Distillery Manager

As a distillery manager you hold one of the most senior positions at a distillery. You are responsible for achieving production targets, driving improvements at the distillery and a variety of administrative tasks; ensuring that the routine operation of the distillery continues successfully. The role includes overseeing the production line and warehousing of Scotch Whisky and requires that you continually looking for ways to drive improvement.

Role Description

The role involves liaising with every division in the distillery, including sales, production, marketing, and quality assurance. It also involves meeting with clients and suppliers as they actively promote the brands produced by the distillery.

In addition, you will oversee plant maintenance and various engineering projects, as well as the management, motivation, recruitment, training, and development of staff.

Main duties and responsibilities

Distillery Managers oversee the entire distillation process. The role includes responsibility for the raw materials from which the whisky is made, the condition and smooth running of plant and equipment, and for managing the operators and technicians. Ultimately, the Distillery Manager is responsible for ensuring the taste, strength, and appearance of each batch of whisky remains consistent, despite the small and unavoidable variations in natural ingredients. This will involve monitoring the production process at regular intervals, testing samples, and making adjustments where necessary.

The role of a distillery manager is varied and includes many different responsibilities, including:

  1. Managing the distillery’s annual budget planning process. Overseeing the delivery of annual, quarterly, and monthly budgets, production plans, forecasts and weekly schedules.
  2. Monitoring and maintaining product quality, cost, and delivery to ensure all three remain within approved guidelines. Including ensuring that the whisky is properly aged by conducting quality checks to ensure that the product meets the required standards.
  3. Delivery of cost, efficiency, energy, yield, volume, water, effluent, and carbon targets for Distillery Production.
  4. Oversee all aspects of production operations, process management, improvement, spirit trials, supplier, and raw material conformity and problem-solving related to whisky production. Recording key information about the whisky production process and collating reports.
  5. Driving CI across all production sites, delivery of the QMS, Health, Safety & Environmental and HMRC compliance. Leading research into new equipment, processes and ways to become more efficient, reduce costs and improve sustainability.
  6. Coordinating & collaborating with all production departments in delivering & managing regulatory bodies. Completing any necessary regulatory documentation to comply with the requirements of HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC)
  7. Leading the whisky production team. Set goals & objectives whilst managing performance and reviews, Managing weekly team meetings. Overseeing the recruitment process.
  8. Leading technical/engineering for all whisky production and distilling equipment and systems. All equipment to be operational, safe, and well maintained regularly in line with agreed preventative maintenance schedules. Reactive maintenance and repairs as necessary.
  9. Working with the Master Distillers to develop new whisky products while making sure that existing output maintains quality standards.
  10. Serving as a brand ambassador to promote the distillery at public events. Supporting the development of marketing strategies, managing advertising campaigns, and building relationships with customers and distributors.

Skills and experience

To be a successful distillery manager, you need to balance a wide range of skills and experience, including:

  1. A deep understanding of the whisky production process, including fermentation, distillation, aging, and bottling. Comprehensive product knowledge.
  2. A solid understanding of financial management, including budgeting, forecasting, cost control, and revenue management.
  3. Excellent leadership & management skills with the ability to set the strategic direction and to lead, motivate, coach, train, develop and manage teams. With the ability to delegate tasks effectively and foster a positive work environment.
  4. Degree qualified or equivalent qualification/experience in a Production or Engineering discipline.
  5. Strong technical skills, including the ability to operate and maintain distillery equipment and machinery, troubleshoot issues, and oversee the production process to ensure quality and consistency.
  6. Highly numerate with strong IT, problem solving and decision-making skills.
  7. Excellent interpersonal skills, communication skills, time management skills and self-motivation. Ability to communicate effectively with employees, suppliers, customers, and stakeholders. This includes written and verbal communication skills, as well as the ability to present information clearly and persuasively.
  8. Expert knowledge of HACCP and SALSA/BRC standards, HMRC regulations and HSE standards required.
  9. Well-versed in industry regulations, safety standards, and compliance requirements.
  10. Highly developed project management skills with a focus on continuous improvement.

A distillery manager typically has several years of experience working in a distillery or other manufacturing environment, usually in a leadership role. A degree in a relevant field such as chemistry, food science, or business is also beneficial.

Qualifications Required

Whilst most Distillery Managers have a degree in a relevant field. Several years’ experience in the distillery industry, ideally in a leadership role, will equip you to take on a role as a distillery manager. Typical qualifications include:

  1. A degree in a relevant field such as chemistry, food science, engineering, or business can provide a strong foundation for a career in distillery management.
  2. A distilling from organisations such as the Institute of Brewing and Distilling (IBD) and the Wine and Spirit Education Trust (WSET).
  3. A qualification in leadership and management can be beneficial for those seeking to manage teams and oversee operations in a distillery.
  4. As health and safety is an important aspect of distillery management, qualifications in health and safety management can be beneficial.
  5. Qualifications in marketing can be helpful for those involved in promoting and marketing the distillery's products.
Did you know?
  1. The role of a distillery manager is critical to the success of a distillery. They are responsible for overseeing the entire production process, from sourcing the ingredients to packaging and distribution.
  2. Many distillery managers have worked their way up through the ranks, starting out in entry-level positions and gradually working their way up to management roles.
  3. The UK Scotch whisky industry is a significant contributor to the UK economy, supporting over 42,000 jobs and generating over £5 billion in revenue each year.
  4. Many distillery managers are passionate about the history and tradition of Scotch whisky and take pride in preserving the unique character of their distillery's products.
  5. Distillery managers are also responsible for managing relationships with suppliers, customers, and distributors, and must be skilled in negotiation and communication.

If you are interested in becoming a distillery manager, the following resources may be helpful:

  1. Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) - As the industry body that represents the interests of Scotch whisky producers the SWA provides information on industry news, events, and job opportunities.
  2. Whisky Jobs UK - This website is a dedicated job board for the UK whisky industry, including job postings for distillery managers.
  3. LinkedIn - LinkedIn is a powerful tool for job seekers, as it allows you to connect with industry professionals and browse job postings. You can use the search function to find distillery manager positions in the UK Scotch whisky industry.
  4. Distill Ventures - Distill Ventures is a startup accelerator for the spirits industry, and offers a range of programs and resources for entrepreneurs and professionals in the industry. Their website includes information on job opportunities and networking events.
  5. Websites such as Indeed, Glassdoor, and Totaljobs often feature job postings for distillery managers in the UK Scotch whisky industry.
  6. Industry events - Attending industry events, such as whisky festivals or trade shows, can be a great way to network with industry professionals and learn about job opportunities.
  7. Joining a professional association, such as the Institute of Brewing and Distilling (IBD) or the Wine and Spirit Education Trust (WSET), can provide access to industry resources, training programs, and networking opportunities.
Related Case Studies

The Scotch Whisky Association

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