“It is such an exciting industry to be involved in; one day truly never is the same as the other.” – Jenny Karlsson
Jenny Karlsson is the new regional sales manager for Wemyss Malts. She was previously at Springbank where she worked for two and a half years after completing her degree in brewing and distilling at Heriot Watt University.
Here she talks about her decision to move into the world of whisky, what she enjoys most about her role and why a hip flask is always recommended for long hikes.
How did you get involved in the world of whisky?
My dad is an Islay whisky lover and tried to get me hooked on whisky at the young age of 18, however he gave me a dram of Lagavulin and this was not exactly a gentle introduction! I thought all whiskies tasted like a hospital on fire until a few years later when I tried a Highland Park 18 year old and realised what the fuss is all about.
I have always been interest in the biology of food and drink production and so when I came across the Brewing and Distilling degree at Heriot Watt University I was delighted. While studying I worked at the Whisky Shop in Edinburgh and met many like-minded friends in the industry.
Was there a specific dram that made you passionate about whisky?
I can’t name one, however the history behind Scottish single malt and the biology that goes on during the production process is so interesting that I can’t help but being fascinated with this drink.
You’ve recently moved from Springbank to Wemyss Malts. How has the shift been?
Emotional and exciting! I lived in Campbeltown for two and a half years and made many friends at Springbank so I miss not seeing them on a regular basis.
But the move went quite smoothly as the whisky world is very friendly. Wemyss and Springbank share many things, such as being independent, Scottish owned and family run. Wemyss is a younger company and very vibrant with new things constantly in the pipeline.
I’ve already learned a lot about gin too as we also make Darnley’s View Gin and this summer we launched Darnley’s View Spiced Gin so I had to go down to the distillery in London and learn all about its production. My job is very exciting and never boring!
What are you enjoying most about your new role?
I loved being involved in the launch of our new gin. We had a great launch party at a cocktail bar called the Last Word Saloon in Edinburgh and we tried, tested and shared many cocktails.
I also enjoy being hands on with the selection of casks and the development of our range. I also really enjoyed developing the brand ambassador training program that we do for our biggest markets. Performing the training is fun and it is great to hear what people take away from the program.
And the best bit with my job is meeting the whisky drinkers around the world – I am a whisky nerd myself and so I really enjoy meeting with like-minded people.
As you can see, it is hard to pick one element in my job that is better than the others!
What has been your favourite Wemyss Malt so far?
Oh, hard question… I am partial to the Campbeltown region for obvious reasons and we launched a gorgeous single cask from Glen Scotia called “Strawberry Ganache” this summer. That has been one of my favourites so far.
What achievement are you most proud of in your career?
My four year honors degree from Heriot Watt University at the spritely age of 34! That was the beginning of my career in whisky.
Do you feel more women should or could be in the whisky industry?
There are a lot of women in the industry, I get asked this a lot and I had to think why – I believe the ladies in this industry are less ‘noisy’ than the men! I have a lot of female colleagues that I meet across the world at various whisky events. There are women distillers, warehouse managers, sales managers, PR managers, master blenders, whisky shop owners, whisky clubs, journalists and more…
Why would you encourage someone to get involved in the whisky business?
It is such an exciting industry to be involved in; one day truly never is the same as the other. People that you deal with are generally whisky lovers so there is already a connection made. You have to like whisky, only a couple of people I know in the industry don’t drink the stuff – but they have the personality to make up for it!
How would you sell single malt to someone who’s never tried it before?
I am a firm believer that there is a whisky out there for everyone. Once you’ve found the one, you’ll be amazed about the world it opens up. Drinking whisky is a great conversational tool, you’ll meet some really interesting people and learn a lot, not just whisky things.
What is your favourite memory of whisky drinking?
I have so many to choose from! Last February my boyfriend and I went on a one day trek down the mull of Kintyre. It was a windy, rainy and miserable day, my feet were soaked through the make shift Tesco bag/water proofs I had put on (as precaution) and I suffered a serious sense of humour failure until I remembered I had my trustworthy hipflask in my pocket. I had a young, smoky and wild whisky in my flask and it warmed me up on the spot and gave me a glowing shield against further rain along that walk! Whisky tastes great in the outdoors. I also enjoy having a dram with my 93- year old Granny who (only) drinks whisky for medicinal purposes!