Cut to the Point

Cut to the Point

Georgie Bell from Diageo

People | 03 Jun 2016 | Issue 136 | By Joel Harrison

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As part of a regular interview feature, Joel Harrison speaks to some of the industry's leading lights and most interesting people, asking a mixture of set questions each issue as well as digging down to find the true spirit of the person, the passion and the product.

Georgie, tell us, what job do you do and where do you do it?

I am the Luxury Malts Ambassador for Diageo, and really I do my job all over the world! I spend about nine months of my year on the road.

How long have you been doing that job?

This one I've been doing for just over two years now. My previous job, for the Scotch Malt Whisky Society, I was also travelling all over the world, so I've been a semi nomad Scotch explorer for nearly three and a half years.

What does this entail on a daily basis? What does the 9-5 look like for you?

There is no 9-5! Even the concept of that doesn't exist. When I'm travelling, it's 24/7! As for the job itself, it depends where I am in the world and who I'm working with. I might be at Glenkinchie in the morning, then at Mortlach in Speyside [anyone who knows Scotland knows they aren't exactly close] in the afternoon. But that's just one part of my job, when I'm in Scotland. When I'm travelling it involves hosting tastings, trainings and exciting people about Scotch around the world. Part of my job is braking down the myths associated with Scotch whisky.

Describe your journey into the Scotch whisky industry?

It was through cocktails. I started off bartending when I was studying at Edinburgh, and then when it came to my dissertation I decided to study whisky and regional identify and sense of place, and its importance within Scotland. Through that and bartending, I ended up working at the Scotch Malt Whisky Society, behind the bar, where I learnt to build up the relationship between my nose, my mouth and my brain. I then did the Institute of Brewing and Distilling courses and did the three module diploma in two years. It's biochemistry and chemical engineering, and I gained the highest mark across the globe in the year I graduated. As a result, I was inducted into the Worshipful Company of Distillers.

What made you want to become an educator to inspire people to drink Scotch?

I always wanted to be an ambassador when I was bartending as we would have other ambassadors coming in, and they were inspiring. I remember after sessions thinking that I really believed in their brands as I understood them. And that made me want to use them. Whisky is still a massively misunderstood category; in the five years there has been a shift, in a good way, but there is still some way to go.

Which countries excite you when you see them on your schedule?

I just got back from Russia, and I really love it there. Canada is amazing; very welcoming, good links back to Scotland and a real love for the product. Asia is fantastic, too. I go back there a lot and really love it. The Nordics as well! I'd love to go back to India; I've not been there in my current role.

Is there a different way that Scotch is consumed around the world?

There are subtle differences in terms of service. In Asia, you see more of a bottle serve, and you see it more in the clubs. White spirits hold that role elsewhere. I'm excited to visit Kenya later this year, as that'll give me more of an idea of how Scotch is consumed in Africa.

If you could work at any distillery in Scotland for a day, where would you go and work?

I love working up at Mortlach, but I wouldn't mind going up to Teaninich, as we have a mash filter press up there and is the only place in Scotland with one. I'd also love to work at Roseisle. If you could go anywhere in the world to see a different spirit being made, where would you like to go? Feni [distilled from cashew apples in Goa]! The other one is Mezcal. I was going to do my dissertation on Tequila, and ever since then I've had an itch to go over there and see how it is made.

Finally, how do you like to drink your whisky?

It depends on the moment, but I enjoy it neat or with a splash of water. I love a whisky cocktail, too.
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