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Johnnie Walker master blender Dr Jim Beveridge retiring

Diageo has announced the appointment of Johnnie Walker's first-ever female master blender, as whisky-making icon Dr Jim Beveridge prepares for retirement.

Dr Emma Walker will take over the reins from Dr Beveridge, who has worked with Diageo for more than 40 years including 20 as a master blender. 

In her 13 years with Diageo, Dr Walker has gained extensive knowledge of Scotch whisky production and blending. She has spent the past six years working exclusively on Johnnie Walker, including on the Blue Label Ghost and Rare series and Jane Walker by Johnnie Walker. During this time she has worked closely with Dr Beveridge, furthering her knowledge under his expert tutelage.

As master blender - the first woman to hold the role in Johnnie Walker's 200-year history - Dr Walker will lead a 12-strong team crafting and blending whisky from the four "homes" of Johnnie Walker across Scotland: the Clynelish, Cardhu, Glenkinchie and Caol Ila distilleries.

Dr Walker said: "I am honoured to take on the title of master blender of Johnnie Walker, and at an exciting time for the brand as we embark on the next step of our journey looking ahead to the next 200 years.

"I love experimenting and innovating with flavour and we'll be working hard not only to continue to deliver the unrivalled quality that we are renowned for, but also introducing blends to appeal to a new generation of Scotch whisky fans."

Since starting his career with Johnnie Walker as an analytical chemist 42 years ago, Dr Beveridge has grown to become one of the most highly respected individuals in whisky. He has been responsible for some of the world's most popular and acclaimed Scotch whisky blends, including Johnnie Walker Blue Label, and was made an OBE in 2019 for his services to the Scotch whisky industry.

He will remain in post until the end of the year, with Dr Walker officially taking up the role on 1 January, 2022.

Of his retirement, Dr Beveridge said: "It is with pleasure and confidence that I pass on this priviledge to Emma. I know she will do a wonderful job as she possesses the knowlege, expertise and dedication to make an amazing master blender.

"On a personal level I am delighted for her, and I know that her wonderfully infectious personality, that made working with her so enjoyable, will bring something exciting and different to the team and, indeed, to the wider Scotch industry."

Dr Walker added: "I have learnt so much over my career working with Jim, whose knowledge and generosity of spirit is unsurpassed in the world of whisky."

Julie Bramham, global brand director for Johnnie Walker, said: "It is through Jim's tireless work, incredible expertise and dedication to quality that the iconic flavours of the Johnnie Walker portfolio are so popular today, and we thank him for his outstanding contribution over the last four decades. 

"Emma takes over at an exciting time; Scotch is being enjoyed in so many different ways by people from all over the world and I know that she and her team will continue to develop the exceptional tastes, textures and flavours that we are renowned for."

20 October 2021 - Bethany Whymark