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Balblair Long-Standing Distillery Manager John MacDonald Retires


John MacDonald and David Rogerson

After 18 years of outstanding service, John MacDonald, one of the whisky world’s most admired and respected distillery managers, has hung up the keys at Balblair Distillery for one last time as he retires from the industry.

As he put in his final shift on the 3rd of May – nearly 35 years on from the day he joined the whisky industry - colleagues paid tribute to John and the role he has played in leading Balblair’s success around the world, since taking the helm of the distillery back in August 2006.

During this time, the integrity, skill, depth of knowledge and big personality of this lifelong Highlander have earned John a reputation as one of whisky’s greatest champions, who will be missed by all at Balblair, International Beverage and the wider whisky world 

John began his career as a warehouseman at Glenmorangie Distillery, where he worked his way up the ranks over 17 years to the post of Assistant Distillery Manager. He made the move to take up the top job at Balblair, as he says, ‘without even reading the contract;’ such was his admiration for the whisky being made at the Edderton site in Tain.  

John’s long list of accomplishments during his tenure at Balblair include building today’s friendly, close-knit distillery team, opening an award-winning visitor experience and leading the distillery’s sustainability programme, which includes the move away from heavy fuel and recent installation of TVR (thermal vapour recompression) technology to improve energy efficiency.  

He has also forged a reputation as one of the most sought-after global whisky brand ambassadors in the sector – always with his unshakable belief in making, enjoying and sharing a brilliant dram at the core.  

A Keeper of the Quaich, his character and dedication were perfectly captured in the 2022 David Eustace film, Precious Time, featuring John and exploring the unrushed craft behind Balblair whisky and the beauty of the distillery’s Highland home.  

International Beverage has also announced that John’s successor is David Rogerson, who will move from his post as Assistant Distillery Manager at Speyburn to the Balblair Distillery Manager role.  

Born in Dumfries, an early trip to Islay as a teenager inspired David to forge a career in whisky making. He went on to secure a first-class honours degree in Brewing and Distilling before taking up a position at Marstons Eagle Brewery in Bedfordshire. He jumped at the chance to join Speyburn Distillery in 2020, where he quickly developed as a skilled and highly valued member of the International Beverage team.  

Commenting on today’s announcement, John said:

'My time as Distillery Manager at Balblair has been a huge honour and a job that I have thoroughly enjoyed over the years. Balblair is an exceptional single malt whisky that I've been so proud to craft and represent over the years, following in the footsteps of a long line of makers going back to 1790. I want to say a huge thank you to the distillery team, past and present, for their craftsmanship, dedication and friendship, with a particular mention to Assistant Manager Norman Laing, who is the best in the business and whose help has been invaluable. I also want to offer a warm welcome to David, and to wish him the very best of luck in the role. I've had the pleasure of working alongside him in the past few months and I know that Balblair is in very good hands for future generations.' 

International Beverage Managing Director Malcolm Leask added:

’In John, we couldn’t have asked for a better custodian of our wonderful Balblair single malt Scotch whisky. He has given us his best for nearly two decades and leaves our whisky and distillery in a stronger place for the future. We thank you John for your exceptional service. It’s good to know that your skill and craftsmanship will be present in every bottle of Balblair for many years to come.'

‘We also offer a very warm welcome today to David as he joins the Balblair team. These are very big shoes to fill, but David has proven himself to be a highly skilled whisky maker and will build on John’s legacy to take Balblair into an exciting next chapter’.