Charlotte Coyle, Malts Ambassador, Brown-Forman
Q: Where do you work?
A: I’m lucky in that I go up to the Benriach distillery once every three months, generally hosting bartenders. We’ll usually take around six bartenders up and we’ll do a two-day immersion over all of the different brands and throw in some fun activities. I discovered I was very good at archery the last time I went.
Q: How long have you worked for the company?
A: Three years. I’ve done the malts role now for just over a year, but before that I did a portfolio ambassador role. So I have consistently been in the advocacy team, but for a year I looked after the entire portfolio – so that’s everything from Jack Daniel’s to Finlandia Vodka to Chambord, which is a delicious liquid. Before that I looked after Woodford Reserve, the Kentucky bourbon.
Q: Describe the production process
A: We’re quite lucky in Benriach because we’re one of the only distilleries in Speyside that creates three different styles of whisky consistently. So we have unpeated, classic Speyside; we make a peated whisky during Smoke Season – which runs eight weeks through the year; and we also make a triple distilled whisky as well. The Benriach 12 is the only one in the core range that actually has no peated whisky in it.
Another thing Benriach is quite well known for is we have a really eclectic cask maturation collection. So we use lots of different casks, lots of different styles from all over the world. As an example, in the Smoky 10 we use a Jamaican rum cask, which is just mind-blowingly delicious. And in the 12 we use a port cask, a sherry cask and an ex-bourbon cask. So you get this really amazing range of flavour which is perfectly complementing the distillate itself.
Q: What’s a typical working day like?
A: For me that’s the beauty of it: it’s completely different every day, which is just great fun. Last night I hosted a dinner in Edinburgh. So we did five courses paired to five different Benriach whiskies. That’s something that I do quite regularly.
I’m regularly on the train to London, going into the office, saying hello, doing mini whisky tastings for people. And I think the most consistent thing about being a brand ambassador is travelling. Even though the typical day doesn’t always look the same, the consistent thing for me is travelling, speaking to consumers and people who really love whisky, but also people who know nothing about it, and the key thing to achieve every day is just to demystify it and to make single malts seem a little less scary for people.
Q: Please provide tasting notes
A: Something that I find runs through Benriach is all of those really amazing malty notes. And for me especially when there’s a port cask involved, it comes through almost like Malteser sweets or Ovaltine. It’s that beautiful sweeter malt note that just verges on nuttiness. I think it’s just a really amazing note to pick up, and you get it all the way through all the Benriachs. Anything from the 10 year old all the way up to the 30.
Q: What would you say sets your product apart from others?
A: I think, for me, it’s first of all that it’s really affordable. That’s something that’s really good about Benriach, if we remove any romance from it. I think it sits about £50, which is just incredible for a 12 year old. And I think it’s a testament to what Rachel Barrie (master blender) can do. You’re drinking a thing that is not just a 12 year old liquid, it’s three 12 year old liquids in one. It’s perfect for people who are just getting into whisky, it’s amazing for people already in that category and who love it. It’s a perfect middle ground for both of those groups. It also mixes really well.
Q: What one fact should bartenders know about your brand?
A: I think for me it’s the fact it has a port cask in it. I think that addition means that, for bartenders especially, it really opens that door for flexibility and being able to do lots of different things with it. For me it’s that port cask in there that just really sets it apart. When I was a bartender that’s what I’d want to know – because it’s all about how you pull those flavours out of the drink.
Q: What’s your favourite way to drink your product?
A: I personally just enjoy it as a dram. Sometimes, depending on the mood, a couple of drops of water. But very rarely. It’s just super-simple, as a dram. But I always say drink it as you like.
Q: What’s your career highlight so far?
A: I think a personal one for me would be that I very recently took part in the Edinburgh Whisky Academy. They do a single malts diploma. It’s two or three days intensive course just outside of Edinburgh. Actually achieving really good grades in that test was something I wasn’t too confident I would do. Also taking part in things like we did an event for London Cocktail Week last year with an amazing restaurant in London called Frog by Adam Handling.
I think it was about eight different courses. From the moment we first promoted it, we managed to sell it out in 45 minutes. Being able to have a hand in preparing the cocktails – and that was the first time I really curated the drams to the food. So being able to do something like that and have some control over people’s experiences of their first foray into Benriach, that was a very special event for me.
Q: Who do you admire in the industry and why?
A: Obviously Rachel Barrie is just a genius and has so much wealth of experience and I really admire that she is so happy to share it with people. It would be really easy for her to just hold it close but she’s really generous with her time. For me, what I really like about single malts and the Scotch industry, is that there are so many amazing women ambassadors. I just think it’s quite rare to find that and there’s a really nice community here.
Q: If you could invite anyone for a drink who would you ask, where would you go and what would you drink?
A: If I could choose somebody who has already passed away, I would probably choose Anthony Bourdain. And Harry Styles. I really liked Anthony Bourdain. I loved all his programmes. He always seemed like he was really chilled out and would’ve been really lovely to listen to and talk to. And he could maybe give me some cooking tips, because I’m really bad at cooking.
I would probably take them to Scotch at the Balmoral. It’s incredible. I love it in there. And the guys who work in there are just great. I think we would have to drink Benriach 25. Harry could just sit and listen to us!