New Diageo brand ambassador aims to make spirit more accessible to a wider audience
If you are keen to work in the world of Scotch whisky, landing a job with the biggest whisky producer on the planet probably isn’t a bad start.
That’s exactly what Scottish bartender Ervin Trykowski achieved earlier this year when he was appointed to an ambassador role for whisky with Diageo’s Reserve portfolio.
Ervin, who has worked in bars in Aberdeen, Manchester and Glasgow, is no stranger to whisky, but even so, he admitted he had a “lot to learn” in the first months of his new role with Diageo.
“Because it’s such a massive role and such a huge portfolio for the first four months they’ve condensed it down so I’ve been dealing with the Mortlach family, Bulleit Bourbon and the Johnnie Walker family,” said Ervin.
“It’s an awful lot to learn. But basically I’ll be working with some of the best bartenders in Scotland, educating them on nuances and bits and bobs about the Diageo whisky portfolio.”
In terms of brand ambassador work, it’s not Ervin’s first rodeo.
He was previously brand ambassador for Scottish gin brand Caorunn.
The Diageo role, however, is a different horse entirely.
As well as educating bar staff on the heritage and flavours of Diageo’s brands, Ervin will be looking to introduce whisky to a whole new audience.
He said that he sees a real opportunity to reach out and attract new customers to the category – provided the whisky industry can be open to new and different serves.
“I remember getting [hassle] from a traditionalist for putting ice in a whisky, and that’s the problem,” he said.
“It’s there, it’s a spirit. Everyone else in every spirit [category] has been really forward-thinking, they’re mixing their spirits and that’s what’s getting them in front of new people.
“It’s about getting it into long drinks, mixing it with ginger beer and getting that gateway into whisky.
“People need to stop being so snobby about it.
“We’re making an amazing spirit that’s so versatile and just getting it in front of people whatever way we can.
“Stop being so precious about it.”
Ervin highlighted Edinburgh bar Devil’s Advocate as an example of an outlet that is helping to bring new drinkers to the category through its whisky cocktails.
“They’re hitting the nail on the head, basically,” said Ervin.
“The outlet’s great, the atmosphere is there. They’re making amazing drinks. They’re doing something right with whisky, which is great.”
In terms of personal favourites, Ervin lists malts such as Clynelish and Talisker among his top choices.
“Anything that’s got smoke and salt, but also anything that has smoke and salt and has then been aged in a sherry cask just knocks it out of the ballpark,” he said.
As well as being quality drams in their own right, Ervin argued that these maritime-style malts are also ideal for use in straight-forward, easy to make cocktails.
“Keep it really simple, because you don’t want the whisky to get lost in it,” he said.
“But at the same time you can splash them in a sour and it’d be grand, because they’ve got that depth of flavour they will go in those kind of things.”