This (interview) chat was with a pal I’ve know some years now, a hard one to be honest, as he is a part of the church and, me being Catholic, be careful what I ask! Even so, it was fun.
Who are you and what do you do?
My name is Vic Cameron, and I am a minister and whisky consultant. Yes, quite a difference in roles, however I am ‘living the dream’. Pastoring my church and travelling the world doing whisky consultancy is my dream job. I am also a husband, father and Drowdie (that’s a grandfather) and a passionate follower of Forres Mechanics Football Club.
What whisky do you collect if any and why?
I don’t really collect whisky as such; I am a firm believer that whisky is purchased for drinking and enjoying. I have nothing of course against whisky collectors; however, it is not for me. There are certain whiskies I thought that I will keep. I’m always on the look out for whiskies with distillation dates when I was based on a particular site. So, I’m always on the look out for Blair Athol and Aberfeldy from 1995 and 1996, and Dailuaine and Benrinnes from 2000 to 2003.
How did your passion for whisky begin?
I was never really into whisky as a young man but got a taste for good whisky while I was training to be a Distillery Manager with Diageo. I was 29 at the time and was based at a good site (which will remain nameless) working under an experienced manager (who will also remain nameless). One Friday afternoon I was informed we were going for a walk round the warehouse and we ended up at the back of one next to a 30 year old sherry cask. Samples were drawn and drams were poured and I was offered one. “I don’t drink whisky”, I said. I was told in no uncertain terms, with a few expletives thrown in for effect, that if I wanted to be a Distillery Manager, I had to drink whisky. So, I did, and it was wonderful; it was smooth (even at about 55% alcohol) and delicious and I have never looked back. It was also at this point that I saw distilling as a vocation and career and not just a job.
Would you like to see the closed distilleries rebuilt? Any one in particular?
I’m probably not the best person to ask this question seeing as I stood up in a training session a couple of years ago and stated that Diageo would never open Port Ellen or Brora! So, I’ve not got a great history in this respect. There are of course many sites that could be opened again. It is good to see the ‘old giants’ opening again; Port Ellen, Brora and Rosebank for example. As a local Forres boy it would be nice to see Dallas Dhu opening again, just to have another distillery in Forres to go along with Benromach and increase employment and visitors in the area.
The prices for certain whiskies keep on climbing. How does that affect your decision to keep or open a bottle?
I have to say that I will not pay what I think to be silly prices. You can still get great whisky for good prices; you can get a decent dram from the SMWS for under £60 in my opinion. Up here we can get good distillery bottlings at decent prices from Glen Moray and Benromach. And as I’ve said before I buy to enjoy not invest, so if I buy a bottle, I will open it eventually.
How do you feel about whisky investment – and do you consider yourself an ‘investor’?
As I’ve said I do not see myself as an ‘investor’ but nothing against those that are good at it and think they can make some money from it. Sometimes it bugs me when I see something that has just come out being sold on Facebook and auction sites almost immediately but that is always going to happen.
Do you think you’d be as passionate about whisky if you didn’t have connections so immersed in it?
No, I don’t think I would. Having worked in the industry for so long and being involved in so many aspects of the industry has seen my passion increase over the years. Now I just love being involved in this wonderful industry, that is known about all over the world. Everywhere I go in the world, once people know I am Scottish they want to talk about whisky, and I love that.
What are the most prized bottles in your collection?
It would be whisky distilled when I was in the management team at that site, so they would be my 1996 Gordon and MacPhail Aberfeldy, 2000 Cadenhead’s Benrinnes and 2002 Gordon and MacPhail Dailuaine.
Do you like sharing your own bottles?
Aye, I certainly do. Whisky is for sharing and I love drinking my whisky with my family and friends. I have found that people who are passionate about whisky are also normally generous as well and I’d like to think that my friends would say I was a very generous host with regards to my whisky.
What do you think about the modern whisky industry and the finishes of the product?
I think we are seeing some really exciting things happening in the industry right now. I had the great pleasure to be the Technical Advisor in the first ever Scottish Whisky Awards recently and saw the great entries that came in for this competition. The industry is full of experienced and innovative people doing great work and I am very excited about what they are doing now. And this includes what both the established guys and the new guys are doing; there is space in the industry for both.
What’s been the greatest whisky experience of your life so far?
I think it is what I am doing currently; having people put their trust and confidence in me, allowing me to work for them as a consultant. That is an amazing experience and means I have seen many parts of the world that I would never have been to, such as Myanmar and Singapore.
What are your holy grail bottles to taste/own/find?
For me it must be the ones I help to make!
Talking of Holy Grail, what drew you into becoming a spiritual leader? And your role with the higher spirits?
I started attending church in the early 1990s but soon fell away. I came back after the Twin Towers terrorist attack and made a real commitment to the Lord. I became a leader in the church fairly quickly and then studied via correspondence and on-site training to become an ordained minister (yes, I can call myself Reverend Cameron). I did this while working for Diageo and started leading a church in my ‘spare time’. 5 years ago, I felt led to change my work/church balance in order to work more in the church, so I left my full-time role with Diageo. I then started a consultancy business and done that in my ‘spare time’. And this is what I am still doing.
I do class my main job as Pastor (or minster). I love this job, being there for people and helping them live their lives. I like seeing people achieve their potential and I feel I can help them do this in my spiritual role.
How do you blend both pastimes? Is pastimes the correct word?
Maybe pastimes is not the correct word but I’m OK with that. Perhaps vocations would be a better word to use? I am very blessed at church in that I have a good team of leaders around me who can take the strain of the ministry as and when I am away on business. I love the freedom I have just now, being able to juggle my time according to what is needed. I can minster during the day for example and work at night, something that was not possible with a full-time secular job. So, I can be available for people in the church more than I used to be. I am passionate about both my vocations and feel if I manage my time well, I can do both.
What of the future?
Who knows! But whatever it is I am really excited about it. I have a few projects in the consultancy business about to start that are very exciting, both at home and abroad (watch this space), and that will keep me busy. I am also excited about our church project in India, where we have built and now run, an orphan and widow feeding station. I visit ever year and am about to go out again soon. In the long term I hope to live for half the year in India and build a school near our feeding station. So, lots of plans and lots of things to do? And of course keep enjoying a wee dram every now and again!