The Judges

Annabel Meikle

Annabel Meikle

Annabel has worked in the whisky industry since 2001, organising events and tastings with the Scotch Malt Whisky Society. She was instrumental in opening new venue at 28 Queen Street in Edinburgh, in 2004. There she continued to grow the corporate membership. 

In 2007 she was appointed as the global brand ambassador for Glenmorangie and Ardbeg and she travelled extensively, evangelizing about both brands. Annabel has delighted audiences all over the world with her knowledge and passion for Scotch Whisky.

IIn 2013, she established her own consultancy, the Whisky Belle, working with a variety of clients, including some of the newly built distilleries. She was a regular contributor to Radio Scotland and was contributing editor on two publications. Annabel continued to educate and entertain during her imaginative tastings and she is well respected for her sensory evaluation and tasting notes.

Annabel has been in the role of Director of the Keepers of the Quaich since May 2015, when she relocated the office north of the Border. The Keepers of the Quaich recognises the outstanding contribution to those who work in the industry. Her role is to organise the two ceremony and banquets each year where new members are inducted into the society at Blair Castle. She has successfully brought the society up to date with the energy and enthusiasm she brings to her work, driven by her passion and commitment to Scotch Whisky.

 Blair Bowman

Blair Bowman Photo

Blair Bowman is an in-demand whisky writer and consultant specialising in Scotch whisky. He has been involved in the whisky industry since he was of legal drinking age, firstly as a co-founder of a whisky society and latterly as the founder of World Whisky Day.

Blair has been actively promoting whisky for over eight years, writing professionally about whisky as well as sitting on judging panels at whisky competitions and tasting panels. He now acts as a consultant to the whisky industry on a wide variety of matters.

Dave Broom

Dave Broom Photo

Dave Broom was born in Glasgow, Scotland and has spent his whole working life in the world of drink, starting on the Black & White whisky bottling line, then Oddbins, Off Licence News and, for the past 22 years, as a freelance writer specialising in spirits.

He’s written twelve books. His ‘Whisky: The Manual’ was awarded Best Spirits Book at the Spirited Awards in 2015.  The ‘World Atlas of Whisky’ has been called “a landmark publication”.  ‘Whisky-do, a Journey into Japanese Whisky’ will be published in September 2017.

He is chief engineer for, and writes for a number of other international titles.  As a member of the Taste & Flavour education team he teaches the WSET’s Professional Certificate in Spirits (and wrote their textbook), as well as teaching and designing in-house training courses for distillers.

He was one of the team which developed (and continue to maintain) the generic Single Malt Flavour Map for Diageo and is regularly spotted at various international trade and consumer fairs.

He also appears on a semi-regular basis on Sunday Brunch (Channel 4) and was the consultant on ‘Scotch! The Story of Whisky’ for the BBC.

In 2013, he was awarded the Communicator of the Year at the ISWC awards and in 2015 was voted Best Spirits Writer at the Spirited Awards. In 2015 he was made International Ambassador of the Year at the Spirit of Speyside Whisky festival.  He is a Master of the Quaich.

Keir Sword

Keir Sword Photo

Keir Sword’s introduction to the whisky industry was as a student back in 1993 when he got a summer job in Royal Mile Whiskies. He was immediately hooked and worked on and off in the shop throughout his university days, as well as in Oddbins and in Peckhams. He considers himself very lucky to have been in the right place at the right time, when the opportunity to buy Royal Mile Whiskies came up in 1997. In the twenty years since, the business has grown to include The Cigar Box, a London branch of RMW, the multi-award-winning, as well as Drinkmonger shops in Pitlochry and Edinburgh and The shops have built up a strong reputation for their huge range and their friendly and very knowledgable staff.

Keir, a Master of the Quaich, has sat on various whisky judging panels including a previous stint for The Speyside Whisky Festival Awards. He works out of the company’s Edinburgh base where he commutes daily from his home in the Scottish Borders.

Martine Nouet

Martine Nouet Photo

French born, Martine Nouet, is an author and journalist who writes exclusively about food and spirits. Her love of Scottish Malt Whiskies brought her to the Isle of Islay on the west coast of Scotland and she has now made Islay her home. Martine currently works both in France and in the UK as well as travelling the world to invitation whisky events. She is a regular contributor to She launched Whisky Magazine French edition in 2004 and was the editor for six years before deciding to concentrate on writing and cooking. She has pioneered a new trend in the world of whisky, the sensory idea of pairing whiskies with a suitable food counterpart.

Martine was made a Master of The Quaich in April 2012, an honorific distinction awarded to very few by the whisky industry. She has also taken part in TV programmes on whisky e.g. as whisky chef on “Singlemalt TV” and with French Canadian film-maker Bruno Carrière in his fourteen part series “Passion Whisky” for Evasion Channel. She has been a judge at the annual international Wine & Spirit Competition since 2000.

In September 2015, she authored "Le guide Hachette des whiskies" for which she was awarded "Le Grand prix du Livre Spirits 2015".

Mike Lord

Mike Lord Photo

Mike Lord is genuinely passionate about whisky. He has always loved whisky but it was a visit to Speyside for Hogmanay that created his real passion for single malt and the Speyside region. Mike gave up his career in the City to pursue his love of whisky full time and in 2006 he bought The Whisky Shop Dufftown and has made it a world renowned business. In 2016 he won Whisky Magazine’s Icon of Whisky Award for Best Whisky Shop in Scotland (single outlet) for the second time. 

The Whisky Shop Dufftown is one of the largest providers of events to the festival.  The shop also runs its own festival over the last weekend in September.

Like his shop, Mike is truly independent. He loves to bring out the fun and excitement of sampling whisky from the first to the last drop. A visit to Mike’s shop will show you the vast range of whiskies that are available from Scotland and the amazing variety of flavours that whiskies have. The shop hosts whisky tastings to help you on a tailor-made journey to explore the world of single malts. Mike will also answer any questions that you have from the perspective of an independent whisky ambassador running a small shop with a global reputation.

Penny Ellis

Penny Ellis PhotoPenny, a former Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival Director, jointly owns and runs Knockomie Hotel in Forres.  With over 30 years' experience in the hospitality industry, Penny has also worked with J&B Rare Whisky and Cutty Sark Scots Whisky, looking after and managing the companies' corporate guests.  Penny developed a keen interest in whisky through her hotel located near the Western gateway to the Speyside Whisky Trail.Penny Ellis Photo

Penny has written many articles about whisky and used to write a regular Whisky Column for the Scots Magazine.  She has written a book titled Distinguished Distilleries and regularly hosts whisky tastings at the hotel and other locations.

Sean Murphy

Sean Murphy Photo

Driven by a passion for all things whisky-related, Sean Murphy has written extensively on the subject for The Scotsman, which he joined in 2015.

Working as part of the team behind the Scotsman Food and Drink he has helped to run the online blog for the past few years, where he has written articles and reviews, as well as hosting regular live tastings for whisky, beer and gin, featuring some of Scotland's most popular brands. 

A fan of whisky in all of its forms, Sean specialises in Scottish single malts, though he also enjoys everything from single grains and blended malts, to whiskies produced in other countries, particularly those hailing from Japan. 

Before becoming a journalist, he could be found behind the bar at the world famous Potstill pub in Glasgow where he learned his trade and still does the occasional guest shift where he continues to enhance his whisky knowledge built up over six years advising customers from all over the world on the wonders of our national drink.

Steve Rush

Steve Rush Photo

Steve Rush, is a freelance whisky industry consultant, writer, digital and social communications specialist, who over the last six years has passionately preached and promoted the world of whisky, through his two industry renowned websites; The Whisky Wire and The Whisky Business.

Steve also manages one of the world’s most influential whisky Twitter accounts @TheWhiskyWire where he hosts his series of industry leading Tweet Tastings. To date Steve has hosted over 100 events for over 70 of the world’s biggest whisky and other fine spirit brands.

Over the last six years, Steve has also helped to spread the good word of the dram in his passionately exuberant, relaxed and informative style, through his numerous group/corporate tastings events. He also writes/contributes to articles for companies including Virgin Atlantic, and also judges for industry competitions such as The Spirits Business Scotch Masters.

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