Johnnie Walker has announced that Dr Emma Walker will take over the reins from Dr Jim Beveridge OBE, who retires at the end of the year after more than 40 years at Diageo, 20 of which as Master Blender.
Emma will be one of a small, select group of people, and the first female, to take on the coveted role of Master Blender in more than two centuries of the business’s existence, the first being founder John Walker.
Aptly named, although no relation to the Walker family, Emma joined Diageo 13 years ago and has gained extensive knowledge and experience of Scotch production and innovation to become a highly respected blender who has worked extensively on Johnnie Walker for the last six years. Her innovations include the Johnnie Walker Blue Label Ghost and Rare series and Jane Walker by Johnnie Walker.
The role of Johnnie Walker Master Blender is one of the most coveted in the industry, and Emma will lead the 12-strong team of expert whisky makers in the pursuit of exceptional flavor, crafting and blending whisky from the four corners of Scotland to create the numerous Johnnie Walker variants which are sold in more than 180 countries around the world.
During her career, Emma has worked in different areas of whisky production; gaining experience and understanding of how flavor develops in fermentation, distillation, and maturation, striving to ensure quality at every stage of the process. She has spent several years working with Jim to develop an encyclopaedic understanding and knowledge of whisky.
In July, Diageo reported that global Scotch organic net sales grew 15% year-on-year with Johnnie Walker organic net sales up 12%, as the category benefited from the growing trend of premiumisation amongst consumers.
“I am honoured to take on the title of Master Blender of Johnnie Walker, and at an exciting time for the brand as we embark on the next step of our journey looking ahead to the next 200 years,” says Dr Emma Walker. “I love experimenting and innovating with flavour and we’ll be working hard to not only continue to deliver the unrivalled quality that we are renowned for but also introducing blends to appeal to a new generation of Scotch Whisky fans.”
She adds: “I have learnt so much over my career working with Jim – whose knowledge and generosity of spirit is unsurpassed in the world of whisky.”
The announcement comes as Jim Beveridge retires after a four-decade career in whisky during which time he has been responsible for some of the world’s most popular and acclaimed Scotch whisky blends including Johnnie Walker Blue Label.
His commitment to developing the ultimate whisky flavors began when he started his career with Johnnie Walker as an analytical chemist 42 years ago. He has gone on to establish himself as one of the most highly respected figures in the industry, renowned for his skill and dedication to quality. In 2019, he was awarded an OBE by Her Majesty the Queen for his services to the Scotch whisky industry.
Dr Jim Beveridge OBE says: “It is with pleasure and confidence that I pass on this privilege to Emma. I know she will do a wonderful job as she possesses the knowledge, expertise, and dedication to make an amazing Master Blender. On a personal level I am delighted for her, and I know that her wonderfully infectious personality, that made working with her so enjoyable, will bring something exciting and different to the team and, indeed, to the wider Scotch industry.”
Julie Bramham, Global Brand Director for Johnnie Walker, comments: “It is through Jim’s tireless work, incredible expertise and dedication to quality that the iconic flavours of the Johnnie Walker portfolio are so popular today and we thank him for his outstanding contribution over the last four decades. Emma takes over at an exciting time, Scotch is being enjoyed in so many different ways by people from all over the world and I know that Emma and her team will continue to develop the exceptional tastes, textures and flavours that we are renowned for.”
Emma will officially hold the title of Master Blender from 1 January 2022 and Jim will remain with the business until the end of the year.
For more information, head over to Johnnie Walker’s official website.