John Peterson has worked in the Drinks industry for over 40 years and acts as the Master Distiller for the Loch Lomond Group whiskies. He has been the mastermind for the careful development and improvement in the whisky coming from Glen Scotia and Loch Lomond distilleries.
I had the pleasure to meet John in one of my first days at the Loch Lomond distillery in Alexandria as part of my induction and had the opportunity of working with him and Michael Henry, our Master Blender, on the new core range for Global Travel Retail, being launched in early 2017.
Pictured (left to right): Michael Henry, John Peterson, Andre de Almeida
John is a legend, with over 40 years experience in the Drinks industry and he was kind enough to answer some questions to Inside the Cask.
Inside the Cask: Hi John, thanks for sparing the time to talk to us. You have been working in the Scotch Whisky industry for a while now, but where did it all begin? What is your background?
I was born and grew up in Edinburgh in the 1950’s-60’s. As a child, I was fascinated by all the different smells of the city. Most of which I now know were from the many breweries/ grain distilleries and maltings in the city.
Many of these are, sadly, long gone.
I studied chemistry at Edinburgh University and, after graduating, I drove down to Suffolk to visit friends for the summer. While there, I was offered a scientist’s job in Pauls Maltings in Ipswich. So my summer holiday ended in an 8 year stay during which I studied part-time, in London, for a post graduate MSc. Thus began my long and fascinating career in malting, brewing and distilling.
Having learned about malting, I was eager to find out more about what happened to malt in a brewery. So, in 1980 I moved to Whitbread as a research chemist based in the Luton brewery which was then one of the largest breweries in Europe. This experience made me more and more interested in the science behind the fermentation process, in beer flavour, and in how flavour can be varied and improved.
Inside the Cask: When did you first start working in the Scotch Whisky industry and what brought you over from the beer industry?
Having explored the malting process and beer production, I moved to Long John Distillers as Chief Chemist in the early 80’s.
This allowed me, having learnt to make malt and beer, now to learn about whisky production.
It also allowed me to return home to Scotland, though not to my beloved Edinburgh. I had to make do with Glasgow which is quite nice, too!
I finally moved to Loch Lomond Distillery as Production Director in 1990 with the remit of expanding the malt distillery and of building a new grain whisky distillery.
Note – below is the location of Loch Lomond Distillery in Scotland.
Inside the Cask: Across your career to date, what are you most proud of?
Over the last 20 years or so, I have led the growth and expansion of production at Loch Lomond (from around 300k LALC to around 18 million LALC per annum).
Inside the Cask: Loch Lomond Distillery is synonymous with Innovation and Craft. What makes it so?
Over the years we have applied scientific knowledge, experience, innovation, and attention to detail that has made the whiskies we produce attain a high level of quality and consistency.
Our products stand comparison with any in the whisky industry and our innovative application of traditional production methods, variation of fermentation parameters, of yeast types, of distillation techniques and, increasingly cask finishes shows through in the high quality and uniqueness of our products.
Inside the Cask: Which Scotch whisky from the Loch Lomond Group portfolio do you enjoy drinking and why?
The Inchmurrin 12 year old for me is the best malt we produce.
It is a straight forward, clean tasting, malt which is simply full of fruity flavour notes on the nose,and taste palate, and these linger on in the clean fruity finish.
Inchmurrin is excellent both as a single malt and as the basis of a good blend.
Inside the Cask: For people interested in getting into the Drinks industry now, what would be your advice?
The industry produces world class malted barley, beer, and Scotch Whisky.
There are a diverse range of good, worthwhile jobs to be had in an industry in which we are world leaders.
I have found working in the industry most rewarding, I think well worth joining and would recommend it to anyone.
Inside the Cask: What positive changes have you seen since the change in ownership of the Loch Lomond Group?
The new owners have improved the marketing and selling of our brands.This is most noticeable with our malts which all have much improved bottles and cartons. In time this approach will take the company more upmarket. Really good liquids really well packaged!
Pictured below the new Global Travel Retail range.
Inside the Cask: Finally, tell us something we would not know about you.
I used to go to The Triangle Folk Club in Edinburgh in the 1960s.
One Saturday night, the main group, a duo called the Humblebums had to cut short their session so they could catch the last bus back to Glasgow. One of the duo,who played banjo and told jokes between songs, was called Billy Connolly. I often wonder what happened to him?