A trio of whisky stalwarts are the toast of the Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival after being honoured for their dedicated service that has helped put the region on the world map.
Linda Mellis, brand support manager for Diageo, was named Ambassador of the Year while French food and drink writer Martine Nouet was crowned International Ambassador.
A new honour, the Spirit of Speyside Award, was presented to Dennis Malcolm in recognition of his half century of service to the industry, and communities, in Speyside.
The awards were made at the Touch of Tartan dinner held at Glen Moray Distillery on April 29 when industry experts, staff, writers and visitors gathered to mark the curtain rising on this year’s Festival, which runs from April 30-May 4.
Festival chairman James Campbell said: “In different ways, each award winner has shown incredible commitment to the Speyside whisky industry and to the festival itself.
“Their enthusiasm for the product is infectious, and the strong and longstanding links they have with the whisky and businesses and communities in Speyside, continues to grow and be enhanced.
“By doing so much to promote whiskies and this wonderful region of Scotland, Linda, Martine and Dennis have done an excellent job of putting Speyside on the world map and making the festival one of the leading events of its kind.”
Linda has worked in the industry for 43 years, having started out as a typist in 1972 and moving up through the ranks. Her current role sees her manage brand support and marketing of malt distilling as well as the distillery visitor centres and brand homes for drinks giant Diageo.
When it comes to the festival, she has a reputation for making things happen, using her skills and connections to ensure deadlines are met and that events are a success.
As well as her dedicated involvement in the Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival since its inception, she’s had close connections to the community events including the Bells Rotary Marafun, Moray Young Citizens’ Awards and the Classic Malts Rally.
While the nation of her birth is famed for its fine wine and champagne, French writer Martine Nouet always ensures Scotland’s finest food and drink receives the recognition it deserves.
On her first visit to Scotland two decades ago, she visited Tamdhu Distillery and became so fascinated by the distillation process, the aromas and the culture and heritage behind making malt whisky that she fell in love with the ‘water of life’.
Martine’s passion for whisky has earned her the title “Queen of the Still” and she was made a Master of The Quaich in April 2012, a distinction awarded to very few by the whisky industry. She now adds the Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival’s International Ambassador Award to her accolades.
At this year’s festival, she will demonstrate to visitors how whisky works wonderfully well as an ingredient to add to dishes, as well as an accompaniment to them, during ‘Glass to Plate’ cookery sessions.
With his father and grandfather both working in the whisky industry, and having been born in the grounds of a distillery he went on to manage, Dennis Malcolm can truly be said to have a lifetime’s connection to whisky, starting as a 15 year old cooper and going on to become a managing director and master distiller.
By the age of 24 he had qualified as a brewer and was promoted to act as assistant manager for Glen Grant and its sister distillery Caperdonich before being appointed manager of The Glenlivet. He returned to Glen Grant and Caperdonich as manager in 1983.
From Strathisla Distillery he ran Chivas Brothers’ nine malt distilleries, a grain distillery and three farms and got involved with introducing VIPs and guests to the world of Scotch whisky as a Brand Ambassador. A spell managing Balmenach Distillery followed, before returning to Glen Grant in April 2006 under the new owners Campari.
As well as his industry involvement, Dennis has been a great supporter of the town of Rothes, where he is a church convener and school board member. He is also a Justice of the Peace for Moray.
As one of the world’s biggest festivals celebrating of Scotland’s national drink, the Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival features a packed programme of overt 400 events, with music, crafts, food themes running alongside a wide range of distillery tours and tastings. The five day festival continues until May 4.
To find out more visit www.spiritofspeyside.com