Ringing the Bell for Scotch whisky

• Christmas spirit: Pairing whiskies with beers, trying a different menu layout and training staff can all help boost whisky sales this month, said Bell.
• Christmas spirit: Pairing whiskies with beers, trying a different menu layout and training staff can all help boost whisky sales this month, said Bell.

Brand ambassador says a slightly different approach can reward publicans

MORTLACH brand ambassador Georgie Bell doesn’t describe her role as a “dream job” for nothing.
Bell, who took up the role ahead of the launch of the new Mortlach range this year, had her sights set on a brand ambassador job since bartending in Edinburgh as a student.
Since then she has cut her teeth as brand ambassador for the Scotch Malt Whisky Society before being poached by Diageo late last year for the Mortlach position.
Though an expression of the whisky was previously available as part of Diageo’s ‘Flora & Fauna’ collection, and in various guises from independent bottlers, the drinks giant hadn’t actively promoted Mortlach as a brand in its own right until this year.
Since the launch of the range in the summer Bell has been travelling the globe introducing bartenders and customers to the three new expressions of the single malt (Rare Old, 18 year old and 25 year old).
And she is confident there’s a place for the brand in Scotland’s pubs and bars as well.
“Looking at it from a bartender’s perspective, Mortlach has a unique character that I think is very well suited to the winter months,” she said.
“We’ve got this unique 2.81 distillation process, which creates a whisky that is really thick and viscous, almost meaty or savoury in character and has got this incredible texture through all three expressions. It’s almost the perfect winter warmer in that sense.
“It’s slightly on the savoury side, but then it’s slightly on the chocolatey side as well; there’s a little bit of salted caramel poking through in the Rare Old.
“Each one of the new expressions has something different, and each one of them offers, in my opinion, a flavour profile and drinking experience unlike any other whisky currently on the market.”
While her role is focused on Mortlach, Bell expressed a passion for whisky as a whole, and claimed there are several things operators can do to draw attention to – and ultimately grow sales of – their whisky range over the festive season.
“Christmas is definitely a key trading period, and I think a lot of bars and pubs look to maximise on the upselling potential of the season,” said Bell.
“People want to go out and treat themselves, and if you’ve got a new spirit in stock why not showcase that? This is an ideal opportunity.”
Matching whiskies with beers can help encourage consumers to try the traditional ‘half and half’ (a half pint accompanied by a dram), said Bell, while a fresh approach to presenting a whisky range on menus can help to explain the category to newcomers.
“Listing it by name with an age beside each one doesn’t really tell the consumer much, so think about mixing it up,” Bell explained.
“Can you list your whiskies by flavour? Can you be a little more imaginative and fun with it? Also, if your bar staff like one whisky in particular or there’s one you want to highlight, why not have that up on the bar and do it as a malt of the moment?”
Cocktails are another useful tool for introducing customers to whisky, and Bell recommended using Mortlach’s Rare Old in cocktails such as the Old Fashioned, Sazerac or Rob Roy.
And a range of hot toddies, using different spices depending on the whiskies used, can be “a really simple way to build up a new whisky cocktail menu”, said Bell.
Not every outlet has space for an extensive range of whiskies, of course, and when space is an issue Bell recommended focusing on stocking a range of flavours and prices.
“Don’t get a whisky because you think you should have it,” she said. “Think about what you’re stocking and why.
“Don’t just have one or two bottles in rotation and the rest collecting dust. If you can only stock six bottles make sure you love those six bottles and make sure you’re promoting all of those six bottles as actively as each other and not just one or two.”
And while not everyone in the trade can be a whisky expert, product knowledge is essential.
“There’s nothing more embarrassing than a customer upstaging the bartender with their knowledge,” said Bell.
“So make sure you’re ahead of the game; have one or two interesting tidbits of information about each one of the whiskies, and then think about general flavour notes for each one of them.”
Knowledge is also vital, along with passion and a healthy supply of energy, for any barperson aspiring to become a brand ambassador.
“One thing I’ve realised time and again is you can’t teach passion,” she said. “You can teach history and facts but not passion. Whatever your chosen spirit is – and with me I always knew it would be whisky – it’s all about introducing not only your brand, but also the category in general.
“If you’re interested in one particular brand, great. But make sure you’re clued up on where it sits in the category as a whole.”