Scotland’s first female coppersmith appointed

28th November, 2017 by Nicola Carruthers

Rebecca Weir has joined Diageo Abercrombie to become what is thought to be Scotland’s first female coppersmith.

Rebecca Weir is Scotland’s first female coppersmith

The Alloa-based coppersmiths has appointed the 18-year-old as a first-year modern apprentice, joining 16-year-old Calum McTaggart from Islay, and Steven Key, a mature apprentice recruit.

The apprentices will learn how to hand-beat copper sheets and weld them into whisky stills, as well as being trained in computer aided design techniques, mastering a blend of strength, skill and patience.

The training, which integrates college qualifications with hands-on experience, will allow the apprentices to learn about the traditional coppersmith craft, which has been passed from generation to generation.

“My guidance teacher told me about the apprenticeship opportunities with Diageo,” said Weir. “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. 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. The UK drinks giant is aiming to increase female representation in its global senior leadership team to 40% by 2025.

Mentor and operations manager at Diageo Abercrombie, Charlie King, said: “The traditional coppersmith skills take 10 years to master but once mastered, it’s a career to last a lifetime. If there were to be a gap in skills, the trade would be lost forever – you can’t learn this out of a book – so you can see how important it is for us to nurture the next generation.

“As a company, we look to give opportunities to anyone who deserves them and these three budding apprentices were definitely the right candidates for this year’s programme.”

Founded in 1790, Diageo Abercrombie offers around two apprenticeships every year, with a further 18 engineering opportunities at its sites across Scotland.

It now employs 43 coppersmiths at its site in Alloa, with a further nine apprentices to ensure that global demand is met.

In October this year, Chapel Gate Irish Whiskey Co, the first modern whiskey bonder in Ireland and the country’s only all-female Irish whiskey company, launched its first product.

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