31 July 2013

Whisky Insiders Interview - Jason Craig

Cutty Sark

Global Brand Controller


How long have you been working in the whisky industry?
Fourteen years now, firstly at Highland Distillers and then at Edrington working across their portfolio, before moving onto specific brands.
What has been your biggest career highlight to date?
I love the creation process of whisky, the liquid, the packaging and the story telling to the consumer. It was a real highlight helping to create The Macallan Fine & Rare range and re-shaping the Highland Park brand along with the distillery visitor’s centre, which was a great challenge. However my current role at Cutty Sark is providing me with my toughest assignment, but that makes the successes we’re having all the sweeter.
Can you remember your first dram, and indeed what it was?
I was born and bred in Scotland. As a teenager I remember tasting a glass of whisky during the clear up operation in my family home, the morning after Hogmanay. It was warm, several hours old and was slowly evaporating. The smell was interesting but the taste was really big and overpowering for a teenage palate.
What does whisky mean to you?
Whisky is a door opener, a conversation starter and a passport to good times wherever you are in the world. I am fortunate to be able to travel all over the world as part of my job, visiting both retailers and key bars globally. No matter where you go, no matter the time of day, as soon as you start a conversation about whisky people have opinions, favourite drams, serve recommendations, good stories, bad stories and distant relations who originated in Scotland. Whisky means there never needs to be an awkward silence!
Where would you like to see yourself in five years time?
Still working in the Whisky business, however, I would like to see myself with my son, who would then be 18, in a bar shooting the breeze about life. Letting him educate me about what young people are drinking and me trying to convince him that blended Scotch whisky needs to be experimented and mixed. I like to think we would be watching our football team winning something!
What was your last dram?
During a brand training trip last week with colleagues from Spain and Portugal, I was down in Alloway (home of Robert Burns) drinking a dram of our Tam O’Shanter 25 Year Old on the Brig a Doon bridge as the witching hour approached. It was July in Scotland so it was raining and dark.
Do you have a favourite whisky and food pairing combination?
In my previous role at Highland Park, I had the good fortune to discover Orkney fudge cheesecake, it is as deadly as it sounds. Eating that with a glass of Highland Park 25 Year Old takes a lot of beating.
What’s your favourite time and place to enjoy a dram?
That is easy, in a beer garden with my friends in the early evening and settling down to put the world to rights.
What do you think is going to be the next big thing on the whisky horizon?
Our mission on Cutty Sark is to blow the dust and cobwebs out of the Scotch whisky industry.
The continued trend of flavours in bourbon in the short term will be interesting, it enables a whole new group of consumers to experience a sweeter, easier drinking style of whisky. This leads on to the re-emergence of cocktails and the ability to mix whiskies, which should enable the industry to stop taking itself so seriously and recognise that younger consumers like to explore alcohol and do not appreciate having to enjoy themselves against an agreed rule book.
What’s the one dram you couldn’t live without?
Cutty Sark as I have the best job in the world. We are bringing a new brave, bold and pioneering approach to the world of Scotch whisky. We are embracing the opportunity with open arms, and trust me we will ruffle a few feathers and put a few noses out of joint!
Many thanks to Jason Craig. Who will be the next Whisky Insider? Click back soon to find out!