Whisky blender retires from Famous Grouse

John Ramsay (left) is passing on the whisky glass to Gordon Motion (right)
John Ramsay (left) is passing on the whisky glass to Gordon Motion (right)

By Cara Sulieman

THE NOSE behind one of Scotland’s most iconic brands is being retired.

Master Blender John Ramsay has announced that he will be leaving Famous Grouse at the end of the month after almost 20 years with the company.

And he has spent two and a half years training up the successor to his position, Gordon Motion.

For the last 18 years John has been dedicated to his profession – and has forgone aftershave and garlic in pursuit of the perfect nose for the job.

6,000 samples a day

He also has to do everything he can to not get a cold, and if he does, he isn’t allowed to blow his nose.

There are only six master blenders across Scotland’s distilleries, and they alone know the recipe for their distinctive spirit.

But it isn’t an easy job, with John smelling up to 600 samples a day to check the quality and consistency.

And has John, 60, from Glasgow, has been busy since he joined the company in 1991, overseeing the existing blends and creating new ones as well.


He said: “Looking back there are a number of highlights that really stand out, from creating Highland Park 18, 25 and most recently 40 year old expressions and moving The Glenrothes whisky to a vintage.

“In particular I’m most proud of receiving the International Spirits Challenge trophy award in 2007 for The Famous Grouse 30 year old blended malt.

“Beating off competition from over 700 spirits, both single and blended malts, to be named ‘best overall malt whisky’ by my fellow peers, was a real honour.

“I’ve had an immensely enjoyable career with The Edrington Group which has taken me all around the world and I would like to extend thanks to all of my colleagues who have been such a fantastic support.”


The blend of whiskies that make up Famous Grouse is one of the things that will be handed over to Gordon, along with the responsibility for managing the laboratory and sample rooms and making sure the quality is the same in every one of the 30 million bottles that are sold each year.

But after two and half years as Master Blender Designate, Gordon from Edinburgh, 20-years John’s junior, is ready for the challenge that lies ahead.

He said: “It’s an incredible privilege to be the successor to John Ramsay, the doyen of Blenders.

“John has been an inspiring mentor to me over the last ten years working as his assistant and particularly over the last two and a half years as I’ve stepped into the Master Blender role.

“I am looking forward to continuing the tradition that has gone on for over a century and want to ensure The Famous Grouse continues to be enjoyed and respected as one of the finest whiskies in the world.”


And John is happy to retire, leaving the company in the safe hands of Gordon.

He said: “I have absolute confidence in Gordon, he has the natural ability combined with the passion and ambition to make a very successful Master Blender and I wish him all the best in his new role.”