Irish Distillers names McCabe master blender

Jameson maker Irish Distillers has promoted Dave McCabe to the position of master blender as Billy Leighton moves into a new role.

As blender, McCabe has worked alongside Leighton for several years.

McCabe joined the company in 2010 and held numerous roles, including Irish Whiskey Academy tutor, international whiskey ambassador and process technologist, before being hired as a blender in 2018.

“I feel both excited and privileged to be appointed master blender in Irish Distillers, following in the footsteps of a true master,” McCabe said.

“I would like to thank Billy for all that he has contributed to my professional development – he has been an exceptional colleague, mentor, and friend. I truly learned from the best. I am incredibly honoured to take up this role and I am excited for the future ensuring the quality and reputation of Irish Distillers’ portfolio.”

Leighton will move into the position of master blender emeritus, following a 47-year career at Irish Distillers.

“I have spent most of my working life at Irish Distillers, and I am truly grateful for the opportunities my job and this business have afforded me,” he added.

“Dave and I have worked closely together for years and really enjoy our collaborations. I’ve seen first-hand his passion, expertise and knowledge that will ensure he is a fantastic master blender. Our whiskeys are in great hands.”

The former master blender said he was looking forward to working on special launches with the team.

Leighton started as a trainee accountant at Old Bushmills Distillery in Northern Ireland, which was owned by Irish Distillers at the time. He then moved into production, working in a variety of roles across bottling, warehousing, maturation and blending before becoming master blender at Midleton Distillery in 2004.

Nodjame Fouad, chairman and CEO at Irish Distillers, said Leighton had “played an instrumental role in the success of all our brands, and the renaissance of the Irish whiskey category globally”.

She continued: “Billy’s role in the resurgence of Redbreast, the world’s most awarded single pot still Irish whiskey, can’t be underestimated and today we celebrate his career while heralding in a new era with the appointment of Dave McCabe as master blender.”

The experimental arm of Irish Distillers, Method and Madness, recently released a seven-year-old whiskey.

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Author: Nicola Carruthers