Karen is Glenmorangie’s Global Brand Ambassador; she shares with Thirstmag on her journey as a woman in a whisky world and tells us just why Glenmorangie stands out.
Can you tell us a bit about the journey that brought you to Glenmorangie?
I have been working in the Scotch whisky industry for almost 10 years.
I started my career in the wine industry after leaving school. It was only after completing my Wine and Spirits Education Trust exams that I found a real appreciation of taste and flavour. It really helped to open up my senses. Instead of eating or drinking to satisfy my hunger or thirst, for the first time in my life I truly started to appreciate – or not, in some cases! – the flavours and textures that were put in front of me.
I was born on the West Coast of Scotland, of which I am very proud. I love everything about Scotland – the people, the culture, the beautiful landscape, (particularly the mountains) and of course that wonderful and delicious complex spirit we produce: Scotch whisky!
It was a natural progression for me to move into the Scotch whisky industry and it has been an amazing journey so far. I got my dream job with Glenmorangie in 2002, working in sales and covering the north of Scotland.
I was promoted to USA Brand Ambassador, based in New York City; at this time I was the first female Brand Ambassador from Scotland. I was both ecstatic at the incredible opportunity presented to me and terrified at the thought of hosting Scotch whisky seminars in a male-dominated environment. What would a woman know about Scotch whisky since it’s a man’s drink, right?! My fears soon dispersed. To my great delight and surprise, my audiences were all really inviting and welcoming. Their thirst to learn fuelled my passion for Scotch whisky even further.
I lived in the States for over five years, working sometimes in three to four states a week and travelling overseas in the area as well. Notably, I travelled to Hawaii, Puerto Rico and Canada. It was an amazing adventure discovering the diverse cultures and personalities across the country. This is a journey I consider similar to understanding the personality and character of a single malt Scotch whisky and the incredible layers that you uncover.
Once you start to fully understand what goes into making single malt Scotch whisky, there is no turning back. It’s a great adventure and you never stop learning. Even the experts will tell you that.
Why do you love whisky so much, and what’s so special about Glenmorangie?
There are countless elements I love about single malt Scotch whisky. Not only is it 100 % natural but it’s arguably the most complex spirit in the word. All single malt Scotch must be made from three simple ingredients; water, barley and yeast, distilled in a copper pot still, aged in Scotland in an oak barrel for at least three years and bottled at minimum 40% ABV.
Scotland’s favourite single malt Scotch whisky, Glenmorangie, originates from the far north of Scotland in the Highlands. What makes Glenmorangie so delicious is that we use only the finest, lightly-peated Scottish barley. It is distilled in the tallest malt whisky stills in Scotland, expertly matured in the finest oak casks, and perfected by the Men of Tain. The distillery was founded in 1843 and is renowned as a pioneer in its field, combining tradition with innovation to create ‘unnecessarily well made’ whiskies.
Can you tell us a bit about your exact role and responsibilities at Glenmorangie?
I support the business globally in its drive to educate customers, consumers, media, and sales and marketing teams in the key attributes of our brands.
Do you see many women becoming serious about whisky nowadays?
Yes, to an extent. I probably notice more women drinking Scotch whisky because I’m more sensitive to it. In my opinion, Scotch whisky isn’t gender-specific, it’s really down to personal preference and taste. This is reflected in many markets in the world, especially within the US, France, Spain and South Africa.
You've been responsible for implementing many new initiatives in the companies you have worked for. What do you feel the industry needs in order to grow?
Scotch whisky is currently growing in markets around the world and has reached record levels. The key is education. Breaking down the myths of Scotch whisky and explaining to all sectors what make Scotch whisky the most complex spirit in the world, along with the wonderful liquid journey it takes you on.