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Billy Leighton becomes Irish Distillers master blender emeritus

Veteran whisky maker Billy Leighton is to move to a new role at Irish Distillers after 47 years with the company.

Leighton was appointed master blender at the Pernod Ricard-owned group in 2004 and has played a key role in Irish whiskey’s resurgence over the past two decades, including his role in the revival of Redbreast. He will step into a new role of master blender emeritus from 23 November in which he will continue to support the company in the production and development of its whiskeys.


He will be succeeded as master blender by Dave McCabe, who joined Irish Distillers in 2010 and spent several years under Leighton’s tutelage, being appointed blender in 2018.


McCabe said: “I feel both excited and privileged to be appointed master blender in Irish Distillers, following in the footsteps of a true master. I would like to thank Billy for all that he has contributed to my professional development, he has been an exceptional colleague, mentor, and friend. I truly learned from the best.”


“I have spent most of my working life at Irish Distillers, and I am truly grateful for the opportunities my job and this business has afforded me,” said Leighton. “Dave and I have worked closely together for years and really enjoy our collaborations.  I’ve seen first-hand his passion, expertise and knowledge that will ensure he is a fantastic Master Blender. Our whiskeys are in great hands.”


Nodjame Fouad, chairman and CEO at Irish Distillers, said: “At Irish Distillers, we understand how important our people are to our success and over the past almost five decades working in the business, Billy Leighton has played an instrumental role in the success of all our brands, and the renaissance of the Irish whiskey category globally.


“Today, we announce the official passing of the master blender torch from Billy to Dave McCabe. I would like to congratulate Dave on the appointment and look forward to his tenure as master blender.”

23 November 2023 - Bradley Weir