SMWS Chairman Becomes a Keeper of the Quaich

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SMWS Chairman Becomes a Keeper of the Quaich

Congratulations to the Society’s Chairman & Director, Andrew Derbidge, who last month received the rare and privileged honour of being inducted as a Keeper of the Quaich. Andrew was recognised for his 22 years working in the Scotch whisky industry.

The Keepers of the Quaich is an international society that was established by the Scotch Whisky industry to celebrate the outstanding commitment of those involved in the production, promotion and protection of the world’s finest distilled spirit. Only a limited number of people are inducted as a Keeper each year to honour those who have made an exceptional contribution in supporting Scotch Whisky. A robust selection process is a fundamental aspect of the Society: Potential candidates can only be nominated and seconded by existing Keepers or Masters and must have served a minimum time working in the industry.

Following a successful nomination and unanimous ratification by the Management Committee, new Keepers are inducted at a private ceremony held twice a year when the Society meets in the Scottish Highlands at Blair Castle, the ancient and historic home of the Earls and Dukes of Atholl. The Society takes its name from the traditional two-handled drinking cup which is described in the ancient Gaelic language of Scotland as a ‘cuach’ or quaich, a vessel long associated with friendship and the enjoyment of Scotch Whisky.

Andrew hosted and presented his first whisky-tasting event back in 2000, when he registered to attend an in-store tasting at a retail liquor store in Sydney’s south. Attending as a punter and keen enthusiast, the official brand ambassador didn’t turn up for the show, and so Andrew stepped in and led the room through the tasting, impromptu. He has since hosted and presented hundreds of whisky tastings and events, wearing many different hats.

He has worked continuously as a gun-for-hire Brand Ambassador for many of Scotland’s best-known brands; hosted countless corporate and private tastings under various banners, and — of course — played an integral role in the growth and development of The Scotch Malt Whisky Society’s Australia branch. Andrew was a founding member of the Australian branch in 2002 and was appointed Director and Cellarmaster in 2005 (as well as NSW State Manager) before becoming its Chairman in 2019.

Over the last two decades, Andrew also implemented the local SMWS tasting panel (Making Australia the only international branch to have its own local tasting notes), curated several bespoke whisky tours around Scotland for members of The SMWS, made significant contributions to countless publications both hardcopy and digital over the years and lectured for the WSET Diploma at NSW TAFE — all whilst working as a structural engineer full-time.

It’s obviously a tremendous honour, and I’m grateful to all the Society’s members who’ve endorsed and supported our endeavours as we’ve gone about sharing the gospel of malt”, said Andrew. “Australia is a large and healthy market for the Scotch whisky industry; it’s been a joy and privilege to have been involved in our local scene.” Andrew was actually nominated to become a Keeper at the end of 2019 and was set to have been inducted in April 2020.

However, COVID lockdowns and travel bans in the UK led to the biannual induction ceremony being cancelled for two years, and there was a backlog of inductees to clear for this year’s April ceremony, so it finally happened this October.

I’ve actually known about this for three years now and had to keep it a secret all that time…not the easiest task, but after the gloom and restrictions of the pandemic, it was fantastic to finally travel to Scotland with my family and meet up with so many colleagues in the industry.

From the whole team at SMWS internationally, we like to formally congratulate Andrew on this prestigious honour of becoming a Keeper of the Quaich. Slainté! 


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