If you tuned into our recent virtual live tasting of November's Whisky & Wood box, you'd have seen that the two whiskies from newcomers The Whisky Works sparked a lot of conversation. We were excited to feature these distinctive, unique whiskies in this month's tasting box. Spearheaded by Greg Glass, formerly of Compass Box, The Whisky Works is a new innovation-focused arm of revered whisky makers Whyte & Mackay.
We wanted to learn more about Gregg, and about the Whisky Works project. He's understandably a very busy man, as he also works on other projects within the Whyte & Mackay portfolio. So, we were lucky to have him answer some of our burning questions.
The Dram Team meets Gregg Glass
How did you first get into whisky, and what made you decide to make a career out of it?
I loved whisky and its diversity growing up on the Black-Isle, but my first job in the industry was over 20 years ago in one of my local distilleries. Although I had an appreciation for the taste of whisky before that, the job really fuelled a passion. I’ve always loved to experiment with flavours from creating whiskies, cooking, drinks-making and sharing flavour experiences…I’ve never lost the passion and dedication for whisky, the industry and its people. Whisky and whisky making for me is more than a career, it’s a way of life!
Working as a whisky blender and maker, you’ve probably tasted a lot of whisky in your time. Do you have any “white whale” whiskies? Something you’d tried and loved, but never been able to find again?
Sometimes the “White Whale” is a cask at the perfect peak of flavour and then letting it go beyond that point. The key is capturing that peak moment both as a single cask bottling or as part of a marriage. Over the many years of selecting and making whiskies, this has happened - but you learn from these experiences and it reinforces our dedicated hands-on approach to whisky making. We are always striving to create the best whisky experiences and for me, the White Whale is also the “perfect” whisky that’s yet to come…
Whisky Works is releasing some really interesting experimental blends alongside their top notch classic single malts (and grains). What is your personal process to blending a great whisky?
Quality is the number one factor alongside attention to detail. There’s a full process we follow from conception to consumer. We don’t operate on a 9-5 schedule and we’re always thinking about the creation of something that will bring enjoyment.
The name Whisky Works refers to works teams (such as motorsports) - that is a collective of experienced individuals in the technical artistry of selecting, developing, refining and innovating. The tree-to-taste-bud approach includes our dedicated teams of brewers, distillers, warehouse, packaging, bottling, sales and marketing teams. We created Whisky Works to also share how we develop whiskies and the behind the scenes activities that are integral part of bringing a whisky to life. Whisky Works is a vehicle for not just new practices but also looking at inspiration from the past and how that can either be replicated or inspire an innovation.
What ways of innovating and experimenting with whisky can we look forward to seeing the results of in the near future?
That would be telling! We have some hugely exciting and ground-breaking projects at all our distilleries. We continue to do a lot on the experimentation with maturation but also with many of our unusual and unique stocks utilising special barley types, yeasts... For me “real” innovation is part of the process but also the experience for the consumer. It’s a balance of science, art and experience. This experience is holistic, and liquid led – and the development process is part of the story.
What’s been your favourite project you’ve worked on so far and why?
Every project is special but one that’s particularly close to by heart has been the development of a Scottish Oak cask making programme in partnership with our friends at Speyside Cooperage, making them available for the entire industry. Replanting, responsible sourcing and amongst other activities define a gold standard for our industry in utilising Scottish Oak. This project has been in the works for close to 15 years from inspiration to actuation – and now, we’re starting to see the fruits of this form.Gregg Glass from The Whisky Works, eyeing up some barley
Tell us what a normal week looks like for you at Whyte & Mackay.
A “normal” week will always include selections, assessments, approvals and prototyping. On a weekly basis we will create at least one new product concept and begin the process of making it. As with any career there can be some “mundane” elements, but it’s also about your mindset. Some of my best whisky ideas have come whilst opening several hundreds of casks in the wee hours of the morning in a cold vatting hall...
What are you most excited about in the whisky world right now? What challenges do you see for the future of the whisky industry, and how can it overcome them?
The continued drive for micro provenance is great. There are a lot of makers taking that to different levels and for me, what I really love is the choice that consumers have and the opportunity to recruit new drinkers to the Scotch category through the diversity of flavours and experiences we can provide as an industry.
And finally, what’s your go-to dram at the moment? Please tell our readers what whisky you’re enjoying most.
I’m currently enjoying a future Fettercairn release – watch this space! I’m currently assessing it by sampling it in different environments – I believe that is important when developing a new expression.
Outside of whisky, I’m enjoying a whisky-based Amaro made by Sweetdram – it happens to have some lovely Invergordon Single Grain as part of the recipe. This expression is delightfully distinct!
Try some Whisky Works drams
While the Whisky and Wood box that featured the Whisky Works dram is now sold out, we hope to bring more of their whiskies to our members in future boxes.
So if you like whisky, you should consider joining the club! Our tasting club members receive £5 off the normal box price every month.
At the Dram Team we are all super passionate about whisky. We want to share that excitement with as many people as we can, and guide them to explore, learn, and have fun with whisky. That’s why every month we curate out-of-the-ordinary whisky tastings and deliver them right to your door.
We also write regular emails to our members, which is the best way to stay informed on upcoming subscription boxes, plus loads of other must-read whisky info. You can get on the list by signing up here.