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EWA Alumni: Lii Johnson

EWA Alumni: Lii Johnson

Tell us a bit about yourself. 

I am a Swedish 41 year old woman who is passionate about many things. Whisky, hockey and genealogy being the top priorities. I have a Master of Science in Industrial Management and a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering from Luleå Technical University. But better than that, I have a Diploma in Single Malt Whisky from Edinburgh Whisky Academy!

My career started within the steel industry where I have had several different roles as a manager. But I wanted to change my work life from the big industrial organizations and products to something more local and hand crafted. Being from Gävle, Mackmyra’s small scale production and local brand attracted me.

I started as a logistics manager, handling production planning, sourcing, and managing new products. Now I am the responsible blender, in charge of Mackmyra’s whisky and our products.

Spare time is usually spent on the golf course or at the hockey rink.

How did you first discover whisky?

I actually did not enjoy whisky before starting at Mackmyra! But it was instant love once I really tried it and could appreciate the craft that whisky-making is. So, interestingly I started working for a whisky distillery before I really discovered whisky.

Which part(s) of the Diploma in Single Malt Whisky did you find most enjoyable?

It is hard to pick just one thing but if I have to, I would say that the module about the history of whisky was the one with the biggest impact on me. After that module it really dawned on me the heritage and proud history that we all are responsible to cherish and respect. I actually get a bit emotional when I think about me being a small, small part of that history.

All the other modules and drop-in drams were also invaluable for me, but more from a work perspective. I cannot think of one thing I learned that I have not been able to adapt/improve in our production. The course really gave me a strong foundation for my role as a blender but the history was the one thing that hit my heart.

What made the Diploma different from any previous whisky training you have completed?

The exceptional balance of overall coverage and in-depth details. Usually, a course is either very specific or general. This training had everything, the entire world of whisky and in-depth details that are very useful for me/us in a small whisky distillery. To say it was delivered online, I actually felt it was a hands-on training in some ways.

How has the Diploma helped progress your career/contributed to your professional life?

Words cannot express how much this training has meant to me. It gave me confidence to say that I know whisky and it gave me a sense of pride with regards to the heritage. But not just me, the entire Mackmyra organisation has benefited from this course. Being a small distillery in Sweden, there is not expertise hanging from the trees around here. We must learn from the best and make the most of it, which I think we are doing right now.

Why would you recommend the Diploma in Single Malt Whisky?

Because it will provide you with everything you need to know about whisky, in a very professional way with well thought-out training material. Absolutely invaluable knowledge and also alumni for us small distilleries and employees.

Whisky wisdom: quick fire questions

First whisky you ever tasted?
Lagavulin 16.

Best whisky you have ever tasted?
Mackmyra's 30L Swedish Oak Single cask with peated new make.

Favourite distillery to visit?

Favourite non-whisky drink?
I have a soft spot for mojitos and lagers.

What person, living or dead, would you most like to share a dram with?
Bruce Dickinson.

Favourite whisky and food pairing?
Caol Ila 12 and fine dark chocolate.

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