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Whisky Jobs… Marc Watson on being a Distillery Manager

Whisky Jobs… Marc Watson on being a Distillery Manager

As Distillery Manager, Marc Watson oversees both of the John Crabbie sites in Edinburgh. We asked him to tell us more about the day-to-day and what qualities are required to succeed in the role…

As the coxswain of the distillery, I’m basically responsible for steering and coordinating the production of spirit from start to finish. My role involves a little bit of everything… and never enough time!

I oversee both our John Crabbie sites in Edinburgh. This includes managing all aspects of production (distillation and bottling), maintenance, co-products (waste), spirit quality, efficiency, blending and bottling, purchasing, raw materials, record keeping, HMRC and Environmental compliance, HR, staff training and Health & Safety for the distillery and the warehouses. That all involves heaps of planning, coordination and being able to be flexible enough to deal with any situation that arises.

There is no such thing as a typical day in this job! That is one of the most beautiful things about it, it keeps you planning weeks, months and years ahead and yet there are some inadvertent things you simply can’t plan for that throw a spanner in the works.

The role of the distillery manager can either be the best job in the world when you have created something truly special either on purpose (or accidently), or a very lonely job when you are fighting problem after problem just to stay in production. Either way. if you have a great team around you, it is never not enjoyable!

The fundamentals of the role are pretty static. While different employers might throw in a few different responsibilities, at the end of the days it’s: goods in > production > goods out.

Making those “goods out” something to write home about is the fun bit. I think, for me, I have grown massively into the role as I have learned. To be honest, I arrived in this line of work by accident… I started making beer for fun and it snowballed!

This has allowed me to see things in a different light. Things that seemed important to me initially, for example, are often way more trivial whereas you come to realise the things that seem trivial are incredibly important! This is something you pick up within the job. That is the bit that blends data, science and art to ultimately make something that tastes good for someone else's pleasure.

Overall, I’d say you need to be consistent, adaptable and intelligent. It’s about being able to stress the minute details while still seeing the bigger picture. It helps to be a confident decision maker, teacher, mechanic, taster and a business-minded individual. Spend the time identifying your own personal making philosophies. Learn as much as you can from as many people as you can.

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