This week we are joined by Bacardi’s Global Malts ambassador, Georgie Bell. Georgie, who started her career in the drinks industry as a bartender in Scotland while studying geography at The University of Edinburgh, has since pursued a highly sought after career in this interesting category. At one of our favourite London hangouts Mews Of Mayfair, we talk about how she got started and why now there has never been a better time to be in the distillery industry. Grab your self a whiskey and have a read!
Hey Georgie!Congratulations on your new position at Bacardi as Global Malts Ambassador, can you tell us a little bit more about what you do and how did you start?
I was at Edinburgh University and I was studying geography whilst working in a bar, then from working behind a bar, I had a sudden real passion for whiskey because it was a category I didn’t know much about. I was so inquisitive about it though, at first I really didn’t like the taste of it. When I graduated, I thought I could move to London which is what all of my friends where doing and to try and enter the rat race and try to find a job somewhere not really knowing exactly what I wanted to do. Or I thought I could try and get a job in the whiskey industry and there is no real carved career path.
So I got a job at the Scott Malt Whisky Society behind the bar and there they had over 200 hundred whiskey’s behind the bar. I went there to improve the relationship between my brain my nose and my mouth to be able to identify what I can taste and to really work on my senses. I then went on to become their Global Brand Ambassador. While I was there, I got my second degree in distilling and from there I went to Diageo for 2 years to look after Mortlach.
What did you do at Mortlach?
Well, it was pretty much undercover, and for me, it was about taking it out and revealing it to the rest of the world which was really fun.
You then moved to Bacardi is that right?
I moved over to Bacardi at the beginning of September as their Global Malts Ambassador. Within Bacardi, we have Dewar’s which is the number one Scotch Whisky in the USA. Alongside Dewar’s we have our 5 single malts: Aberfeldy, Aultmore, Craigellachie, Royal Brackla, Glen Deveron
Tell us about your new work-steam focus
Alongside the traveling and the normal day to day job as an ambassador, I am developing a new internal educational programme around Scotch for Bacardi. Scotch is such a misunderstood category, and at first hard to get your head around. But people are oh so curious about it. It’s great to open up the category, break down stereotypes and allow people to realise it’s just as accessible – flexible – and vibrant – as any other spirit category.
Are there more women within the distilling industry now than ever?
If you look back into distilling history, there are so many iconic women that have been involved in the distilling industry.Stephanie MacLeod is the Dewar’s master blender and has been in the business for 18 years. She’s incredibly skilled and infectiously passionate about her job. Currently, there are 4 female master blenders in Scotland, growing monthly, and historically women have had an incremental role to play in the development of whiskey – from Bessie Williams – distillery manager of Laphroaig in the 1960s to Elizabeth Cumming at Cardhu distillery.
Where is the biggest market for whiskey?
The UK, USA, Spain, China, Taiwan…Russia is really cool, it is a really interesting market to work with. Beirut is taking off and has a growing love of whiskey; I’ll be going over there soon to work with the team. We’re hosting Scotch Egg Clubs around the world: a series of events pairing Dewar’s and our single malts with scotch eggs, music and good times.
What does your typical day consist of?
Every day is a bit different, like most of us. My job does include a lot of traveling and last year I spent 9 months away so each day was varied. Every day has an element of whiskey play come into it, not always drinking! At the moment I am working on our educational programme, so there is a lot of content writing to try an open up the category. Another day I may be up at the distillery’s in Scotland, or tastings and training event, hosting dinners and meetings. I get to meet some very cool people from all areas of business. I also look at current trends and possible future trends, as whiskey is sold in over 200 countries worldwide.
Where is the biggest market for whiskey?
The UK, Russia is really cool, it is a really interesting market to work with. Lebanon is a very cool, vibrant market to work with, it is really taking off at the moment. We are running a Scotch egg and Whisky club at the moment, where we pair them together and we are running these parties across the world.
Technically you are a whiskey connoisseur, how much whiskey tasting do you do?
Actually not a lot! Everything is about responsibility and moderation. The reason to drink isn’t to get drunk, it is to experience a new flavour or new bar.
What is the biggest highlight of being an Ambassador so far?
I love opening up the category of whiskey for people to understand it better. When I introduce it and really break it down and get a conversion is a really massive highlight for me. The team that I work with, that really make this what it makes me feel so lucky.
Would you ever look at creating your own Whiskey brand?
I would never say never, obviously I am very happy and enjoying what I am at the moment but I do have an entrepreneurial spirit.
How easy is it to enter the market with a startup whiskey brand?
Right now there would never be a better time to be in the distillery industry as the market is really booming. However, people need to understand it isn’t an overnight magical success. It takes a lot of patience and financial backing. I have a few friends that are starting up distilleries. What is really interesting especially Scotch whiskey is that it is an investment, but you really need to be sure of what you are doing and the decisions you are making.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
Still in the whiskey trade that’s for sure, more so in the educational side of it.
Alice Lascelles once wrote that for a woman to order whiskey at the bar it is as sexy as wearing your boyfriend’s blazer over your dress. It is very empowering – it shows power and confidence.
Favourite new cocktail hotspot?
Dandelyan at The Mondrian Hotel never ceases to amaze. The bar was curated by a good friend of mine, Ryan Chetiyawardana, and the team of bartenders is all so talented. I’ll take a Koji Hardshake with Dewar’s 12 please. I also recently experiences Scarfe’s bar at the Rosewood Hotel – they have an excellent Aberfeldy 12 cocktail on their menu that I’ll be going back for again soon.
New favourite tipple?
Dewar’s 12 with soda in a highball with lots of ice and a lemon twist. Or a Craigellachie 17, straight up, to sip away with. This also pairs amazingly with a square of dark chocolate. Match made in heaven.
Favourite new eatery hotspot?
The Modern Pantry. I really love finding new places to eat. I love the world of flavour. I love to experience new places and new things. There is always a time and place, I enjoy tea just as much.
Number one networking tip?
You have to grow and strengthen the relationships that you have on board already.
Favourite social media tool?
Twitter, using the appropriate hashtags and sharing your story across your network.