition in the industry?
MW: The main ambition is to stay in the industry for as long as I can and I hope with DTC. I hope that I will be able to get involved with the distillery project once it is up and running and look forward to seeing the whisky and its reputation develop. There will be some exciting times to come here – our first spirit, our first whisky, our first 10 year old etc.
WOS: Do you think whisky has a bright future?
MW: The whisky industry is always cyclical but I do think the future is bright for whisky. At the minute times are economically tough around the world but people continue to take joy from the amber nectar and I think this will continue as new markets open up. You have to remember (and hope) that when the whisky being distilled today reaches maturity the economy will be in far better shape.
Published with permission from www.whiskiesofscotland.com.

1 Response to “Young Whisky Ambassador of the Year 09”

  1. 1 Karen Law
    19/11/2009 at 15:12

    Well done Mark!!

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