“The majority of people who attend my tastings are aged between 24 and 32. It’s rewarding to see a younger generation embracing whiskey.” – Megan Kenny
Megan Kenny is a brand ambassador in London for Jameson Irish Whiskey, a role she has held since completing the Jameson Graduate Programme.
In this interview, she speaks about her experiences taking on her new role, why she loves whiskey and her thoughts on women and whisky.
How and when did you first get into whiskey?
I suppose I was always interested in whiskey in one way or another. Being Irish, whiskey is a big part of my heritage. My family are in the pub business in Dublin so I have grown up in a drinks industry where whiskey is one of the biggest players. I became aware of the Jameson Graduate programme in 2011 and that was when my obsession with whiskey began. Whilst training to become the Jameson brand ambassador my world was opened up to an array of Irish whiskey from single pot stills to the prestigious Midleton, and scotches and bourbons.
Do you remember a first whiskey you tried that you really loved?
The first whiskey I tried was Jameson original. I believe it to be a timeless classic. Its smoothness and mix-ability appealed to me and it was the best way to introduce me into the world of whiskey. As my palate has developed my appreciation for single pot still whiskey such as Redbreast has increased. To date my favourite whiskey has to be Jameson Select Reserve. This whiskey is a triumph of the distillery in Midleton and for me it really highlights the importance of the raw materials used in whiskey production.
Tell me about your role – what are your main responsibilities?
I moved to London in September  to begin my whiskey adventure. I am responsible for on-trade staff training, off-trade sampling, education sessions, advocacy, and I partake in trade shows. A big part of my job is to raise the awareness of Jameson in London.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
Personally I think I have the best job in the world. I love spreading the passion I have for Jameson among people here in London. It’s so rewarding to engage with people who share the same love for whiskey as I do. I adore travelling and coming here from Dublin is all part of the adventure.
What achievement are you most proud of in your career?
I suppose the on-trade training is the most rewarding aspect of my job. I get such satisfaction in educating members of the trade in the history and heritage of Irish whiskey.
In terms of accomplishments, the Vinopolis Whiskey Show has been my largest event to date and I was quite proud to stand shoulder to shoulder with some of the largest scotch brands in the world, with master distillers and brand ambassadors that have been in the industry for over a decade.
Do you feel more women should or could be involved in the whiskey industry?
Yes, I feel strongly that more women should become involved in the whiskey industry, and they may simply begin by sampling the product . Whiskey is a beautiful spirit; it’s a shame that women don’t drink it as much as men. Whiskey was seen traditionally as a man’s drink, and in some cases, associated with male success and power. Nowadays women are just as successful as men so let’s celebrate that fact and introduce them to a really superb product.
Do you see a change in the demographic which is coming to your whiskey tastings?
There is definitely a change in the age demographic. The majority of people who attend my tastings are aged between 24 and 32. It’s rewarding to see a younger generation embracing whiskey. I think that since the recession there has been a move back to basics and good traditional drinks. There is less emphasis on fancy cocktails and more emphasis on good quality affordable drinks.
Do you only drink Irish whiskey or are there others that you enjoy?
Irish whiskey is definitely my favourite but I enjoy sampling other whiskeys. I think the Japanese are doing amazing things with whisky. Marcin Miller introduced me to the world of Japanese whiskey and I thought it was lovely.
Why would you recommend someone who’s never tried a good single malt or blend to give it a go?
What I think is the biggest selling point for whiskey is the production methods – they are so true to tradition. The flavours of both single malts and blends are so complex and enjoyable. Blended Irish whiskey is also renowned for its smoothness and mixability. If someone wanted to get introduced to whiskey, I would recommend they try it with a mixer (though, not with cola) to open up their palate to whiskey.
What is your favourite memory of whisky drinking?
Well there are certainly a lot. But my favourite memory is from when a group of the Jameson brand ambassadors were in Manchester for the Jameson Cult Film Club. We drank, we sang and we experienced Jameson at its finest.