“What I love about Scotch whisky is that it brings people together and it’s a great conversation starter.” – Karen Fullerton
Karen Fullerton is the Global Brand Ambassador for Ardbeg & Glenmorangie Whisky.
She has worked in the industry for 12 years and was the first female Scotch whisky brand ambassador in the US when her role took her to that country.
She is currently covering maternity leave for Gillian MacDonald in the post of head of whisky analytics and whisky creation.
In this Whisky Women interview she speaks about life in the industry, why she loves to visit South Africa and why she believes social media has helped break down barriers to whisky.
How did you first get into whisky?
I was intrigued about Scotch whisky because it was something I saw my Papa and Dad drink when I was growing up and I saw how much they loved their tradition of having a dram before dinner.
I tasted my first whisky in The Whisky Shop in Glasgow and loved the taste of it but especially the liquid journey it took me on.
I got my first dream job just over 12 years ago working in sales for The Glenmorangie Company, covering the north of Scotland. I was then promoted a couple of years later to USA Brand Ambassador, based in New York City. My next 5 years was a truly amazing experience, working across the states as far West as Hawaii, South as Puerto Rico, East as New York and North as Canada. In 2009 I relocated back to Scotland to take on a Global role working in various countries such as Russia, Kazakhstan, Norway, Sweden, Germany and South Africa.
I’m currently covering a maternity leave position as Head of Analytics and Whisky Creation which is allowing me to see whisky from a different angle!
What was one of the first whiskies that inspired you?
A blended Scotch whisky sample that was offered to me about 20 years ago whilst looking for a present for my Papa in the Whisky Shop in Princes Square, Glasgow. I couldn’t believe how rich and smooth a blended scotch whisky could be.
What does your role involve and what do you love most about what you do?
It’s full on but very varied which is what I really like about it. It can be anything from catching an early flight to host a Glenmorangie or Ardbeg single malt whisky tasting; a trade pre-lunch; meeting journalists for press interviews; attending and presenting at new product launches; hosting Glenmorangie or Ardbeg Masterclasses at various whisky festivals around the world…the best in my mind being either Stockholm Whisky Festival or Whisky live South Africa.
I also run The Glenmorangie Company Academy which is a 4-day intensive educational program for Moet Hennessy employees around the world.
Additionally, I work in the Whisky Creation Team involved in sensory analysis of new and existing products for both Glenmorangie and Ardbeg and am tasked with bringing new product development ideas to them team…it’s just great!
Which is the best part? The variety and the fun I have!
What is one of your favourite places in the world to visit and share the joy of whisky?
That’s a tough question but if I had to choose just one I think it would have to be South Africa because it is such a beautiful country and the people are so friendly and have a real interest in whisky, which makes my job very easy.
What achievement are you most proud of in your career?
Designing The Glenmorangie Company Academy, an initiative which I started in 2010. I get to meet Moet Hennessy colleagues from around the globe and share my love and passion for whisky with them which they can then spread across the world!
You were the first female Scotch brand ambassador in the US when you started. How have things changed since then?
Things have progressed in a very positive direction. There is definitely a much broader demographic of people enjoying and appreciating Scotch whisky.
What I love about Scotch whisky is that it brings people together and it’s a great conversation starter. Everyone tends to speak a common language about what they love about Scotch whisky. Like wine it really depends on your mood, the company you are with and the ambient temperature wherever you are in the world.
I really think social media has helped demystify and break down some old fashioned barriers along with some of the amazing key bartenders around the world whose thirst for knowledge has raised the profile of whisky.
So do you feel more women should or could be involved in the whisky industry?
Why would you recommend someone to embark on a career in the whisky industry?
It’s so diverse, you never stop learning and you meet so many incredible characters along the way. But most importantly, it’s fun!
Desert island drams: name three you’d want to have with you at all times:
Glenmorangie 18 year old;
Talisker Distillers’ Selection.
What is one of you cherished memories of whisky drinking?
Being in the great outdoors and enjoying the moment with friends.