Three Whisky Makers Talk About Their Dream Jobs

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Three Whisky Makers Talk About Their Dream Jobs

February 14, 2023 –––––– Lauren Stone, , , ,

Rachel Barrie, Kevin O'Gorman, and Allisa Henley discuss their road to a career in distilling, as well as what they do in their spare time–with answers that cover motorbikes, Baileys Irish Cream, and Tennessee sports of all types. And most important of all, we get their take on what they love most about whisky.

FINAL-Headshot---Rachel-Barrie_600.jpgRachel Barrie

Brown Forman master blender for The GlenDronach, Benriach, and Glenglassaugh single malt scotches

Imagine feeling like there aren’t enough hours in a day to sample whisky. Sounds like a dream for most, but for Rachel Barrie, it’s a reality. As master blender responsible for three single malt scotch labels, she’s constantly testing maturation and exploring new creative boundaries, and taking risks in the lab while balancing traveling and other day-to-day demands of the job. With over 30 years in the whisky industry under her belt, In 2003—then employed with Moet Hennessy and working on Glenmorangie and Ardbeg—she was the first woman in scotch whisky to officially be given the title of master blender. Nine years later she joined Morrison Bowmore and was the master blender for Bowmore, Auchentoshan, and Laphroaig, among others. In 2017 she took on her current role with Brown Forman. To put her resume in perspective, Barrie has sampled well over 150,000 casks in her career to date.

When Barrie needs a refresh of mind and palate she enjoys playing the piano, reading, cooking, photography, outdoor activities, and vintage motorbikes. Barrie and her husband collect and ride the motorbikes with plans to ride the North Coast 500 this year.

Preferred way to drink (straight, ice, water)?

Barrie’s whisky of choice and how she drinks it depends on the moment, place, and time. She likes to sip neat during the cold weather months, enjoys a dram with a drop of water in spring, and takes to the Highball on warm summer days, certainly a Glenglassaugh Highball mixed with tropical fruit juice, soda water, and ice cream.

Favorite whisky cocktail: Blood & Sand

Master-Distiller-Kevin-O_Gorman_600.jpgKevin O’Gorman

Irish Distillers master distiller for Jameson, Redbreast, Midleton Very Rare, Powers, The Spot Range, Method and Madness, and Knappogue Castle

Would you trade your morning joe for a dram? According to Kevin O’Gorman there is no better way to start the workday than analyzing whiskey. He’s in the Midleton Distillery’s quality control lab at 7:30 a.m. to assess the distillate produced the night before. He started at Midleton as a distiller in 1998, working under the direction of the legendary Barry Crockett. In 2007, he became master of maturation and in 2020, master distiller.

O’Gorman’s ties to Midleton started as a fresh college grad when he was hired by Gilbeys of Ireland, an importer of wine and spirits that first introduced Redbreast whiskey to the world in 1912. O’Gorman also worked on Baileys Irish Cream, on the blending side, which was sourcing whiskey from Midleton. So even before O’Gorman joined Midleton he was very familiar with its whiskey.

Family time and keeping fit are important to O’Gorman. He’s a big fan of Gaelic Athletics Association (GAA) sports from hurling to Gaelic football, rugby, and more. When time permits, O’Gorman enjoys a visit to the public house for a whiskey, to meet new people, and good conversations with friends.

Preferred way to drink (straight, ice, water)?

It all depends on the style and proof, but O’Gorman usually adds a drop of water.

Favorite whisky cocktail: There’s no mixing or shaking here; he likes it neat.

Allisa-Henley-High-Res-(1)_600.jpgAllisa Henley

Distiller and general manager at Sazerac's Tennessee whiskey distillery

Allisa Henley’s career in whiskey started over 18 years ago at Dickel (now called Cascade Hollow) where she was tasked with creating a visitor experience program. That role gave her the opportunity to roll up her sleeves and get hands-on training in every aspect of the distillation process. Her diligence and the instruction she received eventually won her a promotion to distiller 10 years later. In 2016, Henley joined Sazerac as general manager and distiller at the company's distillery in Newport, Tennessee.

A native of Tennessee, Henley earned a business degree from the University of Tennessee and an M.B.A. from Lipscomb University in Nashville. When she’s not wearing her distiller’s hat, she’s cheering for Tennessee sports teams, reading, or relaxing by the lake. Go Vols!

Preferred way to drink (straight, ice, water)?With a cube of ice unless it’s her first taste, in that case she prefers it straight.

Favorite whisky cocktail: Old Fashioned

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