Tours + Events Coordinator
Thanks for speaking to us this morning, Donald. We are currently standing in the food preparation area (across the courtyard from the Campbeltown Cadenhead Shop Tasting Room) while you prepare lunches for this afternoon’s guests - what are they having today?
They are having haggis rolls, mince beef pate, pork sausages and a selection of local smoked seafood sandwiches. That probably is fairly typical of the standard lunch we do here.
There is a joke going round that nobody knows what you actually do, so put us straight and tell us what else you do during a normal day?
I do tastings, including warehouse tastings, help with the running of the whisky school and organising the festival, including the traditional Wednesday night distillery dinner. So I actually do some work, occasionally.
Prior to taking up this role in the company, what else have you been doing?
I have been here for over 12 years, starting in June 2006. I came in as a shop assistant in the Campbeltown Cadenhead Shop. I did that for a few years before I became the shop manager until around 2 years ago which is when my job started to change. I now class myself as a Jack of all trades and, certainly, a master of none.
Before you joined us here, where else have you worked?
My work experience has always been in catering and in the hotel trade. I started off in the 1980s in the Royal Hotel in Campbeltown and after about 10 years I moved out to manage the Old Club House in Machrihanish for 5 or 6 years. I finished my time in the hotel trade in the White Hart Hotel where, again, I spent around 10 years.
A local boy then?
Definitely… but born and bred in Drumlemble, not Campbeltown!
Your most recent change of role came about because we decided to increase our focus in this side of the business, can you talk a little about that?
Yes, we want to expand on the tourist side of things but, actually, it’s expanding anyway with more tours, more tastings and obviously the more people that come to visit Springbank, Glengyle and Cadenhead’s then the benefit for the whole town is great.
Obviously we do the Campbeltown Malts Festival and we are out doing shows all over the UK, Europe and the world too which is all great for attracting people here.
You go out to shows occasionally too, don’t you? Including the recent Glasgow Whisky Festival at Hampden.
Yes, I went with Grant to do the show in Hampden. I’ve done it a couple of times before and been down to London for a show there a few times as well. Just whenever the Sales Team are short of people to attend these shows I am more than happy to stand in and go to help with that.
And you do warehouse tastings as well?
Yes, I do. I’ve started that this year and thoroughly enjoy them. Obviously, you are meeting lots of different people all the time and it’s a great experience for them to taste whisky straight from the casks in the warehouse and to stand drinking the whisky in the warehouse also.
Speaking of drinking whisky, what kind of whisky are you into?
I am a great believer in there being a time and a place for different types of whisky. I like fruity, gentle whiskies mostly though. The first whisky I tried when I started working in the shop was a Mortlach and I loved it so that distillery is up there for me. Springbank and Kilkerran both go without saying. We make quality products and our ethos has always been quality over quantity and it definitely is a quality product we produce, both in terms of Springbank and Kilkerran.
You mentioned the Springbank Whisky School earlier and this is a subject that has come up during all our interviews so far - what role do you play during the school term?
Generally, I feed them! I make lunch for the pupils everyday and, again, I am meeting people from all over the world. We do an 8-10 week term, 6 people each week so that is at least 48 people and this year there has been over 300 applicants so that shows you the demand. Unfortunately we cannot expand the school further as this would be too much for the production staff to cope with so we keep it to 6 persons each week and everyone enjoys it as things are.
And to finish we will speak about the future so where do you see both yourself and the company going in the future?
I am getting on a bit in years (nonsense!), I am going to be 55 next year so I am quite happy to do whatever the company throws my way, I will try anything, and hopefully I will still fit in doing some sort of role within the company whether it continues like this for the next few years or I do another job. Either way, I enjoy meeting with different people all the time and working with the wide variety of visitors that come to see us here in Campbeltown.
Thanks to Donald for answering these questions and giving us an insight into his role with the company. We’ll be back soon with our next staff interview, this time with David McQuilkan; aka “Label Guy.”