Whisky geek by nature

October 11th, 2016 | Posted in:

Self-professed whisky geek Andy Bell turned his teenage obsession with whisky into a career with Isle of Arran Distillery, when he joined in 2014 aged just 26. He talks to Laura Smith about his role as Export Sales Manager, his favourite whisky bar and playing in the distillery’s band.

Did you always want to work in the whisky industry?
To be honest, no. I didn’t even know I liked whisky until I was 19 when a friend introduced me to a Macallan 10 year old. Before then it was a drink I couldn’t even get my nose near because the smell put me off. But that dram sent me on a path of curiosity.

How did that curiosity lead you to Isle of Arran Distillery?
I went to a night course in Glasgow run by John Lamond called The Whisky Trail and learned everything you could possibly want to know about whisky. Then it quickly became an obsession. When it got to the point when I wanted to do my own tastings I decided to email distilleries to see if the needed any help with tastings on the weekends. I wasn’t actually looking for a job, I was running my own audio visual company in Glasgow. I was invited by Isle of Arran Distillery for a talk and before I knew it I had a job. I didn’t really know what I was going into but knew I had to take it because whisky had become a big part of my life.

Tell us about your job.
It’s so varied. Arran’s a really small team so everybody has to muck in. I look after sales with our worldwide distributors in northern and eastern Europe. I’ll look at what single casks we’re going to bottle for our markets and think about what promotions we’re going to run and how to adapt them for different countries. Writing tasting notes for our core expressions usually falls to me because I’m the biggest whisky geek in the office. A lot of my job involves scooting about my different markets and introducing our products to new and existing buyers and drinkers.

Is it a challenge to get younger people interested in whisky?
The biggest thing I always hear from young people is: I’d love to like whisky but I just don’t like the taste or smell. That’s the biggest stumbling block for young people. It is undoubtedly a challenging drink for a lot of people’s paletes because it’s a big flavour. Then again, it’s not that much of a shocker to see young people passionate about whisky in a role with a distillery. I think there’s a shift in younger people doing sales and working as brand ambassadors. I think that’s a really good thing because there’s still an archaic view of whisky; that it’s an old man’s thing. Once you’ve won the confidence of that audience, they realise it doesn’t have to be an old person’s drink.

What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?
I love rock climbing. It’s really addictive and is a great mental and physical challenge which takes the mind away from the pressures of the day! I have also played the guitar since I was 12 and I still play regularly to stay sane and practice for the annual Arran Malt & Music Festival. Distillery Manager James MacTaggart and myself assemble a band called “James MacTaggart and the Staves” and play rock covers in the evening.

What advice would you give to people wanting try whisky, but don’t have a clue where to start?
Try six at once! Not only by the end of them you’ll feel a bit happier about life but it’s a really good idea to have a row of whiskies and expose yourself to lots of different flavours at once. When I started out drinking whisky I noticed the biggest contrasts when I tasted a line up. It helps you tune into your own preferences and open yourself up to a world of flavours. (And by six at once, Andy of course means six small nips of whisky served on a tasting flight tray not whole measures – being able to remember your whisky comparisons the next day is also important!)

What should novice whisky drinkers keep in mind?
Don’t be scared to be wrong. It’s like being scared to express an opinion about art – it can be quite intimidating because you think someone might shoot you down but no opinion is wrong. Discussion is really key to everyone’s development in drinking whisky. You’ve got to share your experiences, whether it’s a distillery visit or the dram you’re drinking there and then. So try lots and talk about them basically.

 What Isle of Arran whisky would you recommend starting out on?
The best Arran whisky for a novice, or someone who hasn’t tried an Arran Malt before, is our 10 year old. This is our best selling whisky worldwide for a reason! In order to understand Arran as a whisky in general, you have to understand the 10 year old. If you do that, I believe you’ll get much more out of all of our other expressions.

Where’s your favourite place to enjoy a wee dram?
I can’t see past my beloved hometown. There are lots of excellent whisky bars  in Glasgow but the best one is The Pot Still on Hope Street. I have been to many whisky bars in many countries and this one is still the best. It doesn’t matter who serves you or when, they do so with real whisky knowledge and passion. I’ve seen the bar five deep on a Saturday night and staff can still be seen taking the time to pull down four bottles and explain the differences to patrons before they buy. Their selection is obsessive and meticulously compiled. I could stay in there all day. Not something I’ve ever done though… honest!

 

The following two tabs change content below.

DRAM News Team

Editor at DRAM Magazine
DRAM magazine is Scotland’s leading monthly licensed trade magazine. It has been dedicated exclusively to the on-trade in Scotland for the past 23 years. It is independently owned, edited and published in Scotland. The DRAM is innovative, creative and original. First with the news, and the people in the news. Covering all the latest information on pubs, bars, clubs, restaurants and hotels in Scotland.


Applebank Inn appoints Gavin as GM

Fri 24th March 2017

Roslyn Gavin has been appointed General Manager of The Applebank Inn, following its move under the Manorview Group’s ownership. Havin... Read more.

Diageo launches DRINKiQ to inform consumers

Fri 24th March 2017

Diageo has launched a new online tool aimed at both consumers and the industry to provide consumers with information about the alcohol they ... Read more.

Moderate drinking has ‘benefits’, new study finds

Fri 24th March 2017

A new study has shown that drinking within the 14 units of alcohol a week can actually cut the risk of suffering a heart attack, angina or h... Read more.

Jack Back Beer wins Gold for Stewart Brewing

Tue 21st March 2017

Scottish craft brewer, Stewart Brewing, is celebrating the after its Jack Back beer earned a Gold Award at the Society of Independent Brewer... Read more.

Buzzworks present staff with £10K worth of gift cards

Tue 21st March 2017

Buzzworks Holdings lived up to its reputation as one of the best companies in the country to work for when it presented £10,000 worth of gi... Read more.

Labour MSP Neil Bibby lodges draft proposal for tied pub tenants

Tue 14th March 2017

Labour MSP Neil Bibby has lodged a draft proposal  in Holyrood backed by the  Scottish Licensed Trade Association, the Campaign for Real A... Read more.

Whyte & Mackay partner with The British & Irish Lions

Tue 14th March 2017

  Whyte & Mackay has announced it is partnering with The British & Irish Lions rugby team. It is the brands biggest ever intern... Read more.

Scottish craft brewery to open doors for beer festival

Mon 13th March 2017

Scottish craft brewer, Stewart Brewing, has announced the return of its annual Edinburgh Beer Festival at its Loanhead brewery on Saturday 1... Read more.

Third of Brits admit to cutting down on alcohol

Mon 13th March 2017

Stocking a wider range of low-alcohol and alcohol-free drinks could be a smart move for licensees as new research finds as many as a third o... Read more.

Glen Scotia offers dinner and dram with Charles MacLean

Fri 10th March 2017

Glen Scotia distillery is offering Scotch enthusiasts the chance to enjoy dinner and a dram with world famous whisky writer Charles MacLean ... Read more.

Greene King builds web support for pubs

Fri 10th March 2017

Greene King is helping tenanted and leased pubs build and maintain their own websites to drive sales.... Read more.

The Smokin’ Fox makes its den in Glasgow

Thu 9th March 2017

Signature Pubs is transforming The Hope on Waterloo Street in Glasgow into new “Pub and Scullery” The Smokin' Fox, due to open mid-March... Read more.

Industry offers strong response to Budget

Wed 8th March 2017

Drinks firms have hit back at the UK Government after the chancellor Phillip Hammond revealed an increased duty on beer, cider, wine and spi... Read more.

GMs making their mark: Lynda McGaw, The Parkville Hotel, Blantyre

Tue 7th March 2017

Ahead of International Women’s Day, we celebrate some of Scotland’s inspirational female GMs including Lynda McGaw of The Parkville Hote... Read more.

GMs making their mark: Beth Harding, Montpeliers, Edinburgh

Mon 6th March 2017

Ahead of International Women’s Day, we celebrate some of Scotland’s inspirational female GMs including Beth Harding of Montpeliers in Ed... Read more.

Heineken launches new artisanal ciders

Mon 6th March 2017

Heineken is moving into the emerging craft cider market with the launch of two new artisanal apple ciders under the Bulmers brand.... Read more.

JD Wetherspoon pubs to display calorie content of drinks

Mon 6th March 2017

JD Wetherspoon is to display the calorie count for all drinks served in its pubs across Scotland and the rest of the UK from Wednesday, 8 Ma... Read more.

GMs making their mark: Therese Grethe, Waxy O’Connor’s, Glasgow

Sun 5th March 2017

Ahead of International Women’s Day, we celebrate some of Scotland’s inspirational female GMs including Therese Grethe of Waxy O’Connor... Read more.

GMs making their mark: Jade Cunningham, O’Shannons, Kilmarnock

Sun 5th March 2017

Ahead of International Women’s Day, we celebrate some of Scotland’s inspirational female GMs including Jade Cunningham of O’Shannons i... Read more.

GMs making their mark: Helen Taylor, The Anchor, Broughty Ferry

Sun 5th March 2017

Ahead of International Women’s Day, we celebrate some of Scotland’s inspirational female GMs including Helen Taylor of The Anchor in Bro... Read more.