Another in our occasional series of Tweet-style interviews. As always, it’s 140 characters or less (we don’t count the spaces) in the answers from Georgie Bell, Diageo’s luxury brand ambassador (Mortlach’s her main focus). Georgie’s boundless enthusiasm ran us close to the wire on some answers, but we managed.
Where are you based and what’s the view from your office window (if you have one)?
The center of Edinburgh; I have been for the last 8 years. The sun is streaming through the window (a rarity for August) and I have a cup of Vietnamese coffee to hand.
Sounds good: explain Vietnamese coffee, please. And the view from the window?
Picked up some incredible coffee from a Saigon market: very strong, extremely aromatic. View: cobbled streets, old town houses in the heart of Edinburgh’s New Town.
And I’m sitting with some bottled water. Won’t ask a lady her age but you are youthful. Background: what brought you into whisky?
Cocktail industry! Worked in Edinburgh bars for 5 years. Found I had a particular interest in whisky. When I graduated from university I thought, why not give it a go!
Good woman. Career path to here?
Firstly the Scotch Malt Whisky Society (similar to the other Diageo Georgie!): worked with them for 3 years as a bartender, then their global brand ambassador.
Fueled my ‘geeky’ interest by gaining IBD* diploma in distilling. Then joined Diageo in January 2014 as luxury malts ambassador, looking after rebirth of Mortlach.
Quite intensive. Congrats on the IBD diploma, that’s commitment. It’s been less than a year on Mortlach. Enjoying it so far?
7 months, still standing! It’s been fascinating working on the launch of a whisky – no 2 days are the same – and everyone in the company and out has been very supportive.
Well, I’ve enjoyed our tasting meetings. What does the job largely involve day to day?
Very varied. Working with markets on launch plans; both at a distance and in market (off to China soon). There’s more…
Okay then: fire away.
Spending time with the whisky creation team, in archives researching the distillery history, special Mortlach tastings & dinners. It’s a lot of fun! I’m very lucky.
You have my dream job. What are your most and least favorite aspects of it?
Least…I’m not a huge fan of hotel laundry services (I prefer to wash my own intimate apparel!), everything else is fantastic.
Love traveling, new cultures, seeing overseas friends, breaking stereotypes, introducing people not only to Mortlach but whisky as accessible & versatile spirit.
You’re so right on accessible/versatile. The “new” Mortlachs taste great. Any quick insight into how those 4 were arrived at to offer to consumers?
To show distillery character at its best: highlighting unique 2.81 distillation process. All 4 so individual and decadent but a common strain of flavor throughout.
And those characteristics and common flavor strain are….?
A distinct umami note (savoriness), rich, ‘thick’ in body and viscosity and muscular with an underlying succulent fruitiness.
The distillation system there is quite complex, on paper at least. Is it easier if you can get to see it?
I think it’s easier if someone explains it to you. I spent 4 days working there and it wasn’t until the final hour that I actually ‘got’ it; it’s quite something!
Does that system make it more expensive to produce? If so, how? Nothing wrong with expensive; just trying to understand.
Not at all! Just a different pattern of distillation from other places. Distilled it this way since 1896. We’re replicating the 2.81 process in the new stillhouse.
Will look forward to hearing more. Scotch generally: some lovely but expensive packaging for older or special ones. Going too far and overshadowing the whisky?
No, it’s giving the whisky the attention/care deserved. Think how pretty you feel in an extra special dress or coat. Whiskies ‘dressed’ as such are extremely special.
Good answer and, as a marketeer, I agree. In that case do you think industry pricing for such things is about right or do you not get much time to notice?
I try to focus on the whole category so if you take account of other factors (18+ years in cask is taking a gamble), the prices reflect the whisky’s rarity and specialness.
True: not everyone gets the high costs behind the long maturation process. You’re enviably slender and one interest is sport. Anything in particular?
Thank you, but beg to differ! Running (a half marathon soon, a great way to explore a new city); general gym work. Spin classes & bikram yoga: exercise keeps me leveled.
That’s not exercise, that’s full-on training. Is this because you also love food?
I do love food and also spend a lot of my life traveling. Being in shape helps combat any stress of traveling and keeps my energy levels high for presentations etc.
Any particular dish or style of cuisine?
Anything and everything! I love spicy Asian food. I tend to try and stay away from anything too rich though.
I understand you bake. Do you have competitions with Georgie Crawford at Lagavulin?!
I would love that! Although I’m sure she’d win: my attempts recently haven’t been too successful. ‘Freestyling’ a baking recipe isn’t advised…
Okay, maybe we have a bake-off challenge here. The Great Scottish Bake-Off!
You also love travel, just as well. Favorite country for a) work and b) leisure? Why?
What is leisure?! I’m joking – I’m a beach baby at heart so anywhere sunny – I also love to dive.
And for work?
The U.S. (specifically DC & NYC – lots of friends there); Sweden (incredible quality of living); Canada; Singapore – I haven’t yet been to a country I haven’t enjoyed.
What’s your desert island dram? You’re allowed to appreciate the work of competitors – others in this series have. Only one, mind!
Drams match memories. Had an incredible BenRiach 1988 after Victoria Whisky Festival; Mortlach 25; Monkey Shoulder; anything from Clynelish: I can’t just pick one!
It’s compulsory – one only, please!
Mortlach 25 – decadent, beautiful – for a luxurious desert island retreat!
And we’re done. Thank you.
* Institute of Brewing & Distilling