The Whisky People – Stuart Cassells
In The Mash Tun’s series of articles ‘The Whisky People’ we will be focusing on different people within the industry, getting their ‘whisky history’, feelings on the industry, delving into how they got involved, and discussing some of their favourite drams. In this article we turn our attention to Stuart Cassells.
Stuart’s love of whisky began early on. At the tender age of 12 he was already performing bagpipes most nights for American tourists. The show’s emcee was a whisky aficionado who would talk about different whiskies each night of the show. As part of the performance Stuart also ‘had’ to partake in the ‘Toast to the Haggis’ each night. Stuart’s Gran also enjoyed a dram or two and would sit most nights sipping away at her beloved Famous Grouse. Stuart’s own tastes developed over time and he now freely admits he’s a huge lover of sherry cask whiskies. Recently he was lucky enough to have a 1977 Glenturret, a whisky that Stuart said was ‘right up his street’! It was well balanced, fruity, and had just the right amount of spices for his palate. Having said that his ‘go-to’ whisky would always be The Naked Grouse, a whisky Stuart feels is a great dram for any occasion.
As the founding member of the The Red Hot Chilli Pipers Stuart was employed on many occasions by Pernod Ricard brand’s Chivas, Ballantines and 100 Pipers. They were flown all over the world for events and brand activations. He has many fond memories and stories from the Chilli Pipers history and their travels with Pernod Ricard to China, Hong Kong and Mr Paul Ricard’s private island in the Mediterranean Les Embiez.
Due to injury Stuart was unfortunately forced to retire from playing bagpipes and decided he wanted to pursue a career in whisky. He wasted no time and set about making that happen by contacting many people in the industry for advice. Once the groundwork had been laid Stuart attended and graduated from the Saltire Fellowship programme based at Babson Business School in Boston. As part of the programme he completed an externship with The Famous Grouse. During this externship Stuart feels privileged to have been involved in a book about the history of The Famous Grouse. The book was being written by Charles MacLean and Stuart’s involvement covered everything from researching the history to interviewing former employees to get a feel for the heritage. When Stuart’s externship finished he was offered a role as Brand Development Executive. After only one year in that job he was then appointed General Manager of the Famous Grouse Experience at Glenturret Distillery. Stuart openly says that it’s been a sharp learning curve for him but is extremely passionate about growing Scotland’s businesses and brands to allow him to make the biggest contribution he can to Scotland’s economy.
When discussing the nature of the industry Stuart talked about how taken aback he was by the friendliness and camaraderie throughout all of the aspects of the whisky family. He feels that for such a huge worldwide industry it’s actually a very small community of close knit people. There is no better example of this than an interview Stuart carried out as part of the book Charles MacLean was writing. The interview was with Jack Kidd who worked with ‘Gloags’ from 1933 until 1983, apart from a short break between 1939 and 1945 where he served in the Military Police. Jack was actually captured at St Valery in 1940 and spent 5 years as a POW. When Jack eventually made it back to Scotland he was only 6 stones in weight. Being a typical Scot the first thing he did on returning to his hometown of Scone was to go down to ‘Gloags’ to see if his job was still there. He started the next day and was delighted to find that Gloags had actually paid half his wages to his family throughout his military service and time as a POW, even though they didn’t know if he was dead or alive. It seems that the whisky industry has always looked after its people.
It’s very clear that Stuart has a real love of whisky, and immense pride in the job he does and the industry he represents. Stuart has had a wide and varied career to date and brings a real enthusiasm and determination to the industry he strives expand.
For more information Stuart and Glenturret distillery visit https://www.thefamousgrouse.com
Article by David McNeill www.themashtun.co.uk