The long-standing manager of Balblair Distillery is to retire after a 35-year career in the Scotch whisky industry.

John MacDonald completed his final shift at the Highland distillery on May 3, bringing an 18-year spell with Balblair, which is owned by Thailand’s International Beverage, to a close.

Mr MacDonald, who was praised by International Beverage for his “integrity, skill, depth and big personality”, began his career at Glenmorangie, where he worked his way up over 17 years to the post of assistant distillery manager. He then joined Balblair where he took the job of manager “without even reading the contract”.

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International Beverage noted that Mr MacDonald’s achievements include building a “close-knit” team, opening an award-winning visitor centre, and leading the distillery’s sustainability programme, which has seen it move away from heavy fuel and recently install TVR (thermal vapour recompression) technology to improve energy efficiency.

The distiller said Mr MacDonald, who holds the prestigious keeper of the quaich title, also forged a reputation as one of the “most sought-after global whisky brand ambassadors in the sector”.

He will be succeeded at Balblair by David Rogerson, who will move from his post as assistant distillery manager at Speyburn, which he joined in 2020.

Mr MacDonald said: “My time as distillery manager at Balblair has been a huge honour and a job that I have thoroughly enjoyed over the years. Balblair is an exceptional single malt whisky that I've been so proud to craft and represent over the years, following in the footsteps of a long line of makers going back to 1790.

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“I want to say a huge thank you to the distillery team, past and present, for their craftsmanship, dedication and friendship, with a particular mention to assistant manager Norman Laing, who is the best in the business and whose help has been invaluable. I also want to offer a warm welcome to David, and to wish him the very best of luck in the role. I've had the pleasure of working alongside him in the past few months and I know that Balblair is in very good hands for future generations.”

Malcolm Leask, managing director of International Beverage, said: “In John, we couldn’t have asked for a better custodian of our wonderful Balblair single malt Scotch whisky. He has given us his best for nearly two decades and leaves our whisky and distillery in a stronger place for the future. We thank you John for your exceptional service. It’s good to know that your skill and craftsmanship will be present in every bottle of Balblair for many years to come.

‘We also offer a very warm welcome today to David as he joins the Balblair team. These are very big shoes to fill, but David has proven himself to be a highly skilled whisky maker and will build on John’s legacy to take Balblair into an exciting next chapter.”