The life of a whisky ambassador

28 July 2014

By Mitch Bechard, Western US Brand Ambassador

As I write this I am in my usual seat, 35,000 feet above sea level and en route to my next whisky adventure.  Today I am off to Alaska, making this my tenth flight and fifth American state visited in the past three weeks. Needless to say, I am sure my chosen airline is very happy with my consecutive years of reaching their top tier due to my jetsetter lifestyle. I sometimes think that the TSA agents know me better than my wife! 

Travelling has been a passion of mine from a very young age and the United States is now the seventh country I have lived in. My father was a captain in the merchant Navy and by my fifth birthday I had circumnavigated the globe. So being one of only 18 Glenfiddich ambassadors on the planet fits naturally into my nomadic character, as I get to quench my thirst for travel and talk to people about the subject I am most passionate about - whisky.

When I tell someone I am the Glenfiddich Ambassador in the western USA I am often met with a curious look.   When William Grant built the Glenfiddich distillery in 1887 with his seven sons and two daughters he could never have had imagined that five generations later his family would employ 76 ambassadors worldwide to educate people on the premium portfolio that William Grant and Sons now boasts. I think of William Grant as the original brand ambassador, and if he were here today he would be proud to see that there is an actual ambassador job description and an army of passionate brand stewards to fill each role. 

So what does this fantasy like job involve? The primary purpose of a Whisky Ambassador is to educate and delight people on the intricacies of the liquid they represent.   Most of our time is split between hosting tastings, educating the trade and talking to media. Essentially, we are the face of the brand we represent. The question I often get asked is ‘How did you get your job?’ To answer the question simply it is passion.  The passion I have for the Scotch whisky category and especially Glenfiddich is a result of the amazing craftsmen that have dedicated their lives to overseeing the production of the most award winning single malt in the world. When we add the experience of the craftsmen at the distillery, some who have been there over 30 years, it equates to over 1,000 years of whisky making knowledge! 

On a recent trip with my good friend and colleague Freddy May, the Monkey Shoulder Ambassador USA, I asked him why he left our home town of Edinburgh to pursue this career. His answer was simple ‘How about the opportunity of a lifetime? I’ve lost count of how many times people have said that we have a dream job.  Also 9 out of 10 bottles of Scotch now end up being exported, it just made sense to work in an export market.’ 

Freddy is right and this job does give those who are in it the opportunity of a lifetime.  Not only because of the incredible experiences it has inspired, but also the opportunity to interact with so many people and share the passion that is so evident in this industry. One of my favourite moments is giving people that eureka moment when they realise that they actually enjoy Scotch whisky. I always say that everyone likes Scotch whisky they just may not have found the right one for them.

I look forward to one day telling my grandchildren of tasting Glenfiddich 50yr in the Grand Canyon, travelling to the extremes of Alaska, the events in multimillion dollar mansions in Beverly Hills and hosting a celebration of 125 years of Glenfiddich being independent and family owned under the shadow of Lady Liberty.

So if you happen to meet an Ambassador on our travels around the globe you can now look at them and know exactly who they are – passionate stewards of the brand they watch over. And who knows, we may even buy you a dram!

Follow Mitch on Twitter: @GlenfiddichMB