Keeper of the Quaich

On Monday night I became a ‘Keeper of the Quaich’. For those of you who do not know what that it is, The Keepers of the Quaich is an “exclusive, international community of people recognised for their outstanding commitment to Scotch whisky”.

A quaich derives from the Gaelic ‘cuach’, a drinking bowl. It is a shallow bowl with handles on either side and is the symbol of the society.

At a plush ceremony dripping with tradition at Blair Castle in Scotland, those invited to join say: “I do” to “promoting the values and image of Scotch whisky as the world’s finest and most prestigious spirit.

“Induction into the Keepers of the Quaich is by virtue of industry recognition of an exceptional personal contribution to Scotch whisky”.

There is no getting away from it. The Scottish and the Scotch whisky industry know how to lay on a ceremony and a party.  You cannot help but be flattered to be invited and the palms of most of us were sweating as we awaited our summons to go up the chairman in front of the solid silver Grand Quaich and be welcome by the Grand Master, who is currently Diageo’s CEO, Paul Walsh.

This year six keepers were made up to masters and they included IanWisniewski who regularly writes for Drinks International and is an International Spirits Challenge judge.

Then there were 56 new keepers from 18 countries. Among those were Neil Ridley and Joel Harrison the ‘dynamic duo’ behind Cask Strength, at least two from China, including Howard Cai of Howard’s Kitchen and Alex Yue, founder of the Whisky Trip Whisky Club. There were many senior people lining up for their own quaich. Justin King, CEO of UK multiple retailer, Sainsbury’s. John Burke, Bacardi’s global category director, whisky, Wilson Chan, Moet Hennessy/Diageo China’s senior, regional sales director, Glenmorangie’s human resources director, Ian Drysdale, Moet Hennessy’s marketing strategy director, Marc Hoellinger, Julie Su-Jung Lee, Carlsberg Taiwan’s general manager of spirits marketing. Bartender/mixologist Wayne Collins of Mixxit for Maxxium UK and Stephanie Macleod, John Dewar’s master blender – to name but a few!

Blair Castle in Perthshire, the ancient homes and fortress of the earls and dukes of Atholl is resplendent with weapons of all sorts and deer antlers. The main hall was packed with senior executives and entrepreneurs from around the world all of whom have an interest in the alcoholic spirits business, especially Scotch whisky.

Much toasting was done and the dinner was washed down with: Cutty Sark Storm, Laphroaig Quarter Cask, Glenlivet 18 Year Old and Johnnie Walker Explorers’ Club Collection – The Spice Road. You could have wine as well but, frankly, the Côtes du Rhône wasn’t very good.