“This is definitely my dream job – it’s very friendly and really open between the distilleries so there is never really any of that cutthroat competition. Everybody has their place and it’s great.” – Louisa Young
Louisa Young has been the Regional Sales Manager at Tullibardine Distillery since June 2011 where she focuses on selling and marketing the distillery’s products to France, Germany, Belgium, Switzerland, Norway and the UK. She previously worked with Isle of Arran Distillers and has been involved in the whisky industry for four years.
How did you get started working in whisky?
I was working in London and the opportunity came up. I met the person who became my boss. I am from Scotland and I did languages at university, so I had a chance to travel and use them as well so with this opportunity. And to be able to represent whisky and Scotland as a whole seemed like such an ideal role.
How have you enjoyed working in the industry?
You go through different jobs and you’re always looking for that dream job and then finally you get it. This is definitely my dream job – it’s very friendly and really open between the distilleries so there is never really any of that cutthroat competition. Everybody has their place and it’s great.
The whisky industry is booming right now and it’s such a wonderful industry to be a part of. Companies are growing, looking to expand and bringing in more people.
What do you enjoy most about your role?
I do really enjoy the travelling. You can’t sell whisky just sitting at your desk necessarily. We’re a small independent distillery so don’t have a huge advertising budget so we have to physically go over to other places. It takes a lot longer but you’re seeing face to face the customer’s reaction and getting the feedback.
But the best experience has to be standing up, doing a tasting and seeing people really enjoying or coming around to a whisky. The buzz you get at the end of giving a tasting is just brilliant. It really gets your adrenaline going. There was one I gave where I did it in French. It was a personal challenge but people were really welcoming.
You moved from Arran Distillery to Tullibardine mid last year. Why?
I chose to move on and stay within the independent sector as I enjoy working with the smaller companies. It’s a nice small team and while we look after marketing and sales there is a much wider spectrum within the role and a lot of freedom to carry out different ideas you want to move forward with.
It’s interesting as well because our office is at the distillery. What I think is great is speaking with the production manager and finding out what’s happening here or there – you get more understanding of what is really going on and the technical knowledge. And especially being a female, if you can stand up and present that you are knowledgeable and have a deep understanding of what is going on that is very important. I do think that women have to prove themselves a bit more than men in that respect – that’s not just in the whisky industry, that’s a general societal thing, though I did think I would come up against more chauvinism in this than I have but people have really supported me.
On that note, do you feel there are more women working in the industry?
If you think of most of the distilleries – for example, Tullibardine, Springbank, Arran, Cooley – there is at least one female representative. I do think that a) the industry’s opening up to it; and b) there’s a lot more females with languages and the French or European market is a large market for volume so I think that’s partly helped open doors. And I’m not taking away from other skills that females can bring but one of the door openers in the past number of years has been languages.
And do you think the idea of “whisky as a male drink” is changing?
In my peer group, when I lived in London I didn’t drink whisky myself and nor did my female friends but I do also think it’s an age thing. A lot of people will say to me, “Do you drink whisky?” Within the industry most people know you do but if you’re meeting people for the first time I have been asked that a lot and they’re quite intrigued by it. But I quite like changing that perception and I think more women are coming into it. The one thing that annoys me is men saying to me, “Oh that’s a female whisky.” That’s one that I grit my teeth about. But I do enjoy changing that perception; I do quite like a good challenge.
Finally, you moved back to Scotland for your job. How does it feel to be “home”?
I love going away and seeing how people idolise Scotland. Being from Scotland myself it’s made me appreciate what Scotland has to offer and what the whisky has to offer. There is always someone who has a story to tell you about Scotland and whisky – it breaks down barriers and it’s such a great product; they should be drinking that at the United Nations meetings! We should be very proud of what we have. Proud and passionate!