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Johnnie Walker appoints its first-ever female master blender

Earlier this week, Johnnie Walker announced the appointment of a new Master Blender and, for the first time in the company’s history, the position will be held by a woman. Dr Emma Walker — no relation to the Walker on the Scotch whiskey’s labels — will take over for Dr Jim Beveridge OBE, who has been Jonnie Walker’s Master Blender for the past 20 years.

Walker joined Diageo, which owns Johnnie Walker, 13 years ago, and has worked as a Scotch blender for the past six years. (She’s responsible for the limited-edition Jane Walker by Johnnie Walker blend, as well as the  Johnnie Walker Blue Label Ghost and Rare series.) In her new role, she’ll lead a 12-person team that will create and develop other new variants of Johnnie Walker whiskies.

Johnnie Walker
Credit: Courtesy of Johnnie Walker

“I am honoured to take on the title of Master Blender of Johnnie Walker, and at an exciting time for the brand as we embark on the next step of our journey looking ahead to the next 200 years,” Walker said. “I love experimenting and innovating with flavour and we’ll be working hard to not only continue to deliver the unrivalled quality that we are renowned for, but also introducing blends to appeal to a new generation of Scotch Whiskey fans.” Beveridge is retiring after a lengthy career with Johnnie Walker, which started 42 years ago when he was hired as an analytical chemist. Last October, Queen Elizabeth II honoured him with the title of  Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) for his “services to the Scotch whiskey industry.”

“It is with pleasure and confidence that I pass on this privilege to Emma,” Beveridge said. “I know she will do a wonderful job as she possesses the knowledge, expertise, and dedication to make an amazing Master Blender. On a personal level, I am delighted for her, and I know that her wonderfully infectious personality, that made working with her so enjoyable, will bring something exciting and different to the team and, indeed, to the wider Scotch industry.”

With her new role, which officially begins on January 1, 2022, Walker will join a small (but steadily increasing) number of women who serve as Master Blenders for their respective distilleries. Elsewhere in Scotland, Rachel Barrie became the Master Blender for The GlenDronach, BenRiach and Glenglassaugh distilleries in 2017, while Kirsteen Campbell was the Master Blender for The Famous Grouse before becoming Master Whisky Maker for The Macallan in 2019.

In 2019, Victoria Eady Butler became the first-known Black female Master Blender in the American spirits industry at Tennessee’s Uncle Nearest Distillery. And in September, Venezuelan rum producer Ron Santa Teresa named Nancy Duarte as its first-ever female Master Blender.

We’re raising a glass to all of them.

This story first appeared on www.foodandwine.com

(Main and Feature Image Credit: Courtesy of Johnnie Walker)

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