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A whisky blender’s room of magic potions

Julieann Fernandes, a master blender of whiskies, creates complex recipes from her laboratory as well as blending room

Julieann Fernandes in her barrel room.

Whisky blenders spend days and months formulating recipes for complex spirits. Julieann Fernandes is the Master Blender of the multinational brewing company Distell group. This year, they introduced the smooth and rich blended whisky Scottish Leader Original in India. 

Fernandes works out of a state-of-the-art blending facility in East Kilbride in Scotland. Over an email interaction, she talks about her workspace that overlooks the countryside.

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Describe your current workspace to us.

I work out of the barrel room as well as laboratory. There is a corner in the laboratory which is like a kitchen from a countryside cottage. There are wooden cabinets, and some of the doors are always open because I’m not the tidiest worker. There’s glassware all over the worktops, sample bottles spread over the benches and nosing glasses everywhere. I like to look at it as organised chaos; to other people it might look untidy, but I know where everything is and why it’s there. It’s in a very quiet part of the building which I love.

Has it always been this way? Or has it evolved over the years?

It’s been this way for as long as I’ve worked here. Although I seem to have collected more samples, so the free space in the laboratory seems to be getting less and less. These are samples which I know will be used for creating blends in the future, so I don’t like to part with them.

Julieann Fernandes inside her barrel room.
Julieann Fernandes inside her barrel room.

How would you define your daily relationship with this space?

It’s a space I can go to for some quiet and peace while creating whiskies. The blending room, especially, is a space that provides uninterrupted focus. It has no windows, so when I am there, it feels like it’s just me and my whiskies. I really enjoy that.

Tell us about some of the eureka moments you have had here.

I’ve worked on a lot of blend reformulations and limited editions in the blending room as well as the laboratory. Some of these projects can take a few days and it’s effortless, while others take a little longer—flavours clash, the blend is off balance or it lacks complexity. Sometimes I spend months working on recipes, changing components by very small percentages and then all of a sudden it comes to me and I know exactly what is needed.

If you were to trade this place for another, what would it be?

As much as I love Scotland and we need the rain to make our wonderful whisky, hearing its pitter-patter everyday can be tough. The only change I would like is moving to a slightly warmer country.

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