That takes care of 25 casks out of—again—10 million available to Johnnie Walker. “I think the number’s actually more than that at the moment,” she adds. “It’s a huge number when you visualize it. I don’t think you can really appreciate that until you see casks in a warehouse, to see the space that that takes up.” (I personally can appreciate it because picturing row upon row of whisky casks, as far as the eye can see, is a recurring daydream of mine. But that’s just me.)
With so much riding on the olfactory systems of a dozen whisky experts, rest and maintenance is essential. “Smell is a huge part of what we do,” says Gibson. “Something you learn with experience is, when you’re starting to get a little bit tired—for some people it can be ten glasses, for some people it can be a few more than that—we have a break, and we come back refreshed and take up where we left off."
Rest assured, though, there are substantial perks to the gig: “We do do tastings after work,” Gibson says—but only occasionally. And if they’re working on a new product, an innovation that will yield something brand new, “we very much have to nose and taste those. Because we need to make sure that the taste matches the nosing aromas.”
It’s a long, arduous process to develop prototypes and see one of them through to being a finished product that goes out to market. “Throughout that journey,” Gibson says, “you would be doing tastings every now and again.”
Sounds like another profession that makes a lot of prototypes and conducts a bunch of tests before seeing a final product take off. That’s right, rocket scientists. But their tastings are nowhere near as good.