The Judges for 2020
In a blind tasting, our expert panel of ten judges, including whisky writers, industry representatives and specialist retailers, selected two finalists from each Whisky Awards category.
Annabel Meikle 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 when she travelled extensively, evangelising about both brands. Annabel has delighted audiences all over the world with her knowledge and passion for Scotch Whisky.
In 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.
Dr Christopher White has over a decade of experience in the whisky industry, and is the Editor of Edinburgh Whisky Blog, an award-winning, influential whisky website. This opinion-based blog offers an alternative view point on the industry; providing views on new releases and marketing initiatives, interviews with industry experts, reports on PR events and product launches, and commentary on the wider whisky world. Chris is also the Auctioneer at Royal Mile Whisky Auctions, an ethical, online whisky auction platform, set up in 2017 by independent, award-winning retailer, Royal Mile Whiskies.
Chris has hosted hundreds tastings across the globe, from the UK and Ireland, to continental Europe, to the USA, and he has worked in an ambassadorial capacity for several whisky brands. He has judged the World Whiskies Awards, the Spirit of Speyside Whisky Awards, the Scottish Whisky Awards, and The Spirits Business’ Global Scotch Masters. He has also attended Diageo’s prestigious Malt Advocates Course and gained the ‘Diploma in the Art of Tasting Whisky’ from the Edinburgh Whisky Academy.
Chris has also sat on the Tasting Panel at The Scotch Malt Whisky Society, as well as being the founder, and former General Manager, of the award-winning Usquabae Whisky Bar in Edinburgh, which stocks over 450 whiskies. More recently, he has been shortlisted as ‘Communicator of the Year’ at Whisky Magazine’s Icons of Whisky Awards 2020.
Although Fergus is originally from Aberdeen and has had a lifelong interest in whisky, he only entered the trade later in life. It was only on returning to his native Scotland after many years in the south of England and abroad that he started in the whisky business.
He went to work as a tour guide at William Grant and Sons, Dufftown Visitor Centre, and in two spells, over eight years became a senior guide, leading VIP tours and trade visits to The Glenfiddich, Balvenie and Kininvie Distilleries. During this time, he gained GCD technical qualifications from The Institute of Brewing and Distilling.
Between the two spells working in Dufftown, he was Manager of Duncan Taylor's Retail store in Huntly for nearly three years, and also was on the tasting/selection panel for Duncan Taylor. This involved monitoring maturation of whiskies in the cask, and checking samples to plan the bottling schedule.
On retiring from William Grant, he was tempted back to Duncan Taylor, and early in 2017 became their first Whisky Ambassador.
Since then, he has travelled extensively all over the globe attending whisky shows and conducting masterclasses.
A trained chef and one-time Restauranteur, Hamish cut his teeth in the Drinks Business as a Sales Representative with the then Lang Brothers Distillers, part of the Robertson & Baxter Group. His portfolio contained Langs Supreme and Glengoyne along with prestigious brands Remy Martin and Krug. The formation of the Macallan Langs Partnership brought an opportunity to be involved in very exciting times as part of the team that built The Macallan brand into the No 1 Malt Whisky brand on Speyside and Scotland.
After 20 years of spirits, Hamish's next chapter was to be in wine, joining BRL Hardy’s Europe where he would spend 10 years and which would see Hardy’s becoming the No 1 wine brand in the UK and Europe. Hamish became UK Sales Manager departing when the Hardy family sold the business. During this tenure, Hardy’s brand annual sales grew from £7 to £250 million.
His final decade, prior to retirement, saw Hamish consolidate his wide wine trade experience as the UK sales Manager, firstly with Stratford Wine Agencies and then Kingsland Drinks the UK’s largest Wine and Spirit Bottlers following their acquisition of the Stratford vintner.
Hamish has lived within a strolling distance of the River Spey, for almost 50 years and although it was wine that earned him his living for many of those years, whisky and particularly Speyside’s fine offerings, have always been closest to his heart.
An unexpected assignment from a drinks magazine when he was starting out in journalism steered Ian Wisniewski into the industry where he has remained. His first visit to a malt whisky distillery was a turning point: he found it so fascinating that he decided he had to learn as much about Scotch whisky as he could, and he is still learning, visiting distilleries as often as possible and constantly asking questions.
Ian is a freelance writer, broadcaster and consultant, focusing on spirits, particularly Scotch whisky, vodka and gin, and contributes regularly to Whisky Magazine (UK and French editions) and Malt Whisky Yearbook, has written four books on whisky, including The Whisky Dictionary, as well as contributing to Michael Jackson’s Encyclopaedia of Whisky. He conducts tutored tastings, classes and courses on various spirits, and has given presentations at the Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival, Craft Expo London and The Worldwide Distilled Spirits Conference, at which he was also the official conference journalist in 2017. He judges spirits in competitions including the World Gin Awards, The International Wine and Spirits Competition and is Chairman of the Vodka judges at the International Spirits Challenge (since 2005). As a regular visitor to distilleries he is always eager to learn more about the production process, which is one of his favourite subjects. He is a Master of the Quaich.
Justine Hazlehurst is the founder of Kask Whisky, a whisky events company based in Edinburgh. As a proud citizen of Leith, Justine has recently started the Leith Whisky Trail – walking tours, focusing on the history of the brokers, blenders and bottlers of what was once a thriving whisky district, which culminate in a tasting of some ‘blast from the past’ drams all linked to the area.
Having worked in Fife for many years before giving up her teaching career to pursue her passion to work in the world of whisky, her love of the Kingdom has led her to set up the Fife Whisky Trail as well as jointly establishing the Fife Whisky Festival. In addition to writing for her own blog, Justine is a regular contributor to Malt, offering honest opinions and reviews of whisky.
Although since leaving teaching, Justine now drinks significantly less whisky, she is very much partial to such Speyside delights as Glen Moray, BenRiach and Glentauchers amongst others. Justine is also very much a believer that bottles of whisky should be opened, poured, shared and drunk in good company.
Paul Rollo is a Son of The Manse from a well-known and highly respected Elgin family. After studying Law and Politics at University, Paul returned home, soon to go into the licence trade in the Moray capital. Paul set up the now highly acclaimed Drouthy Cobbler which, like a breath of fresh air to the Moray pub scene, was instantly coveted by a loyal clientele, keen to support, not only an innovative new pub but music and comedy venue. The addition of Badenoch’s to Paul’s portfolio, a large Sports Bar on Elgin High Street, ensures Paul is kept very occupied.
Keen to expand his whisky knowledge, for both work and leisure, Paul graduated from The Spirit of Speyside Whisky School, which he considers a career highlight and has never looked back. He joined the Spirit of Speyside as a Director in 2014 and although quiet, mild mannered and modest by nature, Paul required very little persuasion to join the judging panel for this year’s Whisky Awards.
After a series of accounting positions in the Malting, Leisure and Timber industries, Robert Anderson took up a similar position with Tomatin, which is a Highland Single Malt, in 1988 just 2 years after the new company at the distillery was formed. He progressed to company secretary in 1990 and in 2009 was appointed MD of J & W Hardie Ltd formed in 2001 to progress the branding side of Tomatin’s business.
In 2010 Robert was appointed CEO of Tomatin and merged the two companies together with a revised strategy of stock evaluation, wood policy, sustainable energy and brand building. Establishing a fresh team around him the company has re-emerged as a well-known brand racking up a series of prestigious Scotch Whisky awards at home and overseas.
At the end of May 2018 Robert stepped down from the CEO position and continued to support Tomatin in the role of Non-executive Director, fully retiring at the end of May 2019. He still keeps in touch with the Board and Staff of Tomatin.
Robert is a Keeper of the Quaich and a supporter of the Worshipful Company of Distillers
Ronnie Routledge's love of whisky has kept him working in the industry for 35 years in various roles for a number of well-known Independent bottlers and distilleries.
Having worked with Gordon & MacPhail’s diverse portfolio and Benromach distillery for many years in his earlier life gave him the foundations and knowledge to progress his career in various avenues.
Ronnie went on to work with Duncan Taylor Independent bottlers for two separate stints and worked directly for Glenglassaugh, Benriach and Glendronach distilleries before diversifying into the cask brokering world where he is currently “Head of Whisky” for Dalkeith Brokerage. His skills include Quality control, marketing, product development as well as performing ambassador roles.
He was honoured with a “Keeper of the Quaich” title in 2003 and has been an industry judge for over 20 years.
Tatsuya Minagawa was born in Yamagata, Japan in 1969. He began working behind the bar at the age of 18 and learned his craft from various well-respected bar owners in his home country. He was 29 years old when he first travelled to Scotland, living and working in the capital city of Edinburgh for 4 years.
In 2003, he travelled north to the quaint little village of Craigellachie situated in the heart of Scottish Malt Whisky country. This decision came about after he was head hunted by Duncan Elphick who was the General Manager of the Craigellachie Hotel at the time. Mr Elphick and was searching for someone with a strong knowledge and passion for scotch whisky to run the hotel’s world-famous whisky bar, The Quaich bar, and had decided that Tatsuya Minagawa would be the right man for the job.
Tatsuya and Mr Elphick had become good friends after working closely together for 2 years at the Craigellachie Hotel and so when Mr Elphick purchased the Highlander Inn in 2005, he offered Tatsuya the position of co-director and whisky manager. The Highlander Inn in Craigellachie shot to fame within the whisky world through the hard work and dedication of both Tatsuya Minagawa and Mr Elphick and after only one year they received their first award. This was the prestigious, Whisky Bar of the Year Award, which was bestowed upon the Highlander Inn in both 2006 and 2007.
However, after working at the Highlander Inn for 6 years Tatsuya was offered a job which he could not refuse, European Brand Ambassador for Suntory Whisky. This position gave him the opportunity to travel all over Europe educating people on a product which he loved and held a true passion for, Japanese Whisky. He held this position for 3 years, travelling to many beautiful destinations and yet he always returned to his new found home of Craigellachie.
In 2015, Tatsuya left Suntory Whisky and returned to Craigellachie permanently upon purchasing the Highlander Inn himself. He is now continuing the work which he and Mr Elphick started all those years ago and is thoroughly enjoying watching the business flourish under his careful supervision.