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First Scots female 'master blender' honoured by university

Rachel Barrie has been recognised for her expertise and service to the industry.

Rachel Barrie: Grew up in Aberdeenshire.
Rachel Barrie: Grew up in Aberdeenshire. Jennifer Robertson

A Scots woman has become the first female "master blender" to be given an honorary doctorate.

Rachel Barrie, raised in Aberdeenshire, is one of only a handful of women in the "top job" in the whisky industry.

She creates some of the world's finest single malts for BenRiach, Glenglassaugh and The GlenDronach distilleries.

Edinburgh University has now recognised her expertise and service to the whisky industry by making her an honorary doctor of science.

Ms Barrie's job involves nosing and tasting thousands of casks to select which whiskies will be released onto the market, as well as planning stocks for the coming year.

Her love of whisky began in her childhood, growing up in an area of Scotland which has the highest concentration of distilleries in the world.

She studied chemistry at Edinburgh University before beginning her career as a research scientist at the Scotch Whisky Research Institute.

She has received a number of industry accolades for her work developing award-winning whiskies, and has also judged international spirits competitions and served on industry committees.

"This is one of the proudest moments of my life," she said.

"My quest has been to unlock a deeper understanding of the distillation, maturation and provenance of Scotch, to develop and nurture richness of character and taste and celebrate it with the world; it's a great privilege to be recognised in this endeavour."

Award: Honoured at ceremony.
Award: Honoured at ceremony. Matthew Wiseman

"Master blenders and distillers are guardians of quality: honouring the legacy and tradition of the past, protecting spirit quality in the present, whilst innovating and continuously improving for the future.

"The decisions made today provide the foundations for growth that will be built on by the master blenders and distillers that follow.

"I'm very thankful to have had a part to play in creating some of the finest whiskies in the world".

Awarding the honorary degree on Monday, dr Andrew J. Alexander said: "Rachel Barrie's creativity, sensory perception and mastery of analytical chemistry have undoubtedly widened and deepened the appreciation of Scotch whisky around the globe.

"The University of Edinburgh is tremendously proud to honour Rachel for her achievements".

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