A 19-year-old worker at an independent drinks retailer has won a spirits scholarship launched by William Grant to celebrate the life of its former prestige retail manager Ian Murray.

Murray died last year after a short illness, and his family and colleagues at William Grant make up the judging panel.

They awarded the scholarship to West Midlands teenager Jerome Marks-Gardener, whose father runs independent drinks merchant Nickolls & Perks, which was shortlisted for Independent Spirits Supplier of the Year at the 2014 Drinks Retailing Awards.

Marks-Gardener works at the store and developed a passion for whisky while watching his father present whisky tastings in the 17th century cellars of Stourbridge-based Nickolls & Perks.

Judges said his knowledge and enthusiasm for the spirits industry impressed them.

Marks-Gardener will be put forward WSET 1 and 2 qualifications, and be enrolled on a presentation skills course and visit a William Grant & Sons distillery for an educational tour.

He said: “Working for my family business, Nickolls & Perks, I have enjoyed learning about the versatility of spirits and the various whiskies that Scotland and the rest of the world has to offer.

“As well as inspiring hundreds of others to delve into the whisky world, Ian Murray has inspired me. His ability to hold the attention of a crowd was exceptional and he is someone I truly wish to emulate. In the future I hope to hold tastings of my own, and through the scholarship I will have the chance to excel in skills that are invaluable to our trade. I can’t wait to dive into this incredible opportunity.”

Kirsten Grant Meikle, fifth generation Grant family member, added: “Jerome Marks-Gardener is a deserving winner who I know has the passion to take full advantage of this opportunity. Coming from a family business himself, I hope that Jerome will relate to our own family business, and I know Ian Murray would be proud to have such a bright spark following in his footsteps.”