As the year comes to a close, we too, bid farewell to one of the icons of Scotch Whisky today: Dr Jim Beveridge OBE.
The Master Blender for the iconic Johnnie Walker will call it a day after 42 years of distinguished service. Dr Jim Beveridge will hand the reins over to the capable hands of Dr Emma Walker, who will pick up where he left off starting 2022.
But thankfully, Dr Jim Beveridge was kind enough to grace our pages with some parting words before he finally strides away into the Scottish sunset like it’s one of their Johnnie Walker ads.
In this day and age, how much of whisky making and blending do you feel is science and how much of it is still an art?
Distilling and blending are both science and art. The technicalities of malting, distilling, maturing and blending Scotch means that you make decisions at the right moments that are defined by science – chemistry, physics and maths. Yet, there are so many moments where imagination and flair are the ingredients that make this liquid so special. The real skill is bringing these worlds together in harmony.
What would you regard as your biggest achievement?
There are lots of things that we as a team at Johnnie Walker can be very proud of, but the main thing is that we have, we believe, built on the incredible legacy of great tasting whisky that we inherited. It makes me proud that people around the world still enjoy our whiskies across the four corners of the world.
What was your favourite Johnny Walker offering – regular and one-offs? Which product release were you most proud of and why?
They are all special in different ways. From maintaining the quality and heritage of some of the world’s favourite whiskies such as Johnnie Walker Black Label to developing new expressions such as Johnnie Walker Double Black.
With Johnnie Walker, there are some over-arching principles. If you are going to do something with flavour, you must be bold and commit to it and be brave as a team; whether it’s the rich smokiness of Johnnie Walker Double Black or the light accessibility of recent innovations such as Johnnie Walker Blonde. We have learned to make diverse flavours work and grow our blender’s craft, and I’m incredibly proud of what we achieved.
Did you tend to favour a certain style and profile when you were younger? What was your evolution like?
What I like is great tasting whisky, regardless of style or distillery or region. Often what I choose to enjoy depends on context – where, when and with whom I might be drinking. If it is an informal drink with friends that I might want to try a Johnnie Walker Black Label and ginger highball but if it is something a bit more formal, or a special occasion then I would be tempted to go for something like Johnnie Walker Blue Label.
Single malt gets all the attention these days for the enthusiasts, so the general impression is that they are always superior, even if it’s not the case. How do you think the role of blended Scotch will change in response and what do you think needs to be done?
As blenders, we tend not to think in terms of one whisky type over another. We want to provide great tasting whisky that gives people a real flavour experience and we believe that our whiskies offer a depth and breadth of flavour and texture in a glass that no one single malt can provide.
As blenders, we want to create something greater than the sum of its parts, but we are also conscious that we do not want to lose anything along the way; we want to enhance the flavours by combining them and amplifying the layers of flavour. We believe our whiskies provide a great taste experience with layers of wonderfully bold flavour.
I think that the people who make amazing single malts should continue to do just that – make great tasting whisky.
What will you miss most after retirement and what are you looking forward to?
I will certainly miss working with my team. And while I’m really not sure what is next, I’m certainly looking forward to spending more time with friends and family and developing various interests.
One more for the road: Any words of wisdom for the whisky fans out there that you feel they need to hear?
We want people to explore, enjoy and experiment with the amazing depth and breadth of flavour that Scotch whisky has to offer. Some people have a perception that there’s a ‘right way’ to drink whisky. While the familiar and traditional serves can be great, there are no hard and fast rules, and we want people to enjoy and explore the flavours in a way that suits them.
So from us at Spirited Singapore to Dr Jim Beveridge:
Keep on walking, good sir, and all the best in whatever you decide to do.
Follow us on Telegram to get updated on events and other spirited announcements!