September 27, 2023 1:36 pm

Jennifer Blair’s Story Continues – The Glenrothes

It’s 2023, and oftentimes most people get into a “New Year, New You!” mode. So it seems fitting that for our January article, we revisit one of our past profiles, Jennifer Blair, who went from bourbon distillery Kings County out of Brooklyn, New York to a Scottish Speyside single malt distillery for The Glenrothes.

Last December when we spoke to Jennifer Blair, she told us her story about the Jersey Girl, from a family of artists and scientists, that ended up in whiskey, using her natural storytelling and people skills to tell the story of a brand. 

(In case you somehow missed that interview, you can get acquainted at this link.) 

As both the hospitality and whiskey industries evolved, so has Jennifer. Earlier this year, she felt she wanted to expand her career growth and explored several hospitality options. 

But it would be the one with Edrington that would be her calling. Through a friend, she was made aware of an open position and applied. 

After a few rounds of interviews, one of which was expedited as it turned out the area manager, Tommy (aka Thomas Mauriello) was about to go on paternity leave, Jennifer was given, as we joked, 

“an offer she couldn’t refuse”. 

While she posted about an “upcoming announcement” on her Instagram profile in July, @artofthestill, the official announcement was made a few weeks later, and her now former employer, Kings County, wished her well on her move to the Edrington Group.

If you’re not familiar with Edrington, we’ve got another throwback link for you from our inaugural Whiskey Network issue. Featured in the Women in Whiskey column, we provide a brief history of iconic and game-changing women around the world, including Edrington’s history. 

Brief Recap: William Robertson forms Robertston & Baxter in Glasgow, Scotland which includes founding Highland Distillery. He died in 1893 and his oldest son, James, inherited his chairman seat. In turn, his daughters – Elspeth, Agnes, and Ethel (“Babs”) inherited the Scotch Whisky business. In 1961, after staving off an aggressive business pitch from a rep at Seagram, they created both The Edrington Group for their business holdings and The Robertson Trust, a registered charity that owns all the voting shares. 

Today in 2022, the Robertson Trust is the “largest independent grant-making trust in Scotland..with a vision for a fair and compassionate Scotland, where everyone is valued and able to flourish.”

To date, its total donations exceed £322 million since its inception. Its year end summary reports that £16.6M awarded to 453 organizations with a success rate of over 65% and support given to over 700 scholars, including 150 new starts.

Circling back to whiskey, if you haven’t “heard” of Edrington, I’m quite certain you’ve heard of one of their brands, The Macallan. 

While their ultra-premium portfolio boasts additional names that include Highland Park, Naked Malt, The Famous Grouse Blended Scotch Whisky, and Noble Oak bourbon, to name a few. In addition to Brugal rum from the Dominican Republic and strategic partnerships with No.3 London Dry Gin and Wyoming Whiskey, it seems fitting that Jennifer, a trailblazer in her own right, would be part of The Glenrothes. This brand, while not a “rockstar” like Macallan, is celebrated in its own right.

To some, it may seem an odd move from bourbon to Scotch but for those familiar with Kings County and its discerning production, they don’t source whiskey, as well as Jennifer’s own love and depth of knowledge for single malt, it made sense. 

Edrington’s company culture has a reputation of supporting volunteer efforts by its staff via exception benefits. These include paid leave such as paternity leave, and favorable four star reviews from sites such as the US Glassdoor and Indeed. Joining them was an easy decision and Jennifer adds her own voice to rave reviews of the level of support she receives on a daily basis. While Berry Brothers & Rudd owned the brand from 2010-2017, both the brand and distillery currently (and completely) belong to Edrington.

Although their company headquarters is in Glasgow and Jennifer is the New York City Market Lead, dedicated to The Glenrothes, she was fortunate enough to visit and train at the distillery. She visited The Glenrothes (Rothes, Speyside), The Macallan (Easter Elchies Estate, Speyside), and Highland Park (Kirkwall, Orkney). She kicked off her tour dramming Highland Park 18 on the bluffs in Orkney, followed by dramming on a bench by River Spey.

When asked how she would describe The Glenrothes, Jennifer replied “it’s a complex whisky that’s been quietly crafted for over 140 years.” The Glenrothes distillery itself was founded by James Stuart and Reverend William Sharp in their hometown of Rothes in 1879. There’s no splashy Visitors Center or even a road sign, however they have maintained a local footpath.

Currently, there are ten stills (5 wash and 5 spirit), and their washbacks are both stainless steel and wooden. Their tall stills contribute to the creation of “fruit”, with an emphasis on apples and pears. Maturation in Oloroso seasoned Sherry and ex-Bourbon casks contributes to the nuttier, warmer notes, without overwhelming the whisky. They also boast their own cooperage with their own Master of Wood

In addition to special releases, The Glenrothes portfolio includes 12-year, 18-year, 25-year, and 50-year expressions. Their 50 year old expression, distilled in 1968, made headlines in both whiskey and financial media (Bloomberg), because the inventory was limited to only fifty handmade crystal decanters sold at $35,000 USD. Each purchase included a private tour of the distillery and exclusive membership access to events and upcoming releases. 

In homage to both tradition and the future, one of their exclusive single cask releases, a 36-year, was accompanied with an NFT created by Maddie Dai. Dai is an illustrator and artist that is known for gems such as this Batman themed one from the New Yorker.

It is partnerships like these that are often featured in events led by Jennifer. These events are typically in the realm of luxury lifestyle: fashion (Burberry), automobiles (Aston Martin, McLaren), food (Christian Petroni), and truffle hunting complete with a paired dinner. 

Jennifer is excited for her new role, which will allow her to take her whisky geek knowledge and storytelling to a new level, thanks to a larger budget and focus on luxury experiences. 

When asked about upcoming events at possible locations in NYC, such as The Edge, One Vanderbilt or Overstory, Jennifer remained mum. However she hinted that more experiences are on the calendar and to be on the lookout.

Congrats on your new role Jennifer! We are excited to see what’s in store for The Glenrothes in 2023!

"Whisky is liquid sunshine."

George Bernard Shaw

“The light music of whiskey falling into a glass – an agreeable interlude.”

James Joyce

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