Tell us a little about your background and how you arrived at your current position.
RP: I loved the aroma and taste of scotch quite a bit earlier than many of my peers – in college, actually. Making the jump from blended scotches to single malt – and yes, Glenfiddich was my first single malt – was a life-changing experience.
Studying single malts led me to explore my Scottish roots (Macpherson is my clan) and eventually many trips to dozens of distilleries in all of the distilling regions of Scotland. Conducting single malt tastings for corporate and convention events and at Scottish Highland games became a major hobby, and eventually overtook my “day job” in purchasing and production management. The invitation to join William Grant & Sons as Glenfiddich Ambassador came about five years ago.
Explain what the role of Glenfiddich Ambassador entails – educating new customers, expanding palates of existing fans?
I spoke to over 12,000 people last year and I love presenting training sessions for wait and bar staffs of fine bars and hotels, as well as the sales teams at our distributor partners. Consumer events such as whisky dinners, cigar & scotch pairings, tasting seminars at Highland games, and national whisky events all provide opportunities to educate a broad spectrum of people about single malts in general and Glenfiddich in particular. Audiences love the information they learn at these sessions.
What are the most common questions or themes you get in your education efforts as Ambassador?
RP: There are many, but three questions stand out as the most common. All revolve around not knowing the basics of whisky, and understandably so – scotch can be very intimidating to the newbie (perhaps rivaled only by cognac), that’s why I enjoy the educational aspect of my job so much.
“Where is scotch made?” is a very common question. I usually tackle this head-on by bringing a map of Scotland and giving a short presentation on Speyside as a region, and what that means for the malts from this region.
“What is the difference between scotch, whiskey and whisky?” is another common one, as well as the related but equally-common “What is difference between a single malt and a blend?” There are a lot of misconceptions about what “single” means in “single malt”, and some are quite humorous.
Staying on this for a moment, why do you think the industry has had such a difficult time educating consumers on the basics like single malt vs. blend?
RP: Good question. In my opinion, it stems from the gulf between folks who are isolated from the public while reviewing “customer research data” and those of us like the Glenfiddich Ambassadors who are in the field every day, talking across the bar to real customers and listening to what they are they are saying. It gives you a real appreciation for what they are missing in order to truly appreciate the liquid in front of them.