What can I say about Georgie Bell? Industry legend, universally respected and a phenomenal role model for people looking to get into the world of whisky.
When we spent time together visiting the Craigellachie, Aberfeldy, Aultmore and Royal Brackla distilleries in May, I wrote a note to self: “Georgie’s prowess, passion, knowledge and shear dedication is so impressive it goes beyond being infectious, it’s a fcuking joy to witness”. I then followed up with Georgie to delve a bit deeper into a few of the themes from the trip and to learn more about the woman behind the brands.
GD: You spoke about you wanting your dissertation being on Tequila at uni, tell me about your journey from there to where you are now
Georgie: So when it came to writing my dissertation, I had to do it on something I was generally interested in = alcohol. Originally I was going to study the glocalisation of tequila, but swine flu happened so I couldn’t fly to mexico to do my research and had to do a shift change. I lived in Scotland, and I liked scotch…so that was the obvious choice! So I studied whisky and identity of place, and how the distilleries and whisky culture on Islay have created a globally projected image of Islay that may not be accurate, but are as much of its identity as pizza and pasta are to Italy. After going over to Islay to do my research and writing the dissertation I was hooked. When I gradated I got a job at the Scotch Malt Whisky Society as a bar assistant – to improve the relationship between my nose, mouth and mind: to be able to identify flavours in a glass. Having just come out of uni I wanted to carry on learning, so ended up doing – over the course of 3 years – a second degree in distilling with the Institute of Brewing and Distilling. And then I was really hooked. I became the global brand ambassador for the Scotch Malt Whisky Society over the year of their 30th anniversary, and then I worked for Diageo on launching Mortlach before doing what I am today – the Global Malts Ambassador at Bacardi.
GD: How would you describe the role of a brand ambassador?
Georgie: I like to think of the global brand ambassador role as a supporting actress role to the brands you’re representing – they always need to be the star of the show and whatever we do is there to make them shine. This also goes to supporting all our local ambassadors around the world – making sure they have all the right information they need and that we all together feel part of a community. It’s about representing the brand, building advocacy across bartenders and consumers and aiding others to find stories and passion points within our whiskies.
A huge part of the role is education – education on the category of whisky and where Dewar’s and our malts sit within this. It’s always important to give a holistic overview. Education also covers how to drink – inspiration for cocktails and occasionality. Education also covers responsible drinking, mindfulness and balance – things that are so current and important in all of our lives, and will become increasingly so.
I suppose as well I’m hugely passionate about what I do – but also passionate about breaking the stereotype and opening up the category to all by shaking off that image of yesteryear. That’s a really important part of my role – inclusiveness and ability to make whisky as a category fit within both current and future trends within global cultures.
GD: What does a typical day in the life of a brand ambassador look like?
Georgie: Every day is different. It really depends where in the world I am (I travel about 8 or so months of the year) and which of our local teams I’m working with. I’m off to Japan tomorrow at there each day will be a mix of hosting seminars to bartenders on how to use Scotch in Cocktails, doing guest bartending shifts, media interviews, internal meetings, and hopefully slurping up copious bowls of Ramen. From random, crazy experiences (pouring whisky over the paddock of the Monaco Grand Prix; having a golf buggy race to find Busta Rhymes at a Russian Golf Course; pairing whisky with birds nest desserts at Chinese banquets) through to the everyday – I’m currently writing an internal education program for us on whisky, which involves a LOT of laptop time. Later this summer I’ll be doing a seminar on Age Statements at Tales of the Cocktail in New Orleans, and before then – co-hosting a workshop at Cannes Lions on marketing whisky to women. As I said – every day is different and that’s what I love about this job.
GD: What’s the most exciting thing you’ve seen in whisky over the last couple of years?
Georgie: The changing face of whisky – the way bartenders are thinking about how they can include in more in cocktail menus – the launch of rule breaking whisky bars such as Black Rock in London, Devil’s Advocate in Edinburgh and The Baxter Inn in Sydney. And also how more women and younger generations are shouting about drinking it. Whisky’s no longer seen as an older man’s drink and that’s been a very exciting thing to not only witness but be a part of.
GD: What do you see as the future of whisky, and the whisky consumer?
Georgie: The above! And I think we’re really getting there! As for the future of whisky – well whisky as a category just keeps growing and there’s never been a better time to be a whisky drinker. World whisky is on fire and it’s exciting to see GOOD whiskies now available from all over the world, raising the bar constantly and pushing boundaries. Australia (I’m a big fan of Archie Rose + Starwood Distillery), Japan (all of it!), Scandinavia, Germany, South Africa, Canada… the diversity of whisky is incredible and long may this continue!
Georgie: Anything from Compass Box. I really admire John Glaser and everything he’s doing in terms of his movements in transparency and pushing boundaries. I think the ‘3 year old Super Deluxe’ is a revelational concept.
Clynelish – oh that tropical fruit / waxiness that comes through…it’s like stepping into a sauna filled with scented candles.
High West Double Rye. I’m a sucker for the spiciness that comes through on this whisky – I think it’s awesome. I’m also a big fan of their Silver whisky too