Employment in the Whisky industry

Lucas and I have sat down many times, over a pint and a couple of whiskies and mused over employment within the Whisky industry. The options we talk about every time are:

  • Master Distiller? I think you need a good knowledge of Biology, Chemistry and Whisky making. It’s unlikely, unless we buy our own distillery….
  • Master Blender? If you had ever been at a tasting with Lucas and I, you may debate our abilities at Master Blending. Amazing palates? Not so sure.
  • Collector? Unlikely. Lucas and I tend to drink or give away any Whisky we get.

So what then? What about Brand Ambassador? Sounds pretty cool. Good title, travel all over the world, get to drink your chosen Whisky, hopefully get paid enough. Right then, that’s that sorted. Get the applications in tomorrow.

But wait a minute, maybe we should research this. Maybe after you have got the job, you have your office and you sit at your desk, it’s not all it’s cracked up to be.

Well, here at EWB, we feel we try to offer a service, so we got in touch with Ludo Ducroqc. He is Global Brand ambassador for Grant’s Whisky. We thought he would be the best person to ask.

This is going to be a three part series. Part 1: The Interview. Part 2: Lucas and Chris taste Grant’s 25 and face the wrath (or appreciation) of Ludo. Part 3: It is a secret, but should be cool.

 

PART 1: THE INTERVIEW

1. Give us an idea of a day in the life of Global brand ambassador for Grant’s

A day in my life is pretty varied. Grant’s may be incredibly popular around the world but it is made by a family company and as is often the case in family businesses, every employee has to be able to do a bit of everything.

My main task is to share our whisky’s story with the trade and whisky enthusiasts. This means hosting tasting events of course, and also developing educational tools and recruiting and training local ambassadors, who will in turn spread the word around the world.

I am also the link between our production and marketing team, answering technical questions and helping our marketers and agencies ensure any details we print on our bottles or websites are factually correct.

I am a member of our company nosing panel, which involves nosing daily samples as part of our quality control standard practices and offering feedback on New Product Development opportunities. As a whisky enthusiast, this is clearly my favourite part of the job.


2. What are Grant’s biggest markets?

France and the UK are our main markets, particularly for The Family Reserve. Latin America and Russia are becoming increasingly important for our older expressions.

3. I saw mention of Grant’s 18 on your blog, will this ever become part of the core UK range?

Interestingly, the premium blended category (i.e. 12 years and over) is relatively small in the UK, although globally, it is worth 3 times more money than single malts. At the moment our focus in the UK is on the Family Reserve and the Ale and Sherry Casks, but who knows what the future holds. However, if you are desperate to buy a bottle, you can buy one from our shop in Dufftown.

4. What is your favourite non William Grant’s whisky?

There are very few whiskies I don’t like! I find many of Diageo’s malts excellent (particularly Talisker and Lagavulin). Benromach is another malt I often recommend (partly because it is made by a local family who is really passionate about it). Girvan single grain (fair enough, it’s one of ours but it is amazing, no matter how old it is). Finally, I should give credit to the Japanese whiskies, especially their blends.

5. What is your favourite of the William Grant’s range?

I find Ale Cask extremely well balanced, floral, fruity and delicate. It’s perfect as a pre-dinner whisky in spring or summer.

Grant’s 12 Years Old would be my first choice after dinner. It’s a common favourite in our company and I vividly remember the first time I tasted it.

6. How would you best explain the art of blending and sell blends to our mostly single malt drinking readership?

In a way, many blends suffer from their popularity (in the same way that the best selling single malts do). There is also a real lack of understanding of single grain whisky, which is logical considering not one single grain distillery is open to the public (for a variety of reasons which I won’t go into now).

For a number of malt enthusiasts the quality of a blend is assessed by its malt content, often before it is even tasted (as if you could use any single grain and the more malt you use, the better the blend). I wish it were this simple. One of the issues is that single grain whisky is cheaper to produce than single malt. Although you need more cereals to produce grain whisky, wheat doesn’t need to be malted. Distillation is also much more energy and time efficient. These two reasons alone make single grains cheaper to distil than single malts. But cheaper does not mean inferior from a taste perspective (especially as far as contribution to the overall complexity of a blend is concerned). Single grain whiskies are as distinctive as single malts. Both need to be carefully selected by an experienced master blender and if you want to cut your teeth at blending, I would recommend starting with blending casks from a single distillery, not dozens of distilleries as is commonly the case with many blended whiskies! A walk through our warehouses in Girvan will take you on a tour of Scotch whisky history as you’ll meet many malt and grain whisky casks from famous distilleries and others that are no longer in existence. How our master blender knows most of them is beyond me!

Clearly, the challenge (and opportunity for blenders) is that the single malts and single grains available will vary from week to week, which means there is no such thing as a recipe. Master blenders constantly need to reinvent the recipe of their blend to match the house style they are aiming for. On the positive and commercial side, this means the growth of blended whiskies is far less restricted.

In a nutshell, I would say blending is like cooking or conducting an orchestra. It’s about taking the best ingredients and giving them space to compliment each other.

In all fairness, I think many malt whisky enthusiasts feel positive about blends (especially the Compass Box range and many Japanese blended whiskies). Many of my friends have a variety of whiskies at home, including malts, grains and blends.

7. How did you get the job as Global Brand Ambassador?

I graduated with a degree in literature and took a summer job at the Glenfiddich Distillery Visitor Centre in 2000. I had an interest in whisky then but after a few weeks in Dufftown, I quickly developed a passion for it. One of the bonuses of working for a family business is that it’s relatively easy to have access to key people such as family members, master blenders, ambassadors or distillery managers. I took every opportunity to engage with those people and as my knowledge and skills grew, I was gradually asked to represent our whiskies in small markets. In 2004, our Global Brand Ambassador at the time moved on and I was offered his position.

If you want to find out more about Ludo’s endeavours, click here.

That’s the end of Part 1. Can’t wait to taste Grant’s 25 in Part 2; coming soon to a blog near you.

Chris

 

Comments

  1. You shold talk with ian Millar – Glenfiddich & Balvinie Ambassador — and former distillery manager. A wealth of good info.

  2. When can we be expecting Parts 2 and 3???

  3. Well spotted Stuart. I am quite bad for sorting out Part 1 of an article and then not doing part 2 and 3. Part 2 is effectively this: http://www.edinburghwhiskyblog.com/2010/07/07/the-ultimate-half-and-half/

    and Part 3: Im still working on. It has been a while, but I do hope to get it sorted soon.

    Cheers,

    Chris

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