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Lochlea appoints Laphroaig’s John Campbell as master blender

The industry icon is leaving Islay after 27 years to join Lochlea as their new Production Director and Master Blender finds Rosalind Erskine.

Published: November 28, 2021

The Scotch whisky industry is in a huge period of growth, with a number of new distilleries opening or set to open within the next few years.

From ghost distilleries reawakening, to brand new projects, this is an exciting time for those working in whisky and fans alike. One of the newest is Lochlea, which will release its core expression in early 2022.

The distillery is located in the 222-acre Lochlea Farm near Tarbolton in Ayrshire, which has strong links to Robert Burns.

In a further development to how the whisky and distillery will be shaped, the team recently announced that the former Laphroaig Distillery Manager, John Campbell, will be heading up the production team.

Moving back to the mainland after 27 years working on his native Islay, John brings his extensive experience and has plenty of innovative and sustainable ideas to help shape the future of Lochlea. 

When it came to his new role, John explained that the pandemic and spending time with family were two of the factors in moving.

He said: “If the last 18 months have taught us anything, it’s the importance of family.

"I’d been separated from my sons throughout lockdown and as Scotland started to open up it really made me consider what the future would hold for my family, especially with my youngest son starting school next summer.

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“It was a tough decision to not only leave my home on Islay but also to leave the company that nurtured my career for 27 years.

"For me, it was time to move closer to my sons who live on the mainland and also time to take on a fresh challenge.” 

Lochlea’s appeal, John said, was that it was fresh and innovative and held many of his values. “From my first visit to the distillery, I knew it was special. Lochlea’s values of honesty, passion and progressiveness align closely with my own.

"It’s a young, independent and ambitious whisky bursting with potential. As part of a working farm, there’s full traceability from field to cask which is very important to me.” he explained.

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”Shortly after the initial interview, I brought my partner and son over to visit- what was meant to be an hour long meeting with the owners turned into a full day where we were able to get to know each other over lunch and the kids were able to play outside, enjoying the fresh air and watching the animals graze around the place.

"From then I knew it was exactly what I was looking for personally and professionally.” 

Lochlea Whisky commercial manager, David Ferguson, added: “John’s experience, skill and knowledge of the whisky industry is unparalleled and is a very welcome addition to the Lochlea team.

"From our first conversation with John, we knew he understood our vision in creating a lowland whisky with a difference, focusing on full traceability from grain to glass.”

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It won’t be a surprise to many whisky aficionados that Lochlea’s liquid will be different to Laphroaig, but it’s not a standard lowland malt, as John explained: “It's a very different whisky and a wee bit more delicate than the Islay whiskies but not quite what you would expect from a typical lowland malt.

"It's very fruity, fresh and non-peated and, like all good whiskies, it has nice depth.

"It has a lot of potential and I’m looking forward to helping the team create something really special in the release of the core expression in early 2022.” 

When asked what the future holds, John simply said: “Lots of good whisky from Lochlea. People always ask me what my career highlight has been but I feel like that’s still to come.

"And it could well be in helping to create something truly distinctive with Lochlea Distillery.”

Known for cake making, experimental jam recipes, Champagne and gin drinking (and the inability to cook Gnocchi), Rosalind writes for The Scotsman on all things food and drink related as well as hosting Scran, The Scotsman's food and drink podcast.

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