The Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival is indebted to the Whisky School Headmaster and the Committee, all volunteers, who develop, deliver, and host the programme.

They are:

Alan Winchester, Headmaster

Ann Miller, Committee Chair


Richard Beattie, Robert Fotheringham, Mark Kinsman, Colin McKenzie, Matthew Porritt, Jim Simpson

Alan J. Winchester, Dip Dist, FIBD

Alan J. Winchester, Dip Dist, FIBD


Lectures - Brief History of Scotch Whisky with Colin A. Mackenzie and Overview of the Scotch Whisky Industry

A Master of the Keepers of the Quaich, Alan was Whisky Magazine winner of Master Distiller of the Year in 2017 and received the coveted International Spirits Challenge Lifetime Achievement Award in 2018. The Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival named Alan its Ambassador of the Year in 2012 and honoured him with the Spirit of Speyside Lifetime Achievement Award in 2022.

Alan has spent over 45 years in the whisky industry and began his professional whisky journey in 1975 as a distillery guide, just for the summer, and progressed to a full-time production role by the end of the year. During his career, Alan was involved with over 21 distilleries and when in 2002 he was named Chivas Brothers’ Distilling Manager he was responsible for 14 malt whisky distilleries. He represented the company on various industry bodies, including president at the Management Committee of Malt Distillers Association of Scotland and Chairman of the Scottish Section of the Institute of Brewing and Distilling.

In 2009, he was named The Glenlivet Master Distiller. In response to the industry’s recent growth, his responsibilities included undertaking significant expansion projects to meet demand across the globe and he played a key role in, amongst others, the re-opening of Glen Keith and the building of a new distillery on Speyside, Dalmunach.

Alan retired from the role of Distilling Manager for Chivas Brothers in 2018 but continues to share his knowledge and expertise as a consultant to a number of distillery projects. He has a strong personal interest in the history of the industry, often trading thoughts and discoveries with industry colleagues and journalists around the world, some of whom seek approval on points of fact and myth. His ultimate accolade is that his passion for and knowledge of Scotch whisky is rated second to none.

Scott Adamson, Dipl. Dist.

Scott Adamson, Dipl. Dist.

Blender and Global Brand Ambassador, Tomatin Distillery

Lecture - Maturing and Nurturing Scotch New Make Spirit

Scott Adamson is an experienced brand ambassador and whisky blender, having spent more than a decade working in the industry. This varied role sees him travel across the world promoting Tomatin Highland Single Malt Scotch Whisky. When he is not travelling, Scott’s time is spent in cask selection, maturation control and blending, giving him a front row seat in product development.

Scott was born in Inverness and brought up in Evanton, Ross Shire. Whilst studying for his Honours degree in Scottish History he managed to secure the position of ‘Research Intern’ within Tomatin Distillery. It was then he realised his natural enthusiasm for history lent itself well to the Scotch Whisky Industry and upon graduating, he joined Tomatin as ‘Regional Sales Manager’, covering a large number of European markets.

Scott worked and lived onsite for 4 years, and following a brief spell at Whyte & Mackay, he realised his true passion lies within cask selection and whisky creation. He re-joined Tomatin in 2018 as Global Brands Ambassador, the first role of its kind within the company. In 2021 he won the Scotch Whisky Brand Ambassador category at Whisky Magazine’s prestigious Icons of Whisky Scotland 2021 awards. In 2022 he passed his Diploma in Distilling with the Institute of Brewing and Distilling.

Richard Beattie, BSc, FIBD

Richard Beattie, BSc, FIBD

GlenAllachie Distillery Operations Director

Lectures with Jim Simpson - Scotch Whisky Mashing; Scotch Whisky Fermentation

Richard Beattie joined GlenAllachie Distillery in 2018 following its purchase by Billy Walker. He was previously Director of Distilling at Mossburn Distillers Ltd, parent company for Torabhaig Distillery in Skye and Akashi Distillery in Japan.

Richard began his career as distillery manager at Speyside Scotch Malt Whisky Distillery and has almost 30 years’ experience within the industry. His past roles include Distilling & Technical Sales Director for Crisp Malting Group and Business Development Director at Briggs of Burton, where he was involved in developing distilling projects in Scotland, Ireland, and the US.

A Fellow of the Institute of Brewers and Distillers, Richard is a former Chairman of the Scottish section of the Institute of Brewing & Distilling, a member of the Education and Training committee of the Malt Distillers Association of Scotland and has chaired the commercial committee for the last five Worldwide Distilled Spirits Conference.

Robert Fotheringham, BSc, FIBD,

Robert Fotheringham, BSc, FIBD,

Global Technical Manager, Lallemand Biofuels & Distilled Spirits

Lectures: The Science of Flavour in New Make Spirit – Parts 1 & 2

Robert has 40 years’ experience of the distilled spirits industry and possesses qualifications in both analytical chemistry and brewing and microbiology. He is a Fellow of the Institute of Brewing and Distilling.

Robert’s career has seen him hold positions as a laboratory assistant at Distillers Company Limited, technical brewer at The Caledonian Brewery in Edinburgh, research scientist and laboratory manager at The Scotch Whisky Research Institute, Edinburgh and for 16 years he was Chief Chemist for Chivas Brothers, Pernod-Ricard, based in Scotland. He is currently Global Technical Manager at Lallemand Biofuels and Distilled Spirits.

His experience covers process troubleshooting & optimization, spirits analysis techniques and extensive knowledge of flavour chemistry, new product development, maturation, and regulated analytes. He has presented papers internationally on the authenticity of Scotch Whisky at the AOAC Florida, IWABA Cyprus and was the author of a chapter on spirits analysis in the Alcohol Textbook. Through the Ethanol Technology Institute, he presents lectures on topics as diverse as flavour control, maturation, and analytical techniques in spirits laboratories.

Mark Kinsman, Dipl.Malt, BSc, FIBD

Mark Kinsman, Dipl.Malt, BSc, FIBD

Distilling and Export Customer Manager, Bairds Malt (Retired)

Lecture - Barley, Malting and Malt

Mark first worked in the malting industry for Moray Firth Maltings on a student placement starting in January 1981 and returned to the industry after finishing university in 1983 as a laboratory manager.

Mark joined the Bairds team in 1988 when he took up the role of Process Manager at their Arbroath Maltings. In 1990, he took on role of Plant Manager at their Inverness Maltings and has been based in the Highlands for the last 30 years. Mark has been the face of Bairds for many of their distilling customers in the time since he joined their commercial team in 2005, representing the business across Scotland and the Far East until retirement in 2020.

“When I first took on the role as Plant Manager in Inverness it was owned by Moray Firth Maltings, but in 2000 when I became the Production Manager for Scotland, both Hugh Baird and Moray Firth had merged to become Bairds Malt as it is known today,”

Mark was elected a Fellow of The Institute of Brewing & Distilling in 2018 after over 10 years of committee work with the Scottish Section of The Institute of Brewing and Distilling. His role included being Chairman of the World-Wide Distilled Spirits Conference held in Glasgow in 2014 and Chairman of the Institute of Brewing and Distilling, Scottish Section in 2015 and 2016.

Colin A. Mackenzie BSc. (Hons), Dip. Arch., RIBA RIAS

Colin A. Mackenzie BSc. (Hons), Dip. Arch., RIBA RIAS

Lecture with Alan Winchester - Brief History of Scotch Whisky

Colin is an Associate Member of Archives & Records Association (ARA) and a Chartered Architect with over 35 years of experience in the design of military, pharmaceutical, industrial & retail, leisure, healthcare, educational and residential buildings, working in the UK and abroad. In 2010 he retired as Technical Director of DCa architects Ltd. in Buckinghamshire to undertake his own development project in NE Scotland.

He is an expert in researching historic buildings and sites in order to inform. This involves the identification and analysis of evidence, archive research, record drawings and reporting to recognised standards.

Colin is the great-great-grandson of Alexander Mackenzie, an illicit distiller and whisky smuggler in the early 1800’s, who lived in the famous Glenlivet region of Scotland. Alexander’s son Peter (Colin’s great-grandfather) managed The Glenlivet Distillery from 1901 until his death in 1929.

Colin has a lifelong interest in the unique history of Scotch whisky spirit - its rich and multi-faceted story and all surviving items and records associated with it. He has a reference collection of historic bottles accumulated over 35 years that includes examples dating back to the mid 1700’s and a range of related artefacts illustrating many different ways that Scotch whisky has been packaged and promoted over the years. He is a former Trustee of The Cabrach Trust.

Stephanie Macleod

Stephanie Macleod

Director of Blending, Scotch Whisky, John Dewar & Sons Ltd

Lecture - The creation of single malts and blended Scotch whiskies

Stephanie began her career as a Research Assistant at the University of Strathclyde working on the sensory and chemical properties of many different types of food and drink, with the most significant one being Scotch whisky.

In 1998, after 4 years in academia, she decided to join the whisky industry and so her career with Dewar’s began in the Quality department. After a year, she became the laboratory manager, with the remit of providing chemical and sensory support for the distilleries all the way through to the finished product. At the same time, she also managed the Whisky Preparation team, ensuring that the spirit was of the correct type and quality for the bottling lines.

Then in 2003, Stephanie became Blender Designate preparing and training to become the Master Blender. She assumed the role in 2006 when the then Master Blender, Tom Aitken, retired and became the 7th Master Blender for John Dewar & Sons Ltd in 1846.

Stephanie and her team have continued to maintain the house style of Dewar’s, as well as launching many new expressions within the portfolio of Blends and Single Malts of Dewar’s and William Lawson’s. The success and increased demand led Stephanie to expand her team in 2020 to include more blenders and inventory analysis specialists. Then in January 2023, Stephanie was promoted to Director of Blending with the remit of focusing on delivering the capability to fulfil the company’s ambitions on the Scotch whisky portfolio, as well as continuing to nurture and build the talent in her team.

Ann Miller, MA Hons

Ann Miller, MA Hons

The Dram Queen, Chair of the Whisky School Committee

Tasting - The Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival Awards Finalists

Recently honoured by joining the exclusive ranks of a Master of the Keepers of the Quaich, Ann was selected as an International Brand Ambassador by Chivas Brothers at a time when these roles were considered exclusively masculine. As the group’s portfolio of malts and premium blends brands expanded, so did her role. She enjoyed a long career during which she was responsible for communicating engagingly about a wide range of whisky brands around the world. An important part of her role to communicate effectively what is so special about Scotch whisky in general and each brand in particular, was managing and delivering in depth and bespoke training courses for a range of industry guests from many countries as well as hosting frequent media visits.

Ann was one of the founders of the Festival which she served as a volunteer Director for 20 years. She was honoured to be made a Lifetime Ambassador in 2007.

Since 2020 Ann has been independent as The Dram Queen, offering entertaining and informative Scotch whisky experiences in which she shares her passion, knowledge and behind the scenes expertise as well as itinerary planning services. Ann is also an Accredited Educator and Provider of a range of training courses throughout Scotland for the Edinburgh Whisky Academy.

Andrew Russell

Andrew Russell

General Manager, Speyside Cooperage

Lecture - Wood for Scotch Whisky Maturation

Andrew spent 22 years with Whyte and MacKay at Invergordon Distillers. During that time, he was involved in distillation, filling, warehousing, and blending as well as wood management on site, cask selection and choosing the type of casks for particular fillings and finishes. He ran the onsite cooperage for 10 years.

He is currently General Manager at Speyside Cooperage, the largest independent cooperage in the UK. They provide a repair, rebuild and cask rejuvenation service, as well as sourcing and supplying casks to most of the whisky producers in Scotland.

In this role Andrew is responsible for the operation of the cooperages in Craigellachie, Alloa, and Shepherdsville in Kentucky. His remit includes the sourcing of new oak for the manufacturing of casks made from French, American, Japanese oak as well as several other places around the world.

Jim Simpson

Jim Simpson

Distillery Production Control and Quality Control Manager [Retired]

Lectures with Richard Beattie – Scotch Whisky Mashing; Scotch Whisky Fermentation

Jim joined Chivas Brothers in January 1977 in the Yeast Laboratory at Glen Keith distillery.

He spent the early years of his career gaining knowledge and experience of analytical techniques, yeast production, fermentation, distillery processes and in particular distillery hygiene control. During this time, he studied part time and gained an HNC in Biological Sciences from RGIT in 1982.

In 1985 he moved to Production as trainee brewer with spells at Glen Keith, Strathisla and Glen Grant distilleries. He also spent some time as team leader at the cask filling operation at Glen Keith. Returning to the laboratory in 1988 he looked after the analysis of malt and production process samples.

In 1990 he joined Campbell Distillers as Distilleries Chemist with responsibility for building a new laboratory to support production at Campbell’s three distilleries, Aberlour, Glenallachie and Edradour. The main objectives were to improve yields and improve compliance in wastewater discharges.

During the 1990’s he introduced analytical and organoleptic quality control, worked on, and implemented a major project with Pernod-Ricard Research to remove copper from effluent, developed computer-based accounting for distilleries and was involved with the implementation of SAP in production.

At the beginning of 2000 he took on additional role of Quality Manager for Campbell Distillers whilst continuing as Distilleries Chemist, dividing time between Glenallachie and the bottling hall at Kilwinning. His main objectives included maintaining quality standards in bottling, developing quality control, improving efficiency, and reducing waste.

Jim returned to Glen Keith Technical Centre as Production Control Manager in 2002 when Pernod-Ricard purchased the Chivas Brothers’ Scotch whisky business from Seagram. He continued to work with the team at Glen Keith to provide support for distillery management at all 14 distilleries in Chivas Brothers. He worked closely with Maltsters and yeast suppliers on product quality and was involved with raw materials, processing and NIR groups at SWRI. He was honoured to become a Keeper of the Quaich in 2016 and retired in 2019.

Diane Stuart, BSc, Dip Dist, PGCert

Diane Stuart, BSc, Dip Dist, PGCert

Whisky Maker – The Macallan

Lecture - An Introduction to Sensory Appreciation and How to Taste

Originally from Speyside, Diane’s first step into the whisky industry was a summer job as a Distillery tour guide. Having studied for a degree in Forensic Science at The Robert Gordon University, Aberdeen, Diane also has a sound scientific background. After graduating in 2009, Diane combined her existing science and distilling knowledge in her first professional role as an Analytical Scientist at The Scotch Whisky Research Institute (SWRI) in Edinburgh. During her time there Diane became a sensory panellist and subsequently took responsibility for managing the day-to-day activities of the sensory panel, which led to a greater involvement in flavour research. During Diane’s time at the SWRI, she attained additional qualifications, gaining The Institute of Brewing and Distilling’s Diploma in Distilling and a Postgraduate Certificate in Sensory Science from the University of Nottingham.

Diane joined Edrington in 2017 as a Trainee Blender, relishing the opportunity to apply her technical knowledge in a production role, and the following year was promoted to Assistant Blender. During this time, she worked as part of the wider sample room team on a varied remit of whisky making activities, including assessing and approving whisky for use in vattings, nosing casks, assessing new make spirit, trouble shooting of production issues, recruitment and training of sensory panel members, and providing training on how Scotch whisky is made. In 2020 Diane was promoted to Master Blender for Naked Malt, taking on responsibility for all elements of liquid delivery, including cask laydown, blend make-up and quality. In February 2022 Diane joined The Macallan as a Whisky Maker. Diane plays a key role in the Whisky Mastery Team, creating and enhancing The Macallan’s exceptional portfolio of single malt whiskies and driving forward the brand’s legacy for the future, based on almost two centuries of whisky making heritage. In this role as the Whisky Maker she uses her skill, experience and craft to support the Lead Whisky Maker in assembling The Macallan’s new and existing single malt whisky expressions and ensure the highest possible quality and consistency in the final product.

Dr Stuart Watts, BSc,

Dr Stuart Watts, BSc,

Distilleries Director, Wm Grant & Son Ltd.

Lecture – Distillation

Stuart has worked in the Scotch Whisky industry for over 20 years. He originally trained at Glasgow University where he completed his BSc (Hons) in Biochemistry, before carrying out a PhD in association with the SWRI. Sponsored by Suntory plc., Stuarts' PhD examined the derivation of flavour within Scotch Whisky, specifically looking at how sulphur derived flavours were formed during the production process.

On completion of his studies in 2003, Stuart moved to WM Grant’s Technical Support function working on a number of production efficiency, spirit quality and new liquid development projects. In 2005 Stuart moved to production as Distillation Team Leader for the company’s grain distillery at Girvan, working as part of the team who designed and built a completely new grain still as well as their gin distillery where Hendricks’s gin is produced.

In 2007 he became Production Manager at Girvan, responsible for the complete grain and newly completed malt distillery, Ailsa Bay, on the Girvan site. Stuart moved to the Dufftown site in 2009 as Site Team Leader, responsible for WM Grant’s operation in the north. From 2010 – 2013, while based in Dufftown, Stuart was one of the Directors of the Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival.

In 2013 Stuart returned to Girvan to take up the post of Team Leader for the Girvan site. His responsibilities included operations on the Girvan distilleries site, including grain and malt whisky distillation, gin distillation as well as the site​'​s extensive spirit handling and warehousing operations. In 2021 Stuart was ​appointed ​Distilleries Director and is responsible for the supply of all liquid production from its distilleries across the group.

He is currently the ​C​hair of the Scottish section of the Institute of Brewing and Distilling, a board member of the Scotch Whisky Research Institute [SWRI] and a Council Member of the National Cooperage Federation. In 2019 he was made a Keeper of the Quaich.

Committee Members who are not also speakers:

Matthew Porritt

Matthew Porritt

Brand Homes Manager, Inver House Distillers

Matthew grew up in New Zealand but moved to Scotland in 2015, following a passion for whisky. He landed at Glenfarclas, intending to gain work experience for four months working in the warehouses, in mashing and then distilling. Four months turned into eight years as he was offered a job at Glenfarclas as a summer tour guide and then a permanent role, managing the Visitor Centre.

During the pandemic, with the Visitor Centre closed to the public, Matthew was asked to re-train as a Mashman to cover for an operator who was shielding. He says this is a worthwhile experience to have behind him, but not one he wishes to repeat!

In 2023, Matthew accepted a position with Inver House Distillers, responsible for the visitor experiences at Speyburn and Knockdhu distilleries and for Caorunn Gin.

Matthew has more recently taken an interest in the history of distilling in Scotland. His spare time is often spent walking in the hills, searching for the remains of illicit distilling sites from the early 1800’s.

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