Known affectionately as ‘the first lady of Scotch’, Dr Rachel Barrie’s whisky education began early on, when her grandma would soothe frequent earaches with a thimble full of hot toddy.
This early exposure to whisky lit a fire in Barrie, who grew up a stone’s throw from Glendronach in Aberdeenshire. After gaining a degree in chemistry from the University of Edinburgh, she started working as a researcher at the Scotch Whisky Research Institute, which looked ‘a bit like Hogwarts’ at the time.
Having learnt the ropes, it was an easy transition into distilling, with Barrie going on to become the first female master blender of a Scotch distillery, and the first woman to be inducted into Scotch whisky’s Hall of Fame.
For this landmark 100th episode of The Drinking Hour, in partnership with Club Oenologique, host David Kermode chats to Barrie about what her job as master blender for Glendronach, Benriach and Glenglassaugh entails, the responsibility that comes with looking after 100,000 casks of maturing Scotch, her love of travelling the world to source sherry, bourbon and rum casks, and how having a solid grasp of science can help you fine tune and perfect the character of a whisky.