What have been some of the most memorable and interesting countries and places that your work has taken you to over the years?
I am fortunate enough to have travelled to 85 countries throughout my career. It’s a little sad I know, but I still get ridiculously excited when I am about to visit a new country and can add to that total. I love the sense of adventure and the unknown. I absolutely love Canada and Lebanon.
I really enjoy Asia but in particular, Malaysia, Vietnam and Thailand. I am also a big fan of the African continent. A trip to an African country is a great test for my planning obsession (where absolutely anything that can go wrong, will go wrong!) and also cleanliness. I was once served a very large measure of whisky in Ghana with one big ice cube that had a massive bluebottle fly frozen in the middle! I drank the whisky as quickly as possible to avoid the ice cube melting!
What whiskies and other spirits do you like to buy in duty free when travelling overseas?
I nearly always start in the wine section just in case there are some gems in there, but I am usually disappointed.
Le Clos at Dubai Airport is one very good exception to this and it stocks a lot of magnums as well. I always browse the Scotch whisky section, mainly for professional reasons, but occasionally to buy a heavily peated malt for my father (as he won’t drink any other style!) and these days I take a good look at both gin and vodka.
What’s the most memorable dram that you’ve had on your travels?
In the last 12 months I was lucky enough to be given a small taste of a 30-year-old Springbank Single Cask whisky in a whisky bar in Sofia, Bulgaria – that was very special. However, the most memorable was probably tasting the Glenfiddich 50 Years Old at an event in Calgary, Alberta. An hour after the event, the room was still full of the aroma of the whisky!
What’s your favourite airport and why is that?
I do like T5 at Heathrow but, internationally, any airport that is efficiently run and minimises your time clearing passport control and customs. That usually means Asia, so [Hong Kong] Chek Lap Kok, [Singapore] Changi and [Bangkok] Suvarnabhumi have all been pretty good in my experience.
You must spend a lot of time on the road. What travel tips do you want to pass on to our readers?
My trick is to adjust my watch to the destination time as the last thing I do before I pull on my eye-mask. When I wake, I don’t think about the time difference or what the time is where I have come from – but try to bluff my body that I have slept well and it really is now 6am in London.
In the drinks industry, it is quite often required to be out late at night checking out bars and clubs that have our brands. This can be disruptive to sleep, so I have learned to grab 20 minutes sat in the back of a taxi or even at my desk when I worked in Miami and had arrived on the red-eye at 6am from Los Angeles!
If you had 24 hours to spare, what city in the world would you most like to explore?
Of all the cities I haven’t been to, Tokyo would be the one. Of the cities that I have been to, but not had the chance to explore properly, it would definitely have to be Athens.
Once we can all travel again, what Three Stills Co. whiskies available in TR should travellers look out for?
Our blended malt whisky, Lower East Side, is receiving rave reviews and won Best in Category at the Hong Kong Spirits Awards in 2019. It is a very easy-drinking style of malt.
Tell us about a funny, strange or unusual thing that happened to you on your travels.
I was once in a nightclub in Douala in Cameroon where one of my whisky brands was on promotion that night. Suddenly, all the lights in the club were switched on and the music stopped. The club was swarming with soldiers looking for people without the correct paperwork. I had stupidly not taken my passport out with me. I had a soldier jabbing the butt of a semi-automatic rifle repeatedly into my chest and by the look in his eyes I suspected he was on something, so I was very wary that his finger might just twitch a little too much on the trigger!
Fortunately, my distributor managed to smuggle us out of the back door into a waiting car and we got out of there. I can laugh about it now!
You’ve been shipwrecked on a desert island. Which whisky would you like to find washed up on the shore?
If it has been washed up, then hopefully it had been in the sea for quite a few years. With that in mind it would ideally be a bottle of The Macallan 18 Years Old from the 1990s when the whisky was like nectar!