A KEY figure at the Scotch Whisky Association has been honoured for her contribution to the industry’s green credentials.
Julie Hesketh-Laird, from Penicuik, was named a Keeper of the Quaich by the The Keepers of the Quaich Society during a recent ceremony at Blair Castle in Pitlochry.
Born near the New Forest, Hampshire, Mrs Hesketh-Laird grew up by the coast, a long distance from the whisky distilleries she would later promote.
But her father’s liking for good Scotch made her aware of whisky’s unique character and proud heritage.
She attended a small primary school in the village of Hordle, which borders the towns of Lymington and New Milton on the south coast.
She then attended secondary school in Southampton – her first taste of a big city.
Her first taste of whisky, however, came during family trips to the Highlands and she holds cherished memories of the countryside’s distinctive identity.
Discovering a landscape of traditional distilleries in Scotland, the production of whisky encouraged Mrs Hesketh-Laird’s curiosity as she became intrigued by the manufacture of a drink which was already a family favourite.
Despite never intending to live or work in London, Mrs Hesketh-Laird was offered a six-month student internship working for the Water Trade Association shortly after its privatisation.
Proving a permanent role, the position led to careers in the Confederation of British Industry and later the chemical sector.
It was in the “Big Smoke” that she met her husband, Ross Laird, who hails from Fife, before they moved to Edinburgh in order for Mrs Hesketh-Laird to take up employment with the Scotch Whisky Association, where she is currently director of operational and technical affairs.
They have a ten-year-old daughter who enjoys the countryside trips that come with her mum’s work.
In her spare time, Mrs Hesketh-Laird enjoys visiting caves and is always eager to discover underground spots in Scotland and abroad.
Mrs Hesketh-Laird was bestowed the honour of Keeper on account of her long-standing commitment to the whisky industry and her implementation of green approaches to the business. Her interest in the environment stemmed from her travels in the Highlands with her family, leading to university studies in ecology, wildlife and conservation.
Mrs Hesketh-Laird said: “I am delighted and honoured to have been invited and made a Keeper. The Scotch whisky industry is in great shape and business is growing worldwide. It is a pleasure to work for such an interesting industry whose staff recognise that growth and protecting the environment should go hand in hand.
“I am looking forward to continuing to uphold the values of the Keepers of the Quaich.”