Two cocker spaniels trained in Pembrokeshire are being used in a world-first; to sniff out possible imperfections in whisky barrels at the Grant's Whisky distillery in Girvan in Ayrshire.

Rocco was trained alongside another Cocker Spaniel, Bran, for this secret detection dog project by multi-award winning Pembrokeshire dog trainer, Stuart Phillips of BWY Canine.They are the first Whisky detection dogs in the world.

18 month old Rocco is now working full time at the Grant's Whisky distillery in Girvan, helping staff there to identify wooden casks which have imperfections.

Should Rocco identify any casks then his new handler will inform staff at the barrel makers, who can place the casks to one side so they are not be used in the whisky making process.

What exactly Rocco and Bran have been trained to sniff out remains confidential, but Whisky drinkers can be assured that the dogs are helping to identify imperfections in the wooden casks, ensuring that the quality of whisky produced remains at the exceptionally high standard expected by the whisky maker and the consumers purchasing bottles of whisky.

Training Rocco and Bran took more than eight months and involved a huge amount testing, training and evaluation, as detection dogs have never been trained to perform this very special task before in the UK or Europe.

Instead of just training the one dog, Rocco, Stuart decided to train two dogs, so he could measure their performance during training and, should one of the dogs fail the training, then there would be a reserve.

Thankfully neither dog failed the training, both performed exceptionally well, but there was only one vacancy with Grant's at their Girvan Distillery, which was filled by whisky dog Rocco.

With Rocco now working full time at the Grant's Distillery in Scotland, Bran will remain with Stuart and be used to help other Whisky makers in the UK, putting his unique and specialist skills to very good use.

Trainer Stuart Phillips, who can normally be found assisting Police, Trading Standards and Customs, using detection dogs to locate drugs, cash and illegal tobacco products throughout the UK, said:

"To be asked by Grant's Whisky to lead this project was fantastic news.

“Grant's Whisky is the fourth largest Scotch whisky maker in the world and for them to ask a small Pembrokeshire business to work with them on this was a huge honour.

“This is the first time dogs have been trained to perform such a task in the world, there are no other dogs doing this in any other whisky distillery.

“This has been massive for me, as a dog trainer to be working on a world first with detection dogs, this has been a dream project.

“Rocco and Bran who are both working cocker spaniels have been a pleasure to train and work with. It hasn't been an easy process and because no one has ever done this before, I've had no where to go to for advice, like I would when training other dogs for explosives, tobacco or drugs.

“For over 8 months I've had to keep this whole project quiet, so it's great that this is now in the news and people can hear about the world’s first whisky dogs which were trained in Pembrokeshire for a huge Scotch whisky. maker."

Any imperfections in the barrels will be reported to Grant’s associate global brand director, artly named Chris Wooff.

“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,” he said.

“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.”

Although Rocco’s findings will be sent to Mr Wooff, his day-to-day care at the distillery – where staff have made him a special kennel – will be looked after by team leader Lianne Noble.

She said that while Rocco’s primary function is to help maintain the quality of the whisky, his presence is having a secondary benefit.

Ms Noble said: “The atmosphere lifts wherever Rocco is working, and people can’t help but smile in his presence.

“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, but the boost in morale has been a joy to see.”