Dhavall Gandhi: The whisky scientist

Whisky's rising star Dhavall Gandhi talks to Drinks International about his new consulting venture.

My first job was in whisky, my dad used to love Scotch and on Sunday mornings when I was seven or eight years old, I would get one or two rupees to dust my dad’s study, including his amazing collection of whiskies and Cognac. I also always had the nose – when I was growing up, my friends would put pencils under my nose and I could tell which brand of pencil it was. I’d come home from school and the moment I walked in the door I could tell what my mother had cooked for lunch.” 

On 31 December 2022, Dhavall Gandhi, one of the most celebrated whisky makers in the world, le his position as master blender and director of whisky & spirits operations for The Lakes Distillery, closing the curtains on not just an important five-year chapter for the Cumbrian distillery but English whisky in general. 

The following day Dhavall Gandhi Whisky was officially born, a project self-described as “private banking for the whisky consulting world” and the latest move in a career spent pointed towards creative freedom. 

“If I had to distil my brain and my skills and just do what I think I’m really good at, it would be what I am doing now, says Gandhi.” 

Following an undergrad in corporate nance and economics in the States, Gandhi took work as a consultant at Ernst & Young before a realisation on the steps of a distillery in Kentucky changed his course. 

“At Ernst & Young I missed using my hands and using my mind, it was intellectually pushing, but Microsoft Excel was my best friend,” he says. 

“We were in Kentucky for a client engagement, and we decided to go on a distillery tour. It was there at Maker’s Mark I realised that what I wanted to do in my life was to make whisky. Leaving the high-paid world of management consultancy behind, Gandhi and his wife packed up and moved to Scotland and a post-graduate degree in brewing and distilling at Heriot-Watt University. 

“After graduating, I worked with Heineken, which was previously Scottish Newcastle, as the technical manager for western Europe area. There I learned a lot about operations, whether that’s running a 16 million hectolitre brewery or understanding yeast and fermentation.” 

Then came the opportunity at The Macallan to realise his ambition to become a whisky blender. 

“With Macallan, I got to go much, much deeper into blending and maturation and really look at understanding sherry casks. I also admired Macallan for the way it thinks. There are many amazing whiskies out there, but it is the brand that is synonymous with luxury.” 

RISING STAR

During his tenure at The Macallan, Gandhi became one of whisky’s bona de rising stars, a new breed of cerebral whisky scientist working at the category’s most exclusive brand. It raised a few eyebrows when, in 2016, Gandhi joined a then little-known distillery across the border in England of all places.