Taking care of business (Colin Dunn - Morrison Bowmore)

Colin Dunn is business develoment executive at Morrison Bowmore. So what does he do? Richard Jones reports
By Richard Jones
It depends on what time I got in from the night before, but I’ll usually start my day at around 7.30am,” begins Colin Dunn of Morrison Bowmore distillers.“I’ll switch on the computer, try to clear my senses, and remember first, who I was talking to last night; and second, what I said I’d take care of for them.“I have the rather grand title of ‘business development executive’, which means it’s my job to promote Morrison Bowmore whiskies to restaurants, clubs and bars in the London area.”I typically spend three or four nights a week in central London, and on any given night I’ll cover at least half a dozen bars. For part of last night, I was at Just St James, an upmarket restaurant in, surprise, surprise, St James’ Street, making an old fashioned ‘cold’ call.“I introduced myself to the bar manager and, during the course of the conversation, discovered they were doing a Japanese season in the restaurant.“Morrison Bowmore has a really good selection of cult Japanese whiskies such as Hibiki, Yamazaki, and Hakushu; so I’ve arranged a one-to-one whisky tasting with the manager, which will take about an hour, to go through the range in detail.”Colin joined Morrison Bowmore about three years ago.“For many years before that I worked in wine retail, managing a wine shop in Richmond. It was there that I won a prize to visit Bowmore distillery on Islay, a trip that would change my life.“The distillery, with its heritage, history and setting, simply blew me away and, from that point onwards, I knew I wanted to work full-time in the whisky industry.” In keeping with his ‘Road to Damascus’ conversion, Colin continues the evangelistic theme.“In a way I see myself as a whisky preacher, reaching out to the unconverted. I want to enlighten bartenders and staff so that they become whisky salespeople in their own right.”According to Colin, staff training is absolutely critical to this role.“You might be conducting a tasting to 20 young people, who may have never even have tasted whisky before. If you get, say,three of those to bite the bug you can make a real impact on whisky sales in a particular establishment.“One of the best things about my job is the range of the different places I come across. On any given day, you go from talking to a 25 year old bartender in a trendy bar; then you cross the street to a five star, oak and leather hotel where there’s Bowmore 1957 selling for £299 a shot. Each time I go into an outlet, I try and assess what I can and cannot do for them.“For example, ‘how is the whisky being drunk: straight up, with water, with ice or in a cocktail?’ If it’s the latter, ‘is it working as a cocktail ingredient?’ or ‘should it be in a particular cocktail?’“Malt whisky can be sensational in cocktails; for example, the Honey Old Fashioned at Salt Bar in Soho made from fresh ginger, a spoonful of honey, a shot of Bowmore 12 year old and ice layered to the top.“It’s one of the first times I’ve been totally amazed by a cocktail, where a single malt whisky distillery has not lost its character to the other ingredients.“I always try to learn from the bartenders, and pass on the knowledge wherever possible.“My job can be pretty stressful at times. The pace of London bartenders and London bars is so frenetic that I have to act on an impulse to keep up. It’s vitally important to do your homework, keeping abreast of all the trade magazines and industry gossip, to ensure you know what’s happening and changing on the scene.“At any one time I have around 200 accounts, and I try to see them once every two or three months. Unless you follow the initial visit or training session up, things can easily fall away – especially when staff turnover in many of these establishments is so high.”However it’s by no means all doom and gloom.“It can be annoying at times, but it can also give you some of the most exciting times of your life. “One of the greatest buzzes I get is watching someone progress from the waiting staff, all the way up to chief bartender in a prestigious London outlet. ”And of course there are other perks of the job. “I don’t drink as much as people think, although you do need a strong constitution. Sometimes I finish as late as 3 or 4am in the morning, but then you have to be back out there doing your stuff first thing the next day. I’ve asked Morrison Bowmore for a Porsche, but I’m not holding my breath!”