Whisky writer named in Queen’s Birthday Honours list

·2-min read

A man who has toured the world after “unwittingly” becoming a whisky writer has been awarded an MBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list.

Charles MacLean, whose specialist subject is Scotch, is being recognised for his services to the industry, UK exports and charity.

Since starting in the 1980s, his work has seen him travel the world – including visiting 17 countries in 2019 – as an ambassador for the national drink of Scotland.

The 69-year-old of Edinburgh told the PA news agency: “I’m gobsmacked, I’m so honoured by it.

“I’ve been toiling, working away. The thing is, I’m a writer, I have always worked for myself.

“The recognition like this means so much to me – it’s a wonderful thing to have been awarded.”

Mr MacLean spent most of the 1970s trying to work out what career he would pursue, he claimed.

He holds degrees in Art History, from St Andrews University, and Law, from the University of Dundee.

However, after embarking on a career in the legal profession he soon realised it was not for him.

He became a writer and got his first paycheque writing about the whisky industry for Bell’s in 1981.

Since then he has published 18 books on the subject, with another five written during lockdown.

Mr MacLean said: “It wasn’t planned, but whisky is a passion for consumers and those who get into it.

“I was there lucky to be there at the beginning – unwittingly.”

He claimed to not have a favourite dram and said he judges each on its own merits compared with similar styles.

Brothers rowing Atlantic
Charles MacLean’s sons (left to right) Ewan, Lachlan and Jamie set a world record after rowing the Atlantic Ocean in just 35 days (Atlantic Campaigns)

The writer’s career has seen him sample some of the most “rare and expensive” Scotch in the world, but he said he prefers blended whiskies over single malts.

Mr MacLean was elected a Keeper of the Quaich in 1992 for “his services to Scotch over many years” and elected Master of the Quaich, the industry’s highest accolade, in October 2009.

His sons – Ewan, Lachlan and Jamie MacLean – set a record for rowing across the Atlantic in 35 days last year and their dad helped raise around £250,000 for the Children 1st charity.