A year-old cocker spaniel has landed a dream job at whisky-maker William Grant & Sons.
Rocco’s new duties at Grant’s grain whisky distillery, in Girvan, Ayrshire, involve sniffing out the quality of casks and identifying any problems.
When he’s done checking out the quality of the wood in the cooperage, he noses around the rest of the distillery to make sure everything is going to plan.
If Rocco picks up the scent of anything that needs attention, it gets reported to one of the company’s top dogs – a man with a perfect name for overseeing the activities of the distillery’s new four-legged super sniffer, associate global brand director Chris Wooff.
Grant’s now has its headquarters in Richmond, Surrey, but its registered address and spiritual home are at Glenfiddich Distillery, in Dufftown.
The family-owned company produced its first drop of whisky on Speyside on Christmas Day 1887.
Rocco has already established himself as one of the team at Grant’s Whisky cooperage in Girvan, where wooden barrels are made by highly skilled craftsmen using traditional techniques.
We’ve specially selected and trained him to pick up the scent of anything that’s not quite right.”
Chris Wooff, William Grant & Sons
Mr Wooff said: “Wood is a natural material and the distilling of whisky is an organic process, so our job for Grant’s Whisky is to make sure that everything is perfect as the whisky ages in the oak casks.
“The sense of smell of a dog like Rocco is 40 times stronger than a human’s, and we’ve specially selected and trained him to pick up the scent of anything that’s not quite right as the whisky matures.”
Mr Wooff added: “Mechanical ‘noses’ are widely used in the wine-making industry, but we wanted to maintain the tradition of our craft skills by using a dog’s natural super-sense of smell in our quality control process.
“Rocco’s ability to ‘nose’ a very large number of casks in a short space of time means he is a fantastic addition to our team of craftsmen.”
Before taking up his new role, Rocco went through six months of intensive training with dog training expert Stuart Phillips in Pembrokeshire, Wales, to hone his natural skills.
Mr Phillips used a number of Grant’s Whisky cask samples to build a training ground for Rocco.
He said: “A dog like Rocco has such a powerful natural sense of smell that my job was to help him focus on identifying specific scents in the wood, and then communicating what he’s found to the Grant’s team.”
Grant’s cooperage workers craftsmen have built Rocco a kennel at the distillery, where he is cared for by team leader Lianne Noble, who prepares his daily work schedule and keeps him fed and exercised.
The boost in morale has been a joy to see.”
Leanne Noble, Grant’s
Ms Noble said: “Word spread very quickly around the distillery about Rocco’s arrival in the team and it has been amazing to see the impact he has on everyone around him.
“The atmosphere lifts wherever Rocco is working, and people can’t help but smile in his presence.
“He’s a working dog rather than a workplace pet, so we have guidelines in place to make sure he doesn’t get disturbed when he’s taking a break between shifts, but the boost in morale has been a joy to see.”
Grant’s Scotch portfolio includes single malt brands Glenfiddich and The Balvenie, as well as blended whisky Grant’s.