19 June 2014

Whisky Insiders Interview - Georgie Bell


Luxury Malts Ambassador - Mortlach


How long have you been working in the whisky industry?
I’ve been working in the whisky industry for just over three years now, although my love for the liquid started long before that while I was a cocktail bartender in Edinburgh.

What has been your biggest career highlight to date?
I recently put myself through a second degree – a diploma in distillation with the Institute of Brewing and Distilling (IBD). As a result, I gained the overall highest mark internationally for the qualification and was commended by the Worshipful Company of Distillers. I don’t have a scientific background, having originally studied Geography at University, so I’m extremely proud of myself to have achieved this in a biochemistry/chemical engineering course.

Can you remember your first dram, and indeed what it was?
I only actually began to like whisky around 5-6 years ago. While I was bartending I taught myself to like whisky as I wanted to enjoy it –whisky is an acquired taste and I really wanted to learn to appreciate it. In learning to like it I fell in love with it, and originally this was through cocktails. The first cocktail that took my fancy was a sweet Rob Roy, and the first dram – Glenmorangie Quinta Ruban. I have a sweet tooth and the finish in a port cask did it for me.

What does whisky mean to you?
Whisky is my life – my passion – and I’m very lucky to be involved with it 24/7. There’s never been a better time to be in the industry. Through whisky I’ve got friends across the world, both those who work directly with it and those who enjoy a dram every now and again.

Where would you like to see yourself in five years time?
Three years ago I didn’t think I’d be doing what I am today, although it was my dream to be where I am right now. Who knows where I’ll be in five years’ time, but hopefully I’ll be enjoying it just as much as I am now!  

What was your last dram?
I’ve spent this last week in Taipei working with the whisky team out here and introducing people to the rebirth of Mortlach and the new expressions. Last night I hosted a dinner at a really cool Japanese speak-easy style restaurant – reminiscent of those found around Tsukiji Fish Market in Tokyo – and we finished the meal with Mortlach 25 Year Old. A sultry, sophisticated, perfumed and decadent whisky – the perfect end to a delicious meal with new friends.

Do you have a favourite whisky and food pairing combination?
I’ve got a sweet tooth and am a sucker for good dark chocolate with a high cocoa percentage. I’ve recently been working with Iain Burnett – the Highland Chocolatier – matching the new Mortlach range to some São Tomé single origin truffles. The combinations we’ve come up with have absolutely blown me away.

I absolutely love oysters – I got the taste for them last year when I travelled across the states hosting whisky & oyster tastings. As a result I’m now able to identify nuances between east vs west coast; cold vs warm water oysters etc…and my favourite combinations – a fresh, green young whisky with a creamy oyster, such as a Kumamoto; and an oily, briny whisky, such as Talisker 57 degrees, with a cold-water oyster. There’s an amazing oyster bar in Seattle called ‘The Walrus and the Carpenter’ – when I went there last summer the shuckers gave me an incredibly intense, briny arctic oyster that would have matched perfectly to anything with a hint of smoke and iodine.

What’s your favourite time and place to enjoy a dram?
I love going home and enjoying a whisky with my dad – he’s a big fan and often saves bottles for us to enjoy together! Always with friends and family – I love the way whisky brings people together.

What do you think is going to be the next big thing on the whisky horizon?
World whisky has been on the rise for the last few years and there are some delicious bottling’s out there. More recently we’ve seen an increase of flavour driven whiskies where flavour is king, rather than age. I think we’re going to see more of these in years to come, especially as through science we’re understanding more and more about oak and its role in flavour creation through maturation. 

What’s the one dram you couldn’t live without?
I love perfumed, waxy whiskies – one of my highlights being Clynelish. I recently tried the distiller’s edition and was completely blown away by it – an absolute stunner!

Many thanks to Georgie Bell. Who will be the next Whisky Insider? Click back soon to find out!