“I believe if you have a passion, interest or curiosity for something then that motivates you to become an expert; not age or gender.” – Eszter Gyory
Eszter Gyory is in charge of the whisky collection at the Hilton London Metropole’s Whisky Lounge bar.
In this Whisky Women interview, she talks about getting into whisky, why she’s passionate about it, and why age matters less than passion when it comes to expertise about this fine spirit.
How did you first get into whisky?
My interest started when I was introduced to the world of spirits while attending bartending school in Hungary. I realised how different whiskies can taste even when using the same ingredients and by changing the distillation process.
What was one of the first whiskies you fell in love with?
I first fell in love with Singleton of Dufftown single malt from the Speyside region of Scotland. I got to try it on a whisky training organised by the Hilton here in London two years ago. I loved the fruitiness and the sweet and nutty notes and it was a brilliant match with chocolate.
What inspires you about whisky?
I am inspired by it because of how many different whiskies can be made using barley, corn or other grains. Then depending on the combination of these and the process chosen by the distilleries completely different whiskies can be developed. The most exciting whiskies for me come from unique countries like Taiwan, Japan or Australia.
What are some of the most exciting parts of managing a great whisky collection?
We keep such a wide range of global whiskies in order to please our guests from all over the world, who have different tastes and expectations. Having a huge collection motivates me to learn and educate myself even more about the world of whiskies.
You’ve developed a whisky tasting programme at the bar – can you tell me more about it?
Guests are able to book tastings online as well as directly with the hotel. They have the choice of 3, 4 or 5 drams at a time and can also choose between Scotch and international whiskies. We have set prices for these packages, however if we have a special request we can design bespoke tastings when given advanced notice.
You’re a young, dedicated woman in whisky: do you face any challenges based on your age/gender?
Unfortunately, stereotypes exist everywhere and when it comes to a whisky specialist or whisky sommelier, people usually picture a middle-aged Scottish gentleman with a moustache. Of course, they are surprised when they see a young blond woman who claims to be the expert of whiskies. But then it takes only a couple of minutes to convince them that I know what I am talking about. It feels really nice to see the surprise on their faces. It makes me proud. I don’t think age has anything to do with being a specialist or not. I believe if you have a passion, interest or curiosity for something then that motivates you to become an expert; not age or gender.
Do you think more women should or could work in whisky?
Yes, I definitely think more women should work in whisky. Let’s beat all these stereotypes around the spirits and whiskies. Men and women have different tastes. I would like to encourage women to try whiskies and spread the knowledge between each other. I don’t think there is any barrier for women to be in this industry, it’s simply about interest and passion.
Desert Island Drams: you can take three to your island – what are they?
My first desert island dram would definitely be the Singleton of Dufftown as it’s a personal favourite for me. Then I would take a very old unique one which would be the 20 year old Nikka Yoichi. On a desert island you never know how long you will be stranded so the thought of drinking this rare, mature and expensive dram would make my long, hopeless days more pleasant. The third whisky would be a bourbon. I would choose the Van Winkle Kentucky straight bourbon as I am a big fan of bourbons, especially this dram.
What’s one of your favourite memories involving whisky?
One of my favourite memories involving whisky was when at a whisky tasting I got to pair a dram with chocolate. That experience in the mouth was unforgettable. That also was a turning point for me towards whiskies.