This is the second in a series of interviews with the people who will be presenting whisky master classes at the 2018 Whisky & Spirits Live Festival being held in Johannesburg from 31 Oct – 2 Nov. Consider it a primer for the actual master class itself!
It’s my pleasure to introduce you to Georgie Bell…
WTF: Hi Georgie, can you give my readers a bit of background into who you are, how you got into whisky and what your role is currently in the industry?
GB: My name is Georgie Bell and I’m the global single malts ambassador for Bacardi, working with and representing 5 of our incredible Single Malts: Aberfeldy, Aultmore, Craigellachie, Royal Brackla and The Deveron.
I got into whisky around 12 years ago. While at Edinburgh university I was a bartender and got the taste for it then, both in cocktails and straight up – I fell for the history, the production processes and the full spectrum of flavours you can get from whisky – from super light, clean and grassy all the way to big, rich and sherried – and everything in the middle.
After I graduated I started working for the Scotch Malt Whisky Society and became their global brand ambassador. While there I also gained a second degree in distilling with the Institute of Brewing and Distilling, and through this gained a scholarship from the Worshipful Company of Distillers – I’m now a full livery member of this livery company now.
I’ve been with Bacardi for over 2 years now, and absolutely love it. We have an amazing team of ambassadors around the world I get to work alongside (my job involves travelling for around 6 months of the year) and I honestly think our single malts are fantastic – it’s an absolute pleasure to introduce people to them
WTF: This is your first time to South Africa right? What are you hoping to experience when you’re here?
GB: It is – and it’s going to be nice to run away from the British winter for a bit! Whisky Live Johannesburg has been on my radar for quite a long time – its reputation precedes itself as one of the most exciting, engaging whisky festivals out there, so I’m excited to attend. South Africa also has a burgeoning bar and cocktail scene so I’m really excited to check a few of these out.
WTF: Can you give us a brief overview of the Aultmore and Craigellachie expressions currently available in South Africa?
GB: I like to think of Craigellachie and Aultmore like the beauty and the beast of Speyside. Interestingly enough, both distilleries were founded by the same person – Alexander Edward. They were built by the same distillery architect, founded 6 years apart and are just a 20 minute drive from each other in the heart of Speyside, yet couldn’t be any more contrasting.
Founded in 1897, Aultmore has always been considered a blenders secret – a ‘Top Class’ whisky used to add finesse to some of the world’s best blends by master blenders. Aultmore 12 is a personal favourite of mine – light, clean and grassy, with a delicate complexity – something I’ve not experienced in many other malts.
Craigellachie is the stubborn rock in the heart of Speyside – founded in 1891 even back then it was described as ‘old fashioned’ both in style and technique – by Alfred Barnard. Unlike your typical Speyside whiskies, Craigellachie is big and muscular. This is down to the fact we oil fire our barley during kilning, and use traditional worm tub condensers. The result is a whisky that’s robust and oily with a tropical, fruity side.
WTF: What is your favourite Aultmore and Craigellachie expression and why?
GB: Aultmore 12 is my go-to Aperitivo dram – it’s super clean and grassy, with notes of fresh apples and pears. I love Craigellachie 13 – neat, with a beer on the side (I love a tropical IPA to go with it – half’n’half style), or stirred down in an Old Fashioned with Pineapple syrup instead of plain sugar syrup.
WTF: What can we expect from your master classes at Whisky Live?
GB: My masterclasses will focus on Aultmore and Craigellachie – as these are two new whiskies to South Africa I’m super excited to present these to everyone.
Georgie will be hosting a master class on each of the three nights. For times and to book, head on over to www.ticketpros.co.za and search for “Aultmore”. Tickets cost R160.
WTF: Are you bringing any special whiskies along with you? Those secretive, “under the counter” drams?
GB: Now if I told you that would be spoiling the surprise…!
WTF: Any tips for people new to whisky, or something the seasoned whisky drinker may not know about Aultmore/Craigellachie?
GB: Have a great time at Whisky Live – use it to try a varied selection of whiskies to discover different flavours – who knows you may find your dream whisky there.
For Craigellachie and Aultmore secrets you’ll have to come to the master class to find out!
WTF: Thanks for your time Georgie, I look forward to catching up with you at the show!
Read more 2018 Whisky Live WTF Insider Interviews
Insider Interview #1: Robert Gray
Insider Interview #2: Georgie Bell
Insider Interview #3: Michael D’Souza
Insider Interview #4: Kaitlyn Tsai
Insider Interview #5: Kevin Liu