First female whisky master blender honoured at University of Edinburgh

An Edinburgh based whisky maker has become the first female master blender to be given an honorary doctorate by the University of Edinburgh.

Rachel Barrie receives her award at Edinburgh University. Picture: contributed
Rachel Barrie receives her award at Edinburgh University. Picture: contributed

Rachel Barrie, who is one of only a handful of women have reached the position in the whisky industry, creates the hugely popular single malt ranges for the BenRiach, Glenglassaugh and The GlenDronach distilleries.

Her expertise and service to the whisky industry were recognised by the university when she was made an honorary Doctor of Science at a ceremony on Monday 9th July.

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Vastly experienced, Ms Barrie’s job involves nosing and tasting thousands of casks to select which whiskies will be released onto the market, as well as planning the stocks for the coming year.

Picture: contributed

Originally from Aberdeenshire, the spirits expert explained that her love of whisky began with her childhood, growing up close to the Speyside region, an area of Scotland which has the highest concentration of distilleries in the world.

Studying chemistry at the University of Edinburgh, she began her whisky career as a research scientist at the Scotch Whisky Research Institute. She has since received numerous industry accolades for her work developing award-winning whiskies, in addition to judging international spirits competitions and serving on numerous industry committees.

Commenting on her honorary doctorate, Ms Barrie said: “This is one of the proudest moments of my life. My quest has been to unlock a deeper understanding of the distillation, maturation and provenance of Scotch, to develop and nurture richness of character and taste and celebrate it with the world; it’s a great privilege to be recognised in this endeavour.

“Master Blenders and Distillers are guardians of quality: honouring the legacy and tradition of the past, protecting spirit quality in the present, whilst innovating and continuously improving for the future. The decisions made today provide the foundations for growth that will be built on by the master blenders and distillers that follow. I’m very thankful to have had a part to play in creating some of the finest whiskies in the world.”

Awarding the honorary degree, Dr Andrew J. Alexander from the University of Edinburgh School of Chemistry, said: “Rachel Barrie’s creativity, sensory perception and mastery of analytical chemistry have undoubtedly widened and deepened the appreciation of Scotch whisky around the globe.

“The University of Edinburgh is tremendously proud to honour Rachel for her achievements.”

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