AS career paths go training to be a forensic scientist to able to solve crimes and murders is a pretty specific remit.

However, it was while looking for a placement during her studies at university that Julieann Fernandez’s future took an unexpected twist.

She ended up with a placement at whisky giants Chivas Brothers’ and developed a flair for whisky analysis.

Now she has become one of the world’s youngest whisky blenders and plans of being a crime-busting CSI investigator have taken a completely different turn.

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“I was always very science based at school and I knew I was going to do something along those lines when I went to university, said 29-year-old Ms Fernandez master blender with Bunnahabhain, Tobermory and Deanston distilleries part of the Distell group. “My mum was in the funeral business so maybe the interest stemmed from that. There was also a lot of TV shows on around the time such as CSI and I suppose they made it look interesting and appealing.

“We were encouraged to do a placement year and chose the whisky industry joining Chivas Brothers’ and began working on the analytical sides, nosing, taste, and sensory panels. I wasn’t even a whisky drinker and I think maybe that helped I could identify flavours and key notes. I was a complete novice, but I think what works is a combination of a natural ability with a good sense of smell and a taste for flavour.”

Deanston and Tobermoray distilleries are also in the Distell Group

Deanston and Tobermoray distilleries are also in the Distell Group

Visitors to Deanston can't help a peak at the Outlander cast-signed cask

Being able to identify flavours and relate them to ingredients took time, but there was one aid she found invaluable.

She added: “I used the Scottish Whisky Research Industry flavour wheel as sometimes you would smell something and not know what it related to but the wheel is a great guide and helped to pinpoint aromas and the more you do it the more you perfect it.”

While her day to day job can involve tasting a lot of whisky but it’s not all about the flavour.

“We are continually analysing our core product not just for taste, but also to test for counterfeit products,” added Ms Fernandez. “If we receive reports there could be counterfeit goods were are able to go into detail to find out if it is the genuine product or not.

“I think what I really enjoy is that every day in the whisky industry is different. No two days are the same, I suppose that might have been true if I had stayed in forensics. Some days you are working in a lab other might be sensory or product development.”

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She went on to work for the Scottish Whisky Research Industry then spent three years with Chivas Brothers’ spending time in the grain distillery and travelling to Speyside gaining knowledge in the malt distillery before moving on to Distell in 2017.

Her role takes her to the historic Deanston, near Stirling, which was used as one of the locations for the Outlander series. Outwith restrictions tour groups are always interested to see a cask signed by the cast including lead actor Sam Heughan.

Deanston distillery started life as a cotton mill back in 1785, designed by Richard Arkwright, the great inventor and entrepreneur of the early Industrial Revolution. It was converted into the single malt distillery in 1966, and bottling beginning in 1971.

Deanston and Tobermoray distilleries are also in the Distell Group

Deanston and Tobermoray distilleries are also in the Distell Group

Given Deanston’s location to the River Teith, it is the only distillery in Scotland to produce all of its own electricity, with power generated by an on-site hydro-energy facility.

Despite partial lockdown of the distilleries due to lockdown last year, it has still been a rewarding time.

Ms Fernandez is currently celebrating after the portfolio of brands, which also includes Black Bottle and Scottish Leader won 14 prizes at the World Whisky Awards.

She added: “While it has been a challenging year working through covid restrictions, the brand has been able to keep up production.

“It was only in the first full lockdown that production stopped, but we have been able to maintain it since then. There have been times when we have been able to sample in the warehouse others where as other times I’ve had to do it at home.”

In 2019 she was appointed to master blender role in charge of limited editions, long term plans and continuing to look at different cask types in terms of their quality and consistency. And while all the whisky tasting has made her into more of a convert, she admits she’d still prefer a glass of red.

However, she believes there is now a time for change in the industry both in the future of how the drink is consumed and those working in the industry.

“It is a little bit like ripping up the rule book when you come in with a fresh pair of eyes. There is no right or wrong way to enjoy whisky and it is not just a case of you can only drink it with water - you can drink it as you wish, neat, a long drink or a cocktail,” she added.

“We are very big on social media and it is one of the great ways for people to find out more. It might be even easier just now to get involved if someone might have been put off in the past by joining a club, then we have online masterclasses which people can sign up for and is a good way to introduce yourself to it from the comfort of your own home.”

Ms Fernandez hasn’t even turned 30 yet and who knows where her career will lead with the recent accolades the brand has achieved.

“I do think there is a lot more women in the industry and in senior positions and everyone I have worked with has been welcoming and supportive,” she added. “I think the industry is changing and I’ve been asked what I would like to go on to but I have a real passion for blending and I want to do is build on my knowledge and continue my education for a product that people love and will hopefully continue to win awards.”