Want A Job Making Whiskey? Michter's Master Distiller Dan McKee Explains What It Takes - Exclusive

If you are a whiskey drinker or aficionado, one who prefers the spirit neat or on the rocks, you've probably fantasized about becoming a whiskey distiller, the ultimate dream job. If you think you need a vast knowledge of grains, mashing, and fermenting in order to get your foot in the door, you might be mistaken. Take it from Dan McKee, the master distiller at Michter's Distillery in Kentucky with whom Food Republic recently sat down at the Nassau Paradise Island Wine and Food Fest.

McKee explained that he himself started in the industry as a distillery operator at Jim Beam, working midnight shifts. While he says that having a college degree in a science field is desirable in the realm of distilling, it's not an absolute requirement, and his degree was in an entirely different field altogether. He said, "Several of our distillery operators are from different industries, and they hired on, and we would provide the training."

When your goal is to become a distiller, you don't necessarily even need to start as a distillery operator. McKee spelled out that there are several sides of the business, stating, "There's the marketing, the administrative ... we have distillery associates doing the tours, but they actually come and spend time in the distillery working in each department." Essentially, working in any area of the whiskey business can begin your career in the industry.

You need an interest and a will to learn

At the time of the interview between Food Republic and Dan McKee, he mentioned that Michter's was actively hiring for distillery operators. These associates are a vital part of the entire production of whiskey (which is actually different from "whisky"), assisting in the mashing, fermenting, casking, aging or storing, and bottling.

As the Master Distiller, McKee oversees all of this at Michter's and is ultimately responsible for the quality of the products. It typically takes years of experience to get to where McKee is, and once you reach this point, you are considered a master of the craft. He even works with local farmers to coordinate the planting schedules of the distillery's grain plot in Springfield, Kentucky. As you can see, the job literally starts from the ground up.

A master distiller has a pristine tasting palate, knowledge of chemistry and engineering, and a serious sense of quality control, not to mention the know-how to give whiskey its signature color. They should be able to operate every piece of whiskey-making equipment on their own if necessary, due to years of experience in the environment. But, as McKee told Food Republic, a career in the whiskey industry is definitely attainable for someone who has the passion for the spirit and the will to learn and work hard.

"And that's what I love about it," he said. "I feel we have a very diverse team at Michter's ... There's so many different aspects."