In the first of our series of Meet Our Team blogs, we speak to Mhairi Winters, Distillery Manager about what it is like to be involved with setting up a distillery from scratch.
What made you decide to work in whisky?
I’ve always been inspired by the science behind distilling, which is why I studied an Honours Degree in Brewing and Distilling at university. I’ve worked in a few distilleries of varying size and style, so have plenty experience and knowledge to share. The opportunity to join The Cairn and the Gordon & MacPhail family was too good to pass up, the sustainability and modernity of The Cairn really grabbed my interest – and of course, starting a brand-new distillery from scratch is a rare opportunity indeed!
What do you like best about your job?
My first few months at The Cairn were amazing as I was able to share an office with the building contractors and see the distillery come together. I got to be hands-on with the project and ensure everything was as it should be. I was also able to build my own team and help them learn and progress their careers - that’s one aspect of my job that I really enjoy.
The Cairn is an inspirational place – what has it encouraged you to do?
At the distillery we are looking to increase the biodiversity of our local environment, so we installed a sedum roof, attracting bees, butterflies and other pollinators. We work with an Ecologist who keeps a close eye on this and ensures all is working well. We have also been encouraging wading bird nesting through long grasses and nesting boxes.
I've been so inspired by our commitment to increasing biodiversity on site, that I've also gone on to apply this to my own garden, as I’ve recently bought some plants that will help to attract bees and butterflies.
What are you looking forward to most at the distillery?
Our first single malt whisky! We've been distilling for around one year now. Our spirit character is sweet and malty, with a fruity top note. When I first nose the spirit, it reminds me of custard creams. Our longer fermentation helps to produce lots of fruity esters, which really start to come to the fore when you add a touch of water.
We've been filling into a mixture of different casks, and I cannot wait to see what our whisky turns out to be in the years to come! For now, I'm enjoying a CRN57° 25yo - sweet and fruity, slightly dry with hints of chocolate, what more could you want?
What do you like to do in your own time?
In my own time, you’d be more likely to find me spending time with family or relaxing with a good book. I’ve been collecting old books for some time now and there is nothing better than sitting down to read one. I also love to travel and try to visit somewhere new on each holiday, of course, I have to read all about our next location to plan the trip!
As well as visiting the distillery, what would you recommend people do in the Cairngorms?
With my love for travel and adventure, I also enjoy spending time in and around Scotland too. Within the Cairngorms National Park itself there are so many things to do – from snow sports and water sports to hill climbing and nature walks, as well as visiting the only sled dog centre or one of many golf courses, to the Highland Fling Bungee Jump for those thrill-seekers among you.