Planet Whiskies :: Scottish Single Malt Whisky, Scotch, Distilleries, American Bourbon, Japanese, Irish

World-Wide Whisky News by Planet Whiskies | Buy your whisky online

To advertise on Planet Whiskies visit our contact us page

Question and Answers from the Master Distillery at Diageo - Keith Law

On this page is a question and answer session from Keith Law, Master Distiller at Diageo. Here you will find out what Keith things about certain aspects of the whisky industry and how he learned his trade within the industry.

We also have another page on Planet Whiskies where Keith Law talks about pairing Blended whiskies with food. If you would like to read this go to Blended Whisky and Food page.

Keith Law Master Distiller, Diageo - Q&A

A photo of Keith Law Master Distiller, DiageoHow much more do we know about whisky production now than we did 30 years ago when you started in the industry? And do you think we are creating better and more complex malts and blends today?

Some my favorite blends of whisky were created over 100 years ago so I wouldn’t say that new production techniques and advances in technology are necessarily responsible for making better blends. However, I would definitely agree that innovations in technology have certainly helped marry the art of whisky blending with science. They have helped give us more accurate ways of measuring flavour and understanding its’ creation.

For example, technological advances mean we can be more accurate when blending whiskies, particularly when it comes to assessing flavours and alcoholic levels. In addition to helping create whiskies, innovation in technology has also been extremely important in testing barrel maturation and helping us to optimise yields. As the demand for whisky rises globally, it is thanks to these advances in technology that we are able to meet demand.

Would you say blending is a natural talent or a skill you acquire through training?

A photo of Keith Law Master Distiller, DiageoI most definitely think it can be either. Within the team of master blenders at Diageo we have a complete range of experience, varying from people like me who have grown up as a scientist  in the whisky industry to people who have a more mathematical background that have become blenders after starting a career based on managing stocks and yields. What we do have in common however are great sensory skills.  The beauty of having a team of master blenders here at Diageo is that we can learn from each other and share our very different experiences. Having a team with different skill sets enables us to come up with a huge variety of exciting blends and means that there is always a new idea on the table!

How do you learn the trade?

I began my career in the Scotch whisky industry in 1979 when I joined the Quality Control Laboratory at the Caledonian Distillery in Edinburgh. My career began not in malt whisky but in grain whisky, where I worked closely alongside my father. I consider myself a sensory specialist in the whisky industry, having spent 12 years as part of the management team at Carsebridge Technical Centre, responsible for quality for all grain distilling and specialised areas of malt distilling. The primary focus of this role was around optimisation of distillery yields, flavour profiles and distillery performance; A large part of this role involved the nosing of new make spirit. In 2007, with the formation of Diageo’s European Technical Centre, Diageo’s Master Blenders joined together to become one team.

What are the day to day tasks of a Master Blender, are you locked away in a lab all day, creating or nosing samples of new spirit, blend batches and production line samples? How many whisky samples would you actually test in a day, and how many would you actually taste, if any?

My role within the technical centre as a Master Blender is varied. I am heavily involved in the development of new whisky products with end to end responsibility from cask selection through to overseeing production of pre-market launch bottlings.
Since joining Diageo, I have worked at each of Diageo’s 28 malt distilleries and 2 grain distilleries. My roles have been heavily focused on all aspects of sensory analysis allowing me to develop significant insights into flavour creation, blending and a deep understanding of the effects of oak on maturation, cask structure and wood physiology. My role is incredibly varied but it is rare that a day passes when I don’t taste a wee dram!

I am curious in how you go about the task of creating a new blend? Do you start with the flavour profile in your mind which you want to achieve? How important is the grain whisky in a blend of is this not as important as the malt whiskies will come to the forefront when added? Most of us never get to taste a single grain whisky; does Diageo produce different styles of grain whisky for different blends, or does a blend of grain whiskies go into a blend?

Most new blends are created in a family style (e.g. “Buchanan’s”, “Johnnie Walker” etc) of which key flavour characteristics require to be maintained. To create great blends you need great whiskies, we therefore require high quality grain whisky at the heart of our blends. Grain whisky is produced in a small number of distilleries in Scotland , however on a much greater scale. The whisky itself is lighter and sweeter than the majority of malt whiskies, and when blended together with malts they reveal a greater range of flavours. Grain whiskies are available to consumers although in less limited varieties than malt whiskies. Diageo bottles “Cameronbrig” Single Grain whisky, which is available to buy in specialist whisky shops.
Within Diageo warehouses we have stocks of Grain whisky from a number of different distilleries that are used for blending purposes.

You are in a unique position where you have an insight into 28 malt distilleries and 2 grain distilleries. It must be like having the secret formula for 29 different whiskies, with the knowledge of how all these whiskies are produced, do you think this gives you good advantage in developing new whiskies?

I have been extremely fortunate to have seen the inner workings of so many prestigious distilleries over the last 30 years. Yes, it definitely gives me excellent insight when I am developing new blends.

The cask is so influential on the final flavour of a whisky, do you think that the effect the cask has on the whisky has been mastered or are we still learning?

We are constantly adding to our wealth of understanding that we have on the maturation process. There is still much we have to learn on the “magic” that happens when whisky is placed in a cask.

 

Are you working on any special new malts or blends now which we may see in the near future?

The team at Diageo is always working on developing new and cutting edge blends to meet consumer demand. We work very closely with the consumer insights team at Diageo to ensure that the blends we are creating, closely match the ever developing requirements of the whisky connoisseur across the globe .

What whiskies have you been involved with over the years that you would consider extra special?

All of them! - I find whisky a unique and fascinating subject to work with. , Over the years I have learned  so much about the different whiskies and their flavours. When you combine this with the knowledge of the distilleries and the pride of the people who make these whiskies – it becomes a very special thing.

Relaxing at home on a cold dark winter’s night what whisky or whiskies would you normally pour yourself?

I am a firm believer in drinking for occasions and like to match my whisky to the moment. However I never try to prescribe to friends or colleagues the best way to drink whisky. It is all about personal taste and finding your own serve and drinking moment.

 For example, when enjoying a cold winters night by the fire, I like to take a dram of a smoky, rich whisky like Johnnie Walker Black Label, and when I am out with friends I prefer a light, fruity Speyside (both with a wee splash of water please!).

Planet Whiskies on Twitter
Planet Whiskies on Facebook
Planet Whiskies on Pinterest

Whisky Advent Calendars

Are we looking for the unique whisky advent calendar for the run-up to Christmas? With 24 whiskies in each all with different types of whisky, you know you're in for a treat. We have over 50 calendars that can be bought online that contain whisky and other spirits. To see the full section, please go to Whisky Advent Calanders on Planet Whiskies.

The Whisky Shop Advent Calendar 2019

24 Advent Drams - Whisky Advent Calendar 24x3cl

Buy online today for only £99.00

American Whiskey, Bourbon & Rye Advent Calendar (2019 Edition) Blended Whisky
American Whiskey, Bourbon & Rye Advent Calendar (2019 Edition) Blended Whisky ~ 46.5% ~ 72cl

Buy Now for £124.95


Irish Whisky Advent Calendar (2019 Edition) Blended Whisky
Irish Whisky Advent Calendar (2019 Edition) Blended Whisky ~ 44.3% ~ 72cl

Buy Now for £149.95


Japanese Whisky Advent Calendar (2019 Edition) Blended Whisky
Japanese Whisky Advent Calendar (2019 Edition) Blended Whisky ~ 44.9% ~ 72cl

Buy Now for £199.95


Premium Whisky Advent Calendar (2019 Edition) Blended Whisky
Premium Whisky Advent Calendar (2019 Edition) Blended Whisky ~ 46% ~ 72cl

Buy Now for £249.95


That Boutique-y Whisky Company Advent Calendar (2019 Edition) Blended Whisky
That Boutique-y Whisky Company Advent Calendar (2019 Edition) Blended Whisky ~ 48.4% ~ 72cl

Buy Now for £149.95


Old & Rare Whisky Advent Calendar (2019 Edition) Blended Whisky
Old & Rare Whisky Advent Calendar (2019 Edition) Blended Whisky ~ 47.6% ~ 72cl

Buy Now for £999.95


View all Whisky Advent Calendars and other advent calendars with Gin, Tequila, Vodka, Absinthe, Armagnac, Mezcal and Rum

Subscribe to Planet Whiskies newsletter

* indicates required


Loch Fyne Whiskies

Loch Fyne Whiskies

Have you seen all the whisky specials on offer at Loch Fyne Whiskies in Inveraray? All orders placed have next day delivery. Click to discover all these fantastic offers... Read More

The Scotch Malt Whisky Society

View latest whisky news

The Singleton Of Glen Ord Launches Its First Ever Limited Edition Distillery Exclusive Bottling

The Singleton Of Glen Ord Launches Its First Ever Limited Edition Distillery Exclusive Bottling

The Singleton of Glen Ord distillery has released its first ever limited-edition Single Malt Scotch whisky that is exclusively available to purchase at the Highland distillery. With just 6000 bottles available, The Singleton of Glen Ord will retail at RSP £90 per 70cl bottle and is bottled at 48% ABV. Read more

-------------------------------------------------

GlenAllachie is launching Batch 3 of its Cask Strength series

On the second anniversary of its purchase by Billy Walker, The GlenAllachie reveals Batch 3 of its Cask Strength series and five new single casks

Whisky Distillery Of The Year Marks Milestone By Launching Limited Edition Releases - GlenAllachie is launching Batch 3 of its Cask Strength series

Two years to the day since being bought by Billy Walker and hot on the heels of winning Scottish Whisky Distillery Of The Year, The GlenAllachie is launching Batch 3 of its Cask Strength series, and a new collection of five UK exclusive single casks. Read more

-------------------------------------------------

Prepare for a close encounter with Ardbeg Supernova - This year's Limited Edition from Ardbeg

This year's limited edition arrives with a mission – to take ardbeg committee members on a journey of unbelievably peaty proportions

Prepare for a close encounter with Ardbeg Supernova - This year's Limited Edition from Ardbeg

In October this year, still in the glow of winning Distillery of the Year 2019, Ardbeg Distillery will take its Committee Members on a journey like no other – as Supernova 2019 makes one more brief and earth-shattering return. Read more

-------------------------------------------------

Benromach unveils rare 50-Year-Old Single Cask Whisky - Only 125 bottles of Benromach 50 Years Old will be released for sale

Benromach unveils rare 50-Year-Old Single Cask Whisky - Only 125 bottles of Benromach 50 Years Old will be released for sale

Benromach Distillery in Speyside has unveiled one of its rarest single cask releases and the oldest expression in the current range – Benromach 50 Years Old. Read more

-------------------------------------------------

Great Whiskies Website

Buy Whisky online go to Great Whiskies (Planet Whiskies sister website)

Planet Gin Website

To read all the Latest Gin News. please go to our sister website - www.planetgin.com

VisitScotland Interactive Whisky Guide

Visit Scotland Interactive Whisky Map

Found out about 105 whisky distilleries in Scotland's five whisky regions in this very exciting interactive whisky guide :: More information

Some Scottish Whisky Available to Buy Online

Royal Salute 28 Year Old - Kew Palace Edition Blended Whisky
Royal Salute 28 Year Old - Kew Palace Edition Blended Whisky ~ 40% ~ 70cl

Region: Scotch  ~  Type:   Scottish


Buy Now for £548.89
World-wide delivery available - Price Subject to Change


Glenfarclas 1955 (cask 2217) Family Cask Autumn 2013 Release Single Malt Whisky
Glenfarclas 1955 (cask 2217) Family Cask Autumn 2013 Release Single Malt Whisky ~ 43.3% ~ 70cl

Region: Speyside  ~  Type:   Scottish


Buy Now for £8,283.41
World-wide delivery available - Price Subject to Change


Probably Speysides Finest Distillery 50 Year Old 1967 (cask 12786) - Single Malt Whisky
Probably Speysides Finest Distillery 50 Year Old 1967 (cask 12786) - Single Malt Whisky ~ 52.5% ~ 70cl

Region: Scotch  ~  Type:   Scottish


Buy Now for £1,595.00
World-wide delivery available - Price Subject to Change


Macallan 19 Year Old 1998 (bottled 2017) - Mackillops Choice Single Malt Whisky
Macallan 19 Year Old 1998 (bottled 2017) - Mackillops Choice Single Malt Whisky ~ 53.8% ~ 70cl

Region: Speyside  ~  Type:   Scottish


Buy Now for £384.14
World-wide delivery available - Price Subject to Change


Glenlivet 27 Year Old 1989 - Single Cask (Master of Malt) Single Malt Whisky
Glenlivet 27 Year Old 1989 - Single Cask (Master of Malt) Single Malt Whisky ~ 51.4% ~ 70cl

Region: Speyside  ~  Type:   Scottish


Buy Now for £467.95
World-wide delivery available - Price Subject to Change


Auchentoshan 44 Year Old 1966 Single Malt Whisky
Auchentoshan 44 Year Old 1966 Single Malt Whisky ~ 40.9% ~ 70cl

Region: Lowland  ~  Type:   Scottish


Buy Now for £3,750.00
World-wide delivery available - Price Subject to Change


Glen Mhor 50 Year Old 1965 (cask 3934) - Cask Strength Collection Rare Single Malt Whisky
Glen Mhor 50 Year Old 1965 (cask 3934) - Cask Strength Collection Rare Single Malt Whisky ~ 47.1% ~ 70cl

Region: Highland  ~  Type:   Scottish


Buy Now for £4,750.00
World-wide delivery available - Price Subject to Change


Very Old & Rare Advent Calendar - Walnut (2019 Edition) Blended Whisky
Very Old & Rare Advent Calendar - Walnut (2019 Edition) Blended Whisky ~ 48% ~ 72cl

Region: Other Scotch  ~  Type:   Scottish


Buy Now for £9,999.95
World-wide delivery available - Price Subject to Change


Royal Salute 38 Year Old - Stone of Destiny Blended Whisky
Royal Salute 38 Year Old - Stone of Destiny Blended Whisky ~ 40% ~ 70cl

Region: Scotch  ~  Type:   Scottish


Buy Now for £899.99
World-wide delivery available - Price Subject to Change


Bruichladdich 1984/32 - All In Single Malt Whisky
Bruichladdich 1984/32 - All In Single Malt Whisky ~ 43.7% ~ 70cl

Region: Islay  ~  Type:   Scottish


Buy Now for £700.00
World-wide delivery available - Price Subject to Change


Planet Whiskies on Pinterest

Planet Whiskies on Twitter