Explore: Food production

Assistant Blender
Glengoyne Distillery

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John G

00:02 My name’s John G and I’m assistant blender at Ian McLeod distillers.

00:06 My job involves a lot of varying tasks it goes from standard quality control but then it ranges to designing blends, I have various different casks which I decide how to mix I assist my boss in deciding how we’re going to produce the final blend and it goes to taking samples myself, walking through the warehouses cracking open the casks and a lot of different activities in between.

00:31 I certainly never thought I would end up here, I never thought I’d end up in the whisky industry but to be honest during most of school I never had any real direction. It’s an odd line for my family to be in, my grandparents are from the Salvation Army so they’re all teetotallers. When I finished school I had good grades and didn’t know what to do. Now my dad is a doctor and I had the grades to do medicine and decided to start studying medicine, I started studying medicine not because my dad told me to, in fact he warned me saying, you know it’s a lot of work are you sure it’s something you want to do, but I did it because I thought it would be a worthwhile career and I had the ability to do it. Had no problems in first year at all with medicine, then got onto to second year and really had a real is this what I want to do moment. I can still remember walking to a lecture one day and thinking, wait a minute, is this what I want to do, am I going to be prepared mentally to be able to, to do a doctor, have all the responsibilities, and, it was at that point I thought, oh, I just don’t know, I don’t know, and throughout the rest of that year I had continued on confidence issues and although I attended everything, every lecture, did every course work, in the exams I crumbled.

01:45 Now, now I would say it was just because I’d come to terms with something, it wasn’t something that I didn’t want to do. When I finished the two years of medicine I wanted to get a degree and biochemistry was the easiest thing to change to and I felt by changing to a degree in bio chemistry I could go straight into second year I could do a degree I was good at but wouldn’t have the restrictions and wouldn’t have the pressures I would have had studying a medical degree.

02:09 I fell into enjoyment of whisky during university stage is when I got into whisky society and I realised I really enjoyed the stuff and when I finished my degree I couldn’t decide what to do. I was looking at PhDs and they didn’t seem to suit me so I decided to do a job I enjoyed for a while until I decided where my life was going and there’s a tourist attraction in Edinburgh called The Whisky Heritage Centre or Whisky Experience as it’s now known, which I thought I’ll get a job there for a while, I’ll enjoy it, it’ll be good fun, I might learn some stuff, taste some good whisky and started working there and after about a year or two, I decided this really is my passion this is an industry I really want to work in, and blending you need to have a good chemical background as well so luckily this job’s position came up, my chemistry background came into play and my passion of whisky I think was probably the biggest factor in deciding it.

03:00 I’ve been doing the job for two years now but it’s a long time until I will feel properly qualified, a biggest part of my job is probably the nose, I’ve got to smell a lot of samples and a week I can smell hundreds of different single casked whiskies, and I’ve got to be able to detect minute little differences between those, I’ve got to detect the qualities within them, so, something like that doesn’t happen overnight, every new cask’s almost a new experience if you will, still, I’ve got a long way to go.

03:28 Probably the biggest turning point in my life was at the end of university deciding not to make a hurried decision, I could have gone to do a further studies at university, I could have taken a job within a lab but I felt whatever I chose I would be stuck in, I wouldn’t change for years, so I purposefully chose a job that maybe wasn’t particularly well paid but one that I would enjoy and one that would give me time to survive and also think for, for more time of what I would ultimately like to do.

03:56 END


John G is an Assistant Blender at Glengoyne Distillery. In Medical School he realised he did not want to be a doctor. He changed to biochemistry and after graduating did not want to make a “hurried decision”. He says “I fell into enjoyment of whisky during university”. He has to smell and know the subtle difference between 200 different casks of whiskey every week.

More information about Food, drink and tobacco process operatives

average salary

The UK average salary is £29,813

average weekly hours

There are 37.5 hours in the average working week

72%  male 
28%  female 

The UK workforce is 47% female and 53% male

Future employment

Future employment?

? Food, drink and tobacco process operatives set, operate and attend machinery to bake, freeze, heat, crush, mix, blend and otherwise process foodstuffs, beverages and tobacco leaves.
There are no formal academic entry requirements, though some GCSEs/S grades can be an advantage. Off- and on-the-job training is available. NVQs/ SVQs in Food and Drink Manufacturing Operations are available at Levels 1, 2 and 3. NVQs/SVQs in Tobacco Processing are available at Level 2.
  • Sets, operates and attends machinery and ovens to mix, bake and otherwise prepare bread and flour confectionery products;
  • Operates machinery to crush, mix, malt, cook and ferment grains and fruits to produce beer, wines, malt liquors, vinegar, yeast and related products;
  • Attends equipment to make jam, toffee, cheese, processed cheese, margarine, syrup, ice, pasta, ice-cream, sausages, chocolate, maize starch, edible fats and dextrin;
  • Operates equipment to cool, heat, dry, roast, blanch, pasteurise, smoke, sterilise, freeze, evaporate and concentrate foodstuffs and liquids used in food processing;
  • Mixes, pulps, grinds, blends and separates foodstuffs and liquids with churning, pressing, sieving, grinding and filtering equipment;
  • Processes tobacco leaves by hand or machine to make cigarettes, cigars, pipe and other tobacco products.
Employment by region
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Employment status

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