It’s hard to miss Matthew Fergusson-Stewart in a crowd – at 6' 3", he stands out. Which is appropriate, given that he’s the brand ambassador of Glenfiddich, the most awarded whisky in the world. So what does it take to be the face of such a famous whisky? Do you need a super-strong liver? Do you have to give up drinking everything else? Is it nearly as much fun as we think it is? We chatted him up to find out.
1. What does it take to be the brand ambassador of one of the biggest selling whiskies in the world?
There are many aspects to being a good brand ambassador, but first and foremost, you have to love and respect your brand. You can't get up and speak about your brand with authenticity if you don't believe what you are actually saying. Thankfully, I work for Glenfiddich, which is a great product with a fascinating history. They effectively created the single malt category around the world in 1963. It’s exciting to be a part of a brand that has the audacity to even attempt that, and one that is able to back it up with superb whisky.
2. Do they test your alcohol tolerance before giving you the job?
Not at all! There’s a common misconception that we drink a lot of alcohol as part of our job. Of course, we can’t be teetotal, but we also have to be able to engage with consumers in a professional way throughout an event. The best way to do this is to only drink in moderation.
3. What do you tell people when they ask what you do for a living?
My standard response is “I drink whisky and talk about it.” This is actually pretty close to the truth, though there is a little more to it. I also have meetings in the office and regular reports to write.
4. Ever get drunk on the job and do/say something stupid? We won’t tell anyone, honest.
(laughs) Not yet, and I hope it never happens! There is always a certain amount of revelry and banter that goes on at events where alcohol is consumed, but I’m pretty well behaved most of the time and so are most of my guests.
5. You have to conduct so many tastings and masterclasses. Are you given a script for all of them?
You know, I was given a script when I first started on the job. I read it once and have not read it again. Part of being a brand ambassador is ensuring the messages you share are authentic, so they must be messages you are comfortable with. I need to stay “on brand”, which means my messages must be consistent with Glenfiddich’s brand image, but the messages I use and how I express them are entirely up to me. Also, I do a lot of different events with different audiences. My presentations are always tailored to the format, the venue, the audience, and the products from our range that I happen to be working with. A brand ambassador will be very ineffective if they are a clone, just parroting a script.
6. Can you only drink your own brand while you are in public?
Thankfully, no. I love Glenfiddich, it’s a brilliant whisky, but part of my authority as a brand ambassador comes from understanding the single malt category, and understanding what makes Glenfiddich unique. I need to drink other products to be able to do this, and that’s something that is recognised by my bosses. Of course, I only drink Glenfiddich during an actual Glenfiddich event. The Glenfiddich 15YO Solera is actually my favourite everyday whisky, so I even drink it at home sometimes.
7. What do you do if people tell you your brand sucks and say xxx brand is so much better?
That depends how they are doing it. If they are rude and drunk I just ignore them. If they are politely sharing an opinion, I try to understand why they don’t like it. Usually they have only tried one product in our range, so I try to find out what flavours they like and I recommend them something else from the range, which is actually quite diverse. At the end of the day everyone has a different palate and not everyone is going to like Glenfiddich, but Glenfiddich is The World’s Most Awarded Single Malt, so that kind of comment is actually pretty rare.
8. Are you even allowed to drive because drinking is your job?
I do drive, but absolutely never when I’m drinking. William Grant & Sons (who own Glenfiddich) is very proactive on this issue and I can claim taxis as a legitimate work expense. The risk simply isn’t worth it.
9. What is the toughest part of your job?
Being away from my wife and three-year-old daughter while travelling around Southeast Asia for events.
10. Which part of the job do you love most?
I drink whisky and talk about it!
11. If you were to have super power, what power would you have and what would you do with it?
The ability to travel through time would be fantastic. I’d go back and buy all the bottles of Glenfiddich Snow Phoenix when they hit the market at around 80 pounds. Now, they are only sold on the secondary market for around 250 pounds. I wish I had more bottles at home to enjoy!