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How Dr. Rachel Barrie is shaking up the industry

The 3 sayings that have resonated with me most on my journey are — ‘Do your best and forget the rest’, ‘Seek balance in every day’ and ‘Success is the sum of small efforts, repeated day-in and day-out’.The first means be the best you can and stay positive, forget negative experiences, and learn from failures […]

The 3 sayings that have resonated with me most on my journey are — ‘Do your best and forget the rest’, ‘Seek balance in every day’ and ‘Success is the sum of small efforts, repeated day-in and day-out’.

The first means be the best you can and stay positive, forget negative experiences, and learn from failures to create something better. Having a positive mindset and assuming positive intent are key to success!

Secondly, every day is about balance — between work and travel, time spent with family and friends, sleep and activity. In terms of whisky making, balance is key to creating the best!

Thirdly, I’m a firm believer in chopping the elephant into bite size pieces, facing challenges one step at a time, each day putting in the effort to build on the success and learnings of yesterday.


As one of only a handful of female Master Blenders in the world, Rachel Barrie is creating some of the world’s finest Single Malt Scotch whiskies. With over 26 years of experience, Rachel joined the Brown- Forman family in March 2017 as Master Blender for The GlenDronach, BenRiach and Glenglassaugh distilleries.

Rachel has been in the industry for 26 years. She first worked as a Research Scientist at the Scotch Whisky Research Institute, optimising flavour character in distillation and maturation. She then moved into production at The Glenmorangie Company, where she worked on Glenmorangie, Ardbeg and Glen Moray single malts as well as Bailie Nicol Jarvie and Martin’s blends, becoming Master Blender in 2003. During this time she also managed the stocks for the Scotch Malt Whisky Society, giving her a deeper insight into a great many more distilleries. She moved to Morrison Bowmore Distillers in 2011 where she developed the whiskies for Bowmore, Auchentoshan and Glen Garioch single malts. also working latterly with Laphroaig and Ardmore. Rachel has tasted over 150,000 casks and can intuitively bring together an expression. In July 2018, Rachel will be awarded an honorary doctorate by the University of Edinburgh for services to the whisky industry and for her understanding of the alchemy of whisky.

Rachel Barrie is from Aberdeenshire in Scotland. She was educated at the Inverurie Academy and studied chemistry at the University of Edinburgh, graduating with honours before beginning her career as a research scientist at the Scotch Whisky Research Institute. She has received numerous industry accolades for her work developing award- winning whiskies, in addition to judging international spirits competitions and serving on numerous industry committees.

When she is not deciding on the composition of blended spirits, Rachel plays the piano, reads, cooks and loves the outdoors. She and her husband have a collection of seven vintage motorbikes.


Thank you so much for doing this with us Rachel! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

Ihave been fortunate to work with exceptional whiskies in the past nearly 28 years of my career. It all started when I began as a research scientist for the Scotch Whisky Research Institute before moving into production and whisky making. As my career progressed, I moved into new product development, and developed a strong passion for whisky blending. In 2003, I was given the role of Master Blender. Since then, I have worked with the finest malt whiskies in the world and have sampled over 150,000 casks. At the pinnacle of my career, in 2017 I moved to Brown-Forman, where I work to develop the portfolios of BenRiach, The GlenDronach and Glenglassaugh single malt Scotch whiskies with a vision for the years ahead. I would say what drew me most to this career was my passion for Scotch malt whisky, and having grown up near Glendronach distillery, what started as a hobby grew to become my job. Each and every day, my mission is to make the ultimate malt whiskies and share them with an increasingly appreciative audience.

Can you tell our readers what it is about the work you’re doing that’s disruptive?

The only constant is change, and my approach is always to disrupt the norm, to change, build and create something new, always improving and seeing new perspectives. My philosophy is to imagine and nurture the best character in each new whisky, working tirelessly to fine-tune until perfected. Authenticity is rooted at the heart of everything I do, and disruptive innovation creates the richness of the future. Fresh thinking drives growth, fueling an increasing appreciation of Scotch whisky across the world.

We all need a little help along the journey — who have been some of your mentors? Can you share a story about how they made an impact?

My parents were my first mentors. Growing up in rural Aberdeenshire, with a strong work ethic, my family was grounded and steady. This laid the foundation for perseverance and growth, as I learned early on that never giving up will always create the best future. In my first whisky research job, Dr. Jim Swan was my mentor, who I’ve described as the ‘Albert Einstein of whisky’. He showed me the way in developing a deep understanding of nature, science, flavor analysis and creation, human variation and the technology of whisky-making. Jim had a great way of joining everything up, of researching everything from the detailed analysis of barley in the field and oak tree in the forest, to distillery process and the nuances of human sensory perception. More than this, he had the vision to shape the future, creating richness in every whisky he nurtured and shared.

Can you share 3 of the best words of advice you’ve gotten along your journey? Please give a story or example for each.

The 3 sayings that have resonated with me most on my journey are — ‘Do your best and forget the rest’, ‘Seek balance in every day’ and ‘Success is the sum of small efforts, repeated day-in and day-out’.

The first means be the best you can and stay positive, forget negative experiences, and learn from failures to create something better. Having a positive mindset and assuming positive intent are key to success!

Secondly, every day is about balance — between work and travel, time spent with family and friends, sleep and activity. In terms of whisky making, balance is key to creating the best!

Thirdly, I’m a firm believer in chopping the elephant into bite size pieces, facing challenges one step at a time, each day putting in the effort to build on the success and learnings of yesterday.

How are you going to shake things up next?

As a disruptor with a strong vision to create the future, this can take the form of trying a new cask type in whisky-making, developing new recipes or styles, or taking a new approach to how each expression is shared, communicated or activated. Whisky lovers will see some great new products out soon, each created from new perspectives and possibilities, building on hundreds of years of Scotch whisky heritage and craft,

Do you have a book/podcast/talk that’s had a deep impact on your thinking? Can you share a story with us?

I enjoy watching TED Talks. The most recent one I’ve watched is Angela Lee Duckworth, talking about Grit: a blend of passion and perseverance. Being passionate with a strong work ethic and growth mindset and working at a steady pace are how I work best.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I would start a movement to celebrate diversity, with a mission to remove barriers, biases and prejudices.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“Love what you do and do what you love.” This mantra sums up how I approach everything I do. My job as a master blender has always felt right to me. It is varied, full of puzzles to solve and new discoveries, which teach me more about life every day. It requires creativity, curiosity and courage, all part of my nature. Whisky making sparks my creativity, and in conjunction with a continuous stream of insights and strategic thinking, it drives me to shape the portfolios in the future. Making whisky is the best job in the world and making it the best it can be is my goal. If I didn’t love doing it, I wouldn’t be where I am today.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

I am active on Twitter, and Instagram!

Twitter: @TheLadyBlender

Instagram: @rbwhiskymaker

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