EWA Alumni: Stewart Dick
What attracted you to the EWA Diploma?
I was looking for a course to enhance my knowledge of Scotch whisky and something that would accredit that knowledge. Like several of the folk on my course, I looked at the various other courses that are on the market but what really attracted me to the Diploma in Single Malt Whisky was the SQA certification and the depth that it appeared to go into.
What aspects of the Diploma did you find most enjoyable?
I’m not sure there’s one thing that I found most enjoyable, although Vic’s insights, knowledge and anecdotes certainly come close.
How did the Diploma prepare you for your current role?
I started working at Tomatin as a Tour Guide in May 2019 and immediately knew I’d found the right job! The visitor centre can be extremely busy, we currently have three levels of tour and also provide tours for a couple of tour companies who visit us regularly. My favourite tour to deliver is without a doubt our Single Cask Experience. It’s two and a half hours long and tends to be the one the whisky nerds go for. So, I get to spend that time nerding out with them over every stage in the production process before sharing the whisky with them.
I think one of the most satisfying things about the course was reaching the stage where I now feel I have knowledge to talk far more confidently about whisky making and its history. My current role has a supervisory element to it, so the Diploma also gives me more confidence to discuss production and history with members of the Visitor Centre team.
What advice would you give someone looking to get into the whisky industry?
Persevere! I’ve taken a pretty circuitous route to get to the Whisky industry, straight out of university I was Licensee of a small hotel in Moray. I then moved into training as a Powerboat instructor and then into Retail. My last job before getting into the industry was as a Postmaster. So, to say my work history is varied is an understatement. Truth be told, I think the reason for all those career changes was that I never really figured out what I wanted to do. I’d always had a passion for working with the public and shortly before starting at Tomatin I spent some time working behind the bar at a local boutique hotel, it was that that really cemented my desire to work in the industry.
In my experience, whisky industry jobs are hugely oversubscribed (which is hardly surprising, it’s a great industry) so it’s as much about clicking with the interviewer as it is about your CV. In general, most people in the industry tend to start at the bottom and work their way up, so I’d recommend trying to find something that’s industry adjacent if you can’t find a job in the industry. Working behind a bar or in a whisky shop is a great way to start. I’ve spoken to a few people who got their start that way. It gives you a chance to build a strong knowledge foundation and gain confidence in talking to folk about whisky.
Although, it’s important to be aware of who you’re speaking to. When I first met our Brand Ambassador, Scott, I was bar tending at a wedding he was attending. While talking to him, I well and truly put my foot in it and was convinced I’d blown my chances at Tomatin. It turned out I hadn’t, I received an email a couple of days later asking me to come in for a chat.
Whisky wisdom: quick fire questions
First whisky you ever tasted?
Probably Whyte and Mackay as it was the whisky we kept in the house for my uncle when he stopped by.
Best whisky you have ever tasted?
I don’t believe there is a best or even a favourite for that matter. There are so many factors that influence how someone enjoys a whisky. Over the years the answer has changed as my tastes and experience has changed. Right now, I’d be hard pressed to pick between Balblair 15 and Glendronach 15 Revival. I also have a bottle of Glen Scotia that was finished in Guyanan Rum casks which is a great dram.
Who is your ‘whisky hero’?
Billy Walker, both from a whisky and business standpoint. Producing incredible drams and creating a cult following for the businesses he built is something I find incredibly impressive. I had tickets for his Blending Experience during this year’s Spirit of Speyside, so I was gutted when the event was cancelled.
Who would you most like to conduct a whisky tasting for, dead or alive?
I’d much prefer to conduct it alive, but I’d probably go for Barack Obama and Samuel L Jackson. I think the two of them would have incredible stories and would definitely be good craic, especially together. I’d love to hear Obama do a Samuel L Jackson impression!
Favourite distillery to visit?
I’m pretty sure I’m contractually obligated to say Tomatin. I visited Macallan not long after they opened the new distillery. I know it splits opinions but I thoroughly enjoyed the visit and always recommend it.
Ultimate bottling for your collection?
I recently picked up a bottle of Glenallachie 12 year old PX finish which is absolutely superb. It’s firmly in the top tier of my collection, only to be drunk when I’m really in the mood and not just when I fancy a dram after work.
Favourite non-whisky drink?
I’ve always been a bit of a rum drinker and a cocktail drinker, Havana Club and Coke with a good squeeze of lime. Or, for something more exotic, a Zombie or Pina Colada.
Favourite whisky and food pairing?
Something peated with sticky toffee pudding. Glendronach Peated or the Glen Scotia I mentioned above work exceptionally well.