I enjoy whisky tastings and masterclasses the most as you can really see when people start to “get” whisky. When you see the lightbulb moment, where they have found a whisky that has totally blown them away. It’s such a joy…” – Susan Colville
Susan Colville is the regional sales manager at independent bottling company, Wemyss Malts in Edinburgh. She has been voted Whisky Magazine’s “Icons of Scotland Young Whisky Ambassador of the year 2012” and has worked in various roles in the industry, including as a tour guide at Glenfarclas.
How did you get involved in the world of whisky?
I grew up in Rothes, in the heart of Speyside, and my father worked at Glenrothes distillery for 33 years so whisky has always been a part of my life. My first job was as a tour guide at Glenfarclas distillery. I studied French at university and saw guiding as a way to practice my language skills during the holidays.
What made you want to continue working in this industry?
The longer I worked as a tour guide (two seasons and Glenfarclas and two seasons at Glenfiddich), the more interested I became in whisky. I attended a nosing and tasting evening hosted by The Whisky Shop Dufftown (led by Ian Millar of Glenfiddich), and it made me realise that I wanted to work in the industry full time as I was fascinated by the subject.
What dram made you passionate about the drink?
Glenfiddich Solera reserve 15-year-old straight from the Solera vat at Glenfiddich. It was a defining moment, where I realised how complex and fascinating whisky could be.
You have been selected as Young Whisky Ambassador for 2012. How did this feel?
It was a great sense of achievement to be recognised for all my hard work over the years, in what is essentially still a man’s world.
What is your favourite part of what you do?
I enjoy whisky tastings and masterclasses the most as you can really see when people start to “get” whisky. When you see the lightbulb moment, where they have found a whisky that has totally blown them away. It’s such a joy to see people so passionate on the subject.
At Wemyss we name our whiskies according to their taste profile and it’s always fun to see consumers searching for those tastes when they try our whiskies.
What achievement are you most proud of in your career?
It would have to be winning the Young Brand Ambassador award. It more than makes up for all the long hours and lost weekends involved in the role. To be recognised by my peers for all the effort I’ve put in over the years is a great achievement.
Do you feel more women should or could be involved in the whisky industry?
When I started out back in 2004, there were very few women involved in the whisky industry, and those figures have risen dramatically to where we are today. I do feel that women are put off from entering the industry as whisky is still seen as a male drink and the industry appears very masculine. There are more and more female whisky drinkers, so it’s only right that there should be more females representing and promoting Scotch Whisky.
As regional sales manager, do you see any trends emerging as to what people are buying?
We are finding the consumers are buying less, but buying better. Our older expressions from the Wemyss Single Cask range always sell out a lot faster than our younger whiskies and our whiskies from Islay are always the most popular.
Why would you recommend someone who’s never tried a good single malt to give it a go?
There’s a whisky out there for everyone, it’s just a matter of finding the right one. Whisky fits every occasion and is a complex drink that surprises many people who’ve never tried it before!
What is your favourite memory of whisky drinking?
One Christmas I received a bottle of Macallan 1981 Gran Reserva and I opened it to share with my father and grandfather. They were both gobsmacked that I would open such a bottle, but it was worth it to see the pleasure on their faces when they tasted it!