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Our friend Diego

By March 23, 2024One Comment

Our friend Diego.

This week we lost a true friend of Dornoch Distillery. Diego Sandrin was undoubtedly one of the most wonderful people we had ever met through whisky, who over the years had become a dear friend of the distillery and the Thompson Family.

My first communication with Diego was in 2012 when I sent him a very boring question about a bottle of Ardbeg listed on his legendary website, Lions Whisky. I looked back at the messages earlier this week and Diego’s response started ”Thanks for the message, my friend” – and these words perfectly sum Diego up. He was always willing to engage with people about whisky and saw it, as it should be, as an inclusive social leveller.

We met Diego and Max for the first time in December 2013 at WFHQ in Alsace and the memory is engraved into my memory; Max and Diego in a freezing garage, Max cutting some oversized Italian sausage and Diego head to toe in Cashmere huddling next to a tiny electric heater. Over the years we made many great memories together, filling a cask at Strathearn Distillery with Spirit produced by Simon and Angus, an opera performance at Bowmore Distillery during the Islay Odyssey and all of those fun days over the years at Limburg Whisky Fair. As Angus mentioned on, Diego was always supportive of us – Three young geeks with a thirst for knowledge and willingness to open and share old and rare bottles of whisky, he was always generous with his time and knowledge.

Diego and Max, Alsace, December 2013 – Not the best photo, but certainly one of my favourite memories.
A bottling we did as thanks to Max & Diego with great art by WhiskyHobo.

Diego and Max were unbelievably supportive of our ambitions with Dornoch Distillery. Even when it was just a shed and two guys with an awful business plan, rudimentary experience in whisky production and a dream of making ‘old-style whisky’, they were willing to support us through the first round of crowdfunding and they also bought a Butt of spirit from us in the first year. As anyone who has started a distillery, or even run their own business will know, money flows out at all times! In late 2017 We were really up against it, spending large amounts of money on expensive heritage barley, and then without a consistent income stream from our Independent bottlings, it was extremely tough. I messaged Max and Diego asking if they would like us to fill another Butt for them, by the end of the day the money was in our account and we could pay wages – it was that tight.

The Butt in question was filled on Valentine’s day 2018.

In 2020 when Caroline and I stayed with Diego, I wanted to tell him about this as it was one of the most defining points of our business. His response was typically Diego, ”If you ever need money like that again, just call me.” Always supportive, trusting and generous. I am never really sure if he quite gathered how defining their support was for Dornoch Distillery. I ponder whether the business would still be here without Diego and Max supporting us at that crucial time…

Diego was one of a kind. A beautiful family man, a talented musician, a dear friend to so many and without a doubt the coolest guy we knew!

This weekend, whether you knew Diego or not, please raise a glass in his memory. x

The pre-war whisky tour cask – Simon’s first full production. A cask, and moments we proudly shared with Diego.

Vhairi Mackay

Author Vhairi Mackay

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