To mark International Women’s Day, Sean Murphy talks to Maureen Robinson, master blender for Diageo, who recently celebrated 40 years in the industry

In what is traditionally considered to be a male-dominated industry, it could be perceived as difficult for women to stand out.

Maureen Robinson, who is ­celebrating 40 years with drinks giant Diageo this year, has enjoyed bucking that trend.

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She said: “When I first went into blending it was quite male-dominated and I like to think I helped bring more attention to what women were capable of given the chance.

“There are now so many females in the industry. In days gone by it was mainly in the bottling halls and ­production side, but I think in the past ten years it has become more prevalent that women have begun to shine in more important roles.”

Master blender for Diageo’s ­whisky team, Maureen is involved in both blended Scotch and single malts, and has helped to launch some of the ­company’s most exciting annual ­special releases over the years.

She added: “You get a real sense of excitement working on the special releases. Along with Keith from my team, we look at what we can do going forward and what we have done in the past with these lovely whiskies.”

Over recent years, Maureen and her team have overseen the release of some classic single malts such as a 12-year-old Lagavulin, a 40-year-old single grain from Cambus and a 37-year-old Port Ellen, which Maureen describes as “stunningly good”.

But the project in which she takes a real sense of pride is her involvement with the brand’s Singleton project and the release of the three expressions in Asia, North America and Europe.

She said: “It is a project that is close to my heart. I’ve been involved right from the start when we introduced Singleton of Ord to Asia in 2004.

“I actually went out to Taiwan and sat in on some consumer panels to try to get a better understanding of their flavour palates and what they liked, which also helped us when it came to working out how we would approach the other regions and what kind of spirit they enjoy.”

The master blender is in the process of completing the line-up for this year’s Special Release range, which comes out in October, but she wouldn’t be drawn on which whiskies will be involved.

She said: “That’s a secret I’m afraid, but I can tell you that we have one or two high-end Singleton projects that will be worth looking out for.”

 

About The Author

Sean Murphy

Driven by a passion for all things whisky-related, Sean writes for The Scotsman extensively on the subject. He can also sometimes be found behind the bar at the world famous Potstill bar in Glasgow 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.

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