First female role
Rebecca holding a torch for apprentices
Rebecca Weir: “I had to go for it”
Rebecca Weir has struck another blow for gender equality by becoming the first female apprentice to take up the coppersmith’s hammer and torch.
The 18-year-old from Alloa has been recruited by Diageo Abercrombie as part of the latest intake of young recruits.
For centuries coppersmiths have used the same tried and tested methods to make the famous stills which are at the heart of Scotch whisky distillation.
Ms Weir will learn how to hand-beat copper sheets and weld them into whisky stills, as well as being trained in state-of-the-art computer aided design techniques, mastering a blend of strength, skill and patience.
The former Alloa Academy pupil said: “My guidance teacher told me about the apprenticeship opportunities with Diageo. I thought it sounded like a really interesting route and I knew I had to go for it.
“I wasn’t put off by gender stereotypes – I don’t think that should stop anyone from doing what they want to do.
“It’s really exciting to be part of something which is so important to the whisky industry. I can’t wait to get stuck in and learn more about the essential skills needed to build and preserve the stills which produce some of the world’s most-loved Scotch whisky.”
She joins a vanguard of female distillers, engineers, blenders and brand ambassadors at Diageo, hoping to inspire other women to join the industry.
At Diageo in Scotland, a quarter of all its apprentices are female; 17% of the malt distilling workforce is female and 40% are in management roles, reflecting the company’s focus on diversity in its workforce.
Abercrombie, which hand-crafts bespoke stills for Diageo’s sites across Europe, is experiencing one of the largest peaks in demand for its specialist engineering services in its history.
While a traditional product, Scotch is still innovative and new ranges – which require a diverse range of stills in different shapes and sizes – are constantly being launched.
Diageo Abercrombie has created thousands of copper stills since its creation in 1790, and now employs 43 coppersmiths at its site in Alloa – some with more than 40 years’ service – with a further nine apprentices to help ensure that the growing global demand is met.
Mentor and operations manager at Diageo Abercrombie, Charlie King, said it has been his career’s ambition to encourage young people to consider a coppersmith career. He said: “There’s a strong relationship between stills and flavour, meaning our work is tailored to each specific project and so almost no part of the craft can be automated.”