Georgie Bell is the highly-respected Global Malts Ambassador for Bacardi and Dewar’s, and promotes the work of the Aberfeldy, Aultmore, Craigellachie, Royal Brackla and The Deveron distilleries.
Simon Wittenberg caught up with her to find out more about her current role and the latest developments in the whisky industry.
Luxurious Magazine: What sparked your interest in whisky, as I understand that you originally disliked it?
Georgie Bell: I began my career in spirits as a bartender in Edinburgh, while studying at the University of Edinburgh. When I first tried Scotch, I didn’t immediately enjoy it – I believe the flavour of Scotch is an acquired taste (just like red wine or olives) – but I grew to like it through cocktails. That’s why today I’m a big advocate of using single malts in cocktails.
But after that, I developed a huge passion for whisky – its history, provenance, depth and plethora of flavour, and the people involved in it. Whisky education has been my career for the last 10 years.
LM: What have been your career highlights to date, and was it a big change moving from your home county of Essex to Scotland?
GB: I actually moved to Scotland when I was 18, for university. As my passion and career grew deeper within the area of Scotch, I ended up staying there for 10 years. Three years ago, I moved back to London and have just bought a house here with my partner. My spiritual home is still Scotland – I’m lucky enough to go there frequently, and I love nothing more than driving into the countryside and up into the valleys of Speyside – it’s so peaceful up there, and incredibly rich in distilling history.
A recent career highlight was the global launch of Craigellachie 51. A typically collectable Scotch, we made the world’s most uncollectable whisky by Sharing the Rare – over 12 months we gave away Craigellachie 51 for free to over 1,500 people across the world at a series of pop-up events. A great chance to try a piece of liquid history and clink glasses with friends old and new.
LM: You achieved the highest mark globally in the Institute of Brewers and Distilling’s Diploma in Distillation. This must also be a major highlight on your CV?
GB: It really is! I’d just graduated with a geography degree and still had the educating bug, so I studied for two years to gain the diploma. It was a huge milestone in my career – I was fascinated with the biochemistry/chemical engineering aspect of the course – and it really increased my passion for whisky. I also got the highest mark in the world when I finished the diploma, and as a result, was granted freedom with the Worshipful Company of Distillers – a Livery Company that I am now a Liverman of.
LM: What does your job as Global Malts Ambassador entail, and what do you enjoy most about it?
GB: My job as Global Malts Ambassador involves educating and sharing stories of our five single malts to bartenders and whisky lovers across the world. I work alongside a network of other whisky brand ambassadors for Bacardi, and together we share these stories in exciting and engaging ways.
A great example of this is with Aberfeldy and our Barrels and Bees program, where we host Aberfeldy and Honey tastings (Aberfeldy’s key flavour note is a honeyed richness); we work with beekeepers to raise awareness of the plight of the bee and how to use raw, terroir-driven honey in an Aberfeldy cocktail.
I enjoy every aspect of my job – it’s more than work for me, it’s a career and passion. I’m very lucky to work with some great colleagues and friends across the world and share whisky with so many interesting people.
LM: Do you regularly network with others on your travels to discuss the latest trends and developments in the whisky sector?
GB: Absolutely! One of the best perks about my role is travelling and talking to ambassadors and whisky drinkers across the world. I’m also lucky to spend a lot of time in Scotland at the distilleries, thereby allowing me to keep up with the latest production techniques.
LM: Do you travel quite a lot to promote the five whisky brands in your current portfolio?
GB: Yes – I travel for around six months of the year; I’ve been a global whisky ambassador for almost eight years now, and I still get excited about the travelling aspect and working with / meeting friends across the world. It’s an incredible part of the job and I feel very lucky to be doing it.
LM: You are also co-founder of #OurWhisky, a social media campaign devised by yourself and Becky Paskin, editor of Scotchwhisky.com. It seeks to challenge the stereotypes around the typical whisky drinker to more accurately reflect the face of the modern consumer, but who is today’s customer in your opinion?
GB: Today, there isn’t a whisky consumer or one image. Whisky lovers come from all walks of life – what tends to unite them is their love for whisky. It’s a drink that can be enjoyed by everyone, and we feel it’s important to demonstrate that by celebrating the gender and cultural diversity of the modern-day whisky drinker.