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CHARLES SMITH - Master Distiller

Talisker - Cardhu - Craigellachie -  Glenkinchie -  Ballindalloch 

Whisky Magazine 'Hall of Fame' Inductee 2016

At a time when many would be looking at slowing down, Charlie accepted the biggest challenge of his career in August 2012 when he agreed to work with the Macpherson-Grant family to build Ballindalloch Distillery. As Master Distiller, overseeing the design, commissioning and the first 15 months of production, Charlie helped the family realise their dream of building Scotland’s first Single Estate Distillery. The transformation of a 19th Century run down steading to a fully manual distillery made the most of Charlie’s skills and experience.

Charlie stepped back from day to day operations at end of 2015, but will remain Master Distiller at Ballindalloch in a consultncy role. As he said himself, 'once you are part of the whisky business, you can never truly leave'.


Charlie’s career started in January 1973 when he joined a small engineering company based in Elgin, where he was involved in the design and installation of mashtuns, draff hoppers and distillery process tanks. He joined the industry ‘proper’ in 1975 when he started work for Arthur Bell and Sons as Dark Grains Plant Manager at Pittyvaich Distillery. Promotion followed in February 1977 when Charlie was appointed manager and in the spring of 1982 he then transferred to Dufftown Glenlivet Distillery.

Following nearly 20 years based in Dufftown, Charlie transferred across Speyside to Cardhu Distillery in the summer of 1993.

For the first time, the worlds of process and marketing combined and Charlie began to become involved in ambassadorial work. For just over five years, he looked after Cardhu, together with the less well known Craigellachie Distillery before a move from his native Speyside to manage Glenkinchie Distillery in late 1998.

Charlie’s swansong for Diageo was as manager at Talisker where he worked from 2004 until his retirement in 2007. The opportunity to manage this iconic distillery seemed the perfect way to sign off such a long, successful and accomplished career.

However, Charlie’s desire to share his knowledge and enthusiasm drove him to continue his ambassadorial work. On home soil, he was one of the original team hosting the Whisky School element of the annual Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival.

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