If any casks have imperfections, Rocco will sniff them out.

By Mike Pomranz
May 26, 2021
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Rocco the distillery dog
Credit: Scott Richmond

Dogs have further solidified their position as our best friend: A well-trained pooch in Scotland has just been employed by Grant's Whisky as a quality control expert to help the distillery make better booze.

Rocco—a one-year-old cocker spaniel—has started working at the Grant's facility in Girvan, a town in South Ayrshire, Scotland, tasked with sniffing out any imperfections in the wooden casks where the whisky is aged and reporting the problem to Chris Wooff (yes, that is his real name and not just a pun), Grant's associate global brand director, according to Scotland's Daily Record.

"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," Wooff told the paper. "The sense of smell of a dog like Rocco is 40 times stronger than a human's, and we've specially selected and trained Rocco to pick up the scent of anything that's not quite right as the whisky matures. 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."

Rocco the distillery dog
Credit: Scott Richmond

Rocco has spent about half his life preparing for this job, undergoing six-months of training with Stuart Phillips—a Welsh dog expert—to learn the trade. "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," he was quoted as saying, adding that Grant's provided sample casks for the training.

Rocco the distillery dog
Credit: Scott Richmond

And beyond having a cool job, Rocco's position also comes with room and board. The spaniel apparently lives in a hand-built kennel right outside of the distillery. "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," Lianne Noble, who serves as the Rocco's primary caregiver, told the Daily Record, "but the boost in morale has been a joy to see." Not to mention the boost in the quality of the whisky.