I first became aware of Andy Watts when he was invited to give the “Whisky Circus” a talk about his whisky work during the pandemic lockdowns. The opportunity to listen and talk to someone with so much experience will never be taken lightly. Since that day I have always had a bottle of Bains Single grain on my shelf. Think I’m on my 4th bottle. Light, easy drinking, and great value for money, why wouldn’t I? Andy has been in the whisky industry for a long time and I just wish we could get more of his bottlings here in the UK. But for now, let’s hear from the man himself. So, you know the drill, pour a coffee or dram, sit down for a couple of mins and meet Andy.
Andy, thank you so much for taking time out to take part. Please would you tell my readers how are you involved with the whisky industry?
My involvement in whisky started back in 1984 when it was literally a transition from willow to oak. Being previously a professional cricketer, I laid down the bat and transitioned into the world of whisky.
I worked for 38 years at Distell Group Holdings, the marketer and producer of a number of
alcoholic brands. I had various roles over the years – transforming the James Sedgwick
Distillery into what is now the Home of South African Whiskies and managing the distillery
for 25 years before taking up the role as Head of Whisky in 2016. Although I retired in
October 2021, I have been a consultant for the business.
My whisky career has many highlights, not only launching South Africa’s first single malt and first single grain whisky but also being recognised for my contribution to World Whisky:
World Master Distiller / Master Blender 2018
World Whisky Ambassador 2020
Inducted as the 70th inductee into the Whisky Hall of Fame 2021 (the pinnacle of my
I am in the process of launching my own business, The Watts Whisky Company which for
the next 12 months will still be working closely with Distell whilst exploring future avenues and opportunities.
You are a busy man! So, please name your first whisky, and why you have chosen it:
My first experience with whisky was in my late teens and an evening with The Famous
Grouse. The next day I promised myself I would never drink whisky again! Only when I
became involved in the whisky industry did I admit that the “day after the night before” had
nothing to do with The Famous Grouse but fully with my youthful over exuberance.
The Famous Grouse, in my opinion, is still one of the most consistent quality blends on the
That sounds like a familiar story to many I expect. What’s your second whisky?
Without a doubt, Bowmore 12-year-old Single Malt. Everything I know about whisky I learnt from my time spent on the Island of Islay in the late 1980s under the mentorship of Jim McEwan. The island became a spiritual home for me as I fell in love with the natural beauty, it’s people and whiskies. Bowmore has such a special and emotional place in my life that it could not be anything else.
And you final whisky Andy, and why you have chosen it:
I am going to be naughty here and choose two.
The Three Ships 5-Year-Old blended whisky which was the first whisky I launched in my
career back in 1992. It was created to remind me of my time on Islay. A smoky, peaty and
robust blend which with closed eyes takes me back to the shores of Lochindaal. To this day
you will rarely find my fridge without some blue cheese to enjoy with this whisky.
The second whisky is Bain’s Cape Mountain whisky; A grain whisky conceived back in 1999
and launched in 2009, long before grain was seen as anything other than only suitable for
blended whisky. I love working with grain and it just lends itself to different cask types and
has so much to offer.
Both these whiskies have gone on to be awarded the World’s Best Whisky in the respective
categories of blended and grain whisky at the World Whiskies Awards.
As I have noted, I can attest to the Single grain Andy came up with. It’s especially good if you are just coming into the whisky world and want something a little lighter. Great stuff!
If you would like to know more about Andy’s work, as always below you will find his social media details.
Facebook: Andy Watts | Facebook