Day in the life: Distillery manager

Published: 03 Apr 2015

Sandy McIntyre joined Ian Macleod Distillers in November 2014 at Tamdhu Distillery following eight-and-a-half years in the distilling industry in Speyside. He is responsible for a small team of 11 who produce and warehouse around 3.0million litres of alcohol per year.

My morning:
I’m not a morning person and never have been – I like the cosy comfort of my bed too much – so I leave it until the last minute to get up. I jump out of bed around 7.15am and I have a quick shower before heading into work for 7.30am. I’ve got a 30-second stroll between the warehouses before arriving at the office ready to start the day so the daily commute is no hardship. It’s extremely convenient living on site.

Sandy McIntyre

I grab a quick cup of tea with my assistant manager, Iain Whitecross, and have a blether to catch up on any issues that may have arisen during the night. The distillery operates 24-hours-a-day and there is always one of us on call. We review the control system, having a look to see what alarms have occurred and to check on the distilling process. We are a small team of 12 so the interaction of the personnel is very important, as is the communication between the distillery shift operators, our warehousing team and the maintenance engineer.

With the exception of the shift operators the rest of the team start work at 7.45am, so prior to them starting I have a quick check to see if any of the planned activities for the day have changed before they arrive. Despite detailed planning, circumstances can change and we need to be able to respond to differing weather conditions, transport alterations or breakdowns with equipment.

The uplift of mature whisky in tankers or casks is carried out most days, as is the filling of new spirit into empty casks for maturation in any of the 10 warehouses on site. We pride ourselves on the standard of our new make spirit, as well as the quality of our 10-year-old malt whisky, which is always matured in the finest sherry casks.

I catch up with the distillery operator to check the process and discuss any changes I would like to make prior to the next mash. Getting the quality right is very important at this stage as we want to maximise the yield of alcohol we produce, so every small alteration is monitored closely.

As the morning progresses I catch up with paperwork, e-mails and accounts. If it is a particularly busy day with vehicle movements, I will even don my gloves and help load or unload casks with the warehouse operators. A fine workout before lunch.

My lunch:

At 1pm I nip back the 150m to my house for a half hour to grab a bowl of soup and have a quick look at the news. Before starting this job, the last time I went home for lunch was when I was at secondary school 30 years ago. It is still a novelty and a fine chance to have a wee break out of the office.

I head back to the distillery just before the afternoon shift handover to update on any issues that have cropped up during the day.

My afternoon:
A significant number of my afternoons are taken up with contractors planning for our future expansion. We are adding four new warehouses and planning for the site silent season when we close for maintenance repairs. This year we are investing nearly £3million in improvements or expanding the site and it is important we do that safely and spend the money wisely. I check on the site paperwork for HM Revenue & Customs as it is essential that any spirit movements are recorded correctly for safety as well as for the financial aspects of alcohol duty.

We often have visits from our sales and marketing team with customers from their sales region. I carry out a site tour and a nosing and tasting of our products to ensure they are fully aware of the quality and flavours of our whisky. It’s a great opportunity to show off our site and the “can-dhu” passion of the team. I’m also looking forward to showcasing our wonderful distillery to visitors at the Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival on May 1 and 2.

Iain and I have a catch up meeting to sort out the plans for the next few days and a quick coffee before finishing around 4.30pm.

My evening:
It’s a brief stroll home again and depending on whether we have had a group of visitors, I will grab a shower and change before joining them for a meal and a wee dram before getting a taxi home. It’s an important part of the role and I thoroughly enjoy meeting people with a similar passion.

Otherwise I will either head to Elgin to play squash with my two children, Isla and Scott, before returning home (after being beaten) for
dinner, go for a walk along the beautiful Speyside Way or jump on my bike for a quick spin. I passed my motorcycle test last year so when the better weather starts I will try to go for a ride.

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