WHEN I started out as a distiller almost two decades ago, I was the only female distiller in the UK. The idea of women drinking whisky, let alone making whisky, was rare. I am pleased to have witnessed that over my career I have seen an increasing number of women taking key roles across the industry.
At Glenmorangie, we have created a welcoming environment, championing diversity, equality, and inclusion. Women now make up almost half of our workforce, and the same is true for our senior executive team. In 2019, we welcomed our first female operators at our Glenmorangie Distillery and what had previously been known as the “men of Tain” became the “people of Tain”. To help ensure we have a diverse workforce, today and in the future, we have an inclusive recruitment process for all roles and an active apprenticeship programme encouraging women to join our production team.
It is no secret; whisky customers and drinkers have changed significantly over the years. According to research from Kantar in 2020, the industry has seen a 15 per cent increase in female customers since 2010. As global sales of scotch whisky continue to grow, the whisky community is becoming ever more diverse.
Glenmorangie is playing a key part of this change. For example, our recent It’s Kind of Delicious and Wonderful campaign, shot by celebrated photographer Miles Aldridge, invites a global audience to explore new corners of Glenmorangie’s world. The campaign sets out to be inclusive, and welcome everyone to share the simple joy of our single malt however you most enjoy it.
If I look back to when I started as a trainee distiller, it was the inquisitiveness, exploration and pursuit of flavour at Glenmorangie that drew me to the company. Since then, the industry has transformed how they nurture a more diverse workforce. At Glenmorangie this includes our family leave policy which extends equal paid rights (six months at full pay) and time off for family leave to all staff regardless of gender, sexual orientation or their route to parenthood. Our team have access to mentoring and coaching programmes and can join initiatives like EllesVMH which is a network of women across our parent company LVMH. This helps support the professional development of women in all positions across the organisation.
Today, I am Glenmorangie’s Master Blender & Head of Whisky Creation, working alongside the legendary Dr Bill Lumsden, Director of Distilling and Whisky Creation. Together, we push the boundaries of whisky innovation. Last year our dedicated space for experimentation, the Glenmorangie Lighthouse innovation distillery, was opened. Using our “what if?” approach, we look to develop a multitude of new flavour profiles for all whisky drinkers, old and new.
Having operated for around 200 years, Glenmorangie is no stranger to innovation. I believe innovation comes naturally from an inclusive diverse workforce with different backgrounds and opinions.
I am proud to be one of the growing number of women in the whisky industry and believe it is a fantastic place for women to flourish. And I am certain that as the workforce continues to diversify, the whisky industry will become ever more successful.
Gillian MacDonald is Master Blender & Head of Whisky Creation, The Glenmorangie Company