“Every day I pass some of the world’s most iconic distilleries, set in the landscape which produces these delicious single malts. It is a fantastic privilege to live in such wonderful and inspiring surroundings.” – Ann Miller
Ann Miller is the International Brand Ambassador with Chivas Brothers. She has worked with the company since 1993 and was previously the PR & Marketing Manager for what is now the Scotch Whisky Experience in Edinburgh. She is also a director of the Spirit of Speyside festival and spoke to Miss Whisky about her experiences with that, here.
What made you first interested in getting involved in whisky?
I first acquired a taste for whisky when my father rubbed it on my gums as a remedy for teething – I haven’t looked back since!
Do you remember the first dram that really made you love whisky?
While at St Andrews I had the opportunity to explore the world of single malts and tried a variety. The single malt that started it all for me was The Glenlivet 12 year old.
You reside in the heartland of some of Scotland’s top whisky distilleries – does that proximity inspire you?
Of course! Just to drive from home to work every day I pass some of the world’s most iconic distilleries, set in the landscape which produces these delicious single malts. It is a fantastic privilege to live in such wonderful and inspiring surroundings. I like to explain why Scotch whisky has to be made in Scotland and the impact the environment has on the quality of the spirit – this is much easier when people can see Speyside for themselves.
As International Brand Ambassador, what are some of your day to day roles?
Every day is different but they all involve talking about whisky! Some days I am welcoming people who have come to Scotland from any country in the world to find out about whisky and what makes it so special. At other times I travel the world to talk about whisky to people who are keen to know more. Often I conduct whisky tastings and it is always very rewarding to see how much people enjoy discovering whiskies they haven’t tasted before and understanding what makes them so good.
What do you love most about your job?
Sharing my passion for enjoying Scotch whisky with people from around the world and having the opportunity to discover different ways whisky is enjoyed in different countries. Learning something every day from my colleagues and other people in the world of whisky about what makes Scotch whisky special.
You also are a Director of the Spirit of Speyside Festival – how do you fit it all in?
The Festival has become increasingly professional since we started it so enthusiastically in the late 90s. It is maturing like a cask of single malt, getting better with every year that passes. It is great to share more events in Speyside with more people, from more countries each year. I enjoy my involvement in managing the overall success of the Festival as well as creating and running special events at The Glenlivet like the Master Distiller’s Whisky Challenge. My personal highlight so far this year is the news that between them The Glenlivet and Aberlour were selected by independent judges for 4 of the 6 places for finalists in the Festival Awards – now we must wait to hear which the Festival-goers themselves will select as the winners in the three age groups!
How has the industry changed and developed since you became involved in it?
It is nearly 25 years since I was appointed Marketing and PR Manager for what is now the Scotch Whisky Experience in Edinburgh, prior to its launch. In the intervening years the choice of Scotch whiskies has increased enormously with many more expressions of single malt whiskies and luxury blends available for people to enjoy.
Do you think more women should or could be involved in the whisky industry?
Certainly. Women can make a great contribution – especially to encourage other women to discover that Scotch whisky is a drink which they too can enjoy.
Do you think perceptions about whisky as a “male” drink are changing?
Yes – perceptions change faster in some places than others. In some countries a few years ago some people were surprised that the person conducting the whisky tasting wasn’t a man – that is a much less frequent reaction now.
Where is your favourite place to drink a dram?
Wherever one is offered! I enjoy a dram at home at the end of the day, at the top of a hill, or when enjoying the company of friends.
I am looking forward to a dram at the top of Ben Rinnes or the “Whisky Mountain” in the company of Speyside Whisky festival-goers in May.
I also think whisky goes very well with food. I have had the privilege to work with some very skilled people to create delicious whisky dinners in many countries where the matching of the whiskies and the food adds up to an unforgettable experience. One of the highlights of my year is the Aberlour Whisky Dinner at the Speyside Festival.
What whiskies are always on your shelf?
I am fortunate, indeed spoilt, to be surrounded by some of the best in the world and drinking drams like Longmorn for a living so choosing can be difficult!
There will always be space for The Glenlivet, Aberlour and other Speyside malts, plus some of the blends to which they make an irreplaceable contribution like Chivas Regal and Ballantine’s.