In the lead up to World Whisky Day, we present the first of our Pernod Ricard Women in Whisky series starting with Kate Moran, Jameson Brand Ambassador.
Kate joined the Jameson Graduate Program before coming to Australia. In this interview, she speaks about her beginnings, the highlight of her career, women in whiskey, and key trends in the Irish Whiskey category.
Tell us a little about yourself and your background.
I’m the Jameson Whiskey Ambassador for Australia. Before that I was studying a business studies degree and French in college. After 5 weeks of training, I was shipped out to Strasbourg in France in my first BA role. I’ve been in Australia for one and a half years.
Before that, I didn’t have a massive interest in whiskey but learning the intricacies of the whiskey making process made me appreciate what whiskey is about. I was quite the nerd in school – whiskey is a perfect balance of history and chemistry, I’ve realised. One of my other interests is travel, which has brought me to places such as North America, Central America, Cuba, Europe and Asia and now Australia.
What does the Jameson Graduate Program entail?
The Graduate Program is one of the leading graduate programs in Ireland and the first for Pernod Ricard. It puts a focus on marketing, business and language skills which helped me in getting the job. They look for passionate, outgoing and inquisitive people and that’s what being a Brand Ambassador is about. Other ambassador programmes within Pernod Ricard have been modelled after it, such as the Absolut and Chivas programs. I was hired with 28 other graduates and we were sent out to 20 different markets worldwide to spread the Jameson name and love.
Is becoming a Brand Ambassador part of the Jameson Graduate Program?
The Graduate Program is a three year program and they hire into two streams. In the Brand Ambassador stream, you have 5 weeks of training then 3 years out in the market. After 12 months, we’re given the chance to rotate markets and it gives you the chance to explore the differences in the liquor industry globally which is a ridiculously amazing opportunity for a 20-something year old. The second stream is the Graduate Distillers programme. Generally these graduates have studied biochemistry or engineering and it’s a rewarding opportunity as they only hire two distillers a year. It’s exciting as we’ve recently launched a new brand of whiskey, Method and Madness made in the micro-distillery in Midleton where some of our graduate distillers can play around with old and new recipes.
What’s a typical day in your life?
I think any Ambassador finds it hard to describe a typical day. Depending on how busy the time of year is, it switches between being primarily office or field based. I can either be working on marketing campaigns across all of Australia or during busier periods, there can be a lot of travel involved, especially in launching new products or obviously, St. Patrick’s Day when it gets a lot busier. I’m pretty good friends with anyone working in the Qantas lounge; travel is a huge part of BA life. Getting to speak to trade all around Australia about Jameson is arguably the best part of the job.
Sometimes you could get lucky and could be greeting Ger Buckley, the Master Cooper from the Jameson Distillery and bringing him on a tour of the eastern coast of Australia introducing him to people with an impressive interest in his craft. I also get to hop around the country from festival to festival; Jameson plays a big part in some of Australia’s biggest music festivals – nice change to the regular office life. The worst thing (if it exists) about being a Brand Ambassador are the days lost keeping track of expenses.
Has there been a highlight so far that you’d like to share?
Working for Pernod Ricard is awesome, don’t get me wrong the portfolio we have is incredible – though we are missing one of my favourite things: BEER!
This year I got the chance to develop our relationship with Young Henrys (Newtown based brewery), going from being just mates, to creating a new beer aged in Jameson barrels. This was easily my biggest highlight, not only making an awesome beer, but working with a smashing group of people who clearly have so much passion for what they stand for. A BA job for me is all about the people and the connection you make with them.
What are the challenges that come with the role?
Being a 24 year old woman, sometimes talking about whiskeys that are older than I am is definitely a challenge. It’s not even something I think about any more. I’ll come across people who tend to ask silly or intricate questions that have no impact on learning, but you have to take it with a pinch of salt. But when you can describe your whiskey, and you can put those questions to bed, you gain the respect and credibility associated with the role. I’ve always put pressure on myself to know the utmost about my whiskey portfolio.
What’s it like being a young woman working in the whiskey industry?
I was thrown in the deep end when I first got this role. My first weekend of working in France as an ambassador was spent working at Whisky Live in Paris, one of the more prestigious Whisky Live events in the world. Having to explain our 15 whiskeys in general was a task, having to explain them in French was a bigger task. You’re faced with a lot of intricate questions. It was probably the best way start to begin my Ambassador career. I spoke to people coming from all areas of the industry as well as consumers, so I was asked every question under the sun. I also think ‘women in whiskey’ is not uncommon these days. We’re seeing more female ambassadors and more females in hospitality in general. It’s still a male dominated industry but we’re moving to a more even split. I’m just looking forward to the day when we’re just ‘brand ambassadors’ or bartenders. Gender doesn’t and shouldn’t come into it.
With the rise in popularity of whisk(e)y in general, how are perceptions changing with respect to Irish whiskey?
I think we’re still fighting the age old perception that blended Irish whiskey doesn’t have a lot to offer. There’s a definite lack of education about what a blended whiskey is and how good it really can be. I work on Jameson whiskeys primarily but represent the Midleton Distillery where we have excellent single pot still whiskey such as Redbreast 12 yo, the top selling pot still Irish whiskey in the world and The Spot Whiskeys, which recently released a wine cask finish as well as Yellow Spot receiving international accolades.
Once we educate people more about what great whiskeys come from the Midleton Distillery or even other Irish distilleries, there is more than meets the eye with the Irish category. With this resurgence of Irish whiskey, the main perception we’re trying to change is that it’s more than just blended whiskey. But even among the blended whiskey, Jameson Black Barrel is one of my favourite Irish whiskeys and the Whiskey Makers Series are three whiskeys where they look at the different styles of what Irish whiskey can be.
In your frequent travels around Australia, what are key trends that you’ve observed about Irish whiskey?
Consumers are getting younger and more curious, they want to know the provenance of the whiskey and in general what they’re drinking. They’re questioning what’s on the back bar which is where a lot of our Single Pot Still range sits. Educating bartenders is becoming even more important so they acquire knowledge to pass on to what is now a very attentive audience.
We’re also seeing more Irish whiskeys in cocktails and some make the perfect partners in classic cocktails like the Old Fashioned, or the Jameson Black Barrel Manhattan.
Any closing comments?
As someone who came to Australia with no connections, I was welcomed with open arms. Hopping from bar to bar, bartenders are always up for having the craic, whether it’s a quiet Monday or a busy Friday and it’s testament to hospitality in Australia being welcoming, open and friendly. There are some days I can’t believe I get to this as a job, long may it last! Sláinte.
In partnership with Pernod Ricard Australia.
Photo credit: Supplied