I have been called a whisky expert but I don’t like the word. I see myself as a whisky educator.
Whisky, particularly single malts, drew me to Scotland 20 years ago. For the last 14 years whisky taken me across Asia Pacific. I have turned a passion into a career in whisky, but there is still so much about the spirit that I am learning. This why I dislike the term expert; I know a lot about whisky, but there’s still a lot I don’t know.
I love whisky and am living the dream of drinking, writing and talking about whisky every day. Whisky intrigues me, excites me and brings me joy. In 2012 I even named my daughter Islay. Aside from being a dramatically beautiful and iconic whisky-producing island, Islay is also where my wife and I honeymooned.
HOW IT FIRST STARTED
My first encounters with whisky were while I was a student studying chemistry at the University of Western Australia (UWA) in Perth. Whisky became my spirit of choice, possibly because my father and grandmother had always been whisky drinkers.
But the passion had not yet been ignited. I only became irrevocably hooked on whisky, particularly single malts, on the evening of my university graduation. That night, my family and I celebrated over dinner. My celebratory nightcap was one of Islay’s famously peaty single malt whiskies. Though it was intense and confronting at first, I was hooked by the end of the glass. I immediately wanted to understand where the incredibly rich smokiness came from. Today I still am fascinated by how three simple ingredients – barley, water and yeast – can come together to produce the incredible diversity of flavours, aromas and textures found in single malts.
I first worked as a business analyst but the lure of the dram slowly reeled me in, closer and closer. Though it’s a distant memory now, my time studying chemistry and working as an analyst has served me well in my understanding and appreciation of whisky.
What began as a preference became a hobby and passion, then part-time work and ultimately my career. Today, having spent the last 14 years extolling the virtues of whisky, I have accumulated a wealth of first-hand experience across the verticals of the whisky industry – from production through to service.
HOW IT TOOK OFF
I got my first break working part-time as the State Manager of The Scotch Malt Whisky Society in Western Australia. In 2009, I moved to Singapore and started Stewart’s Whisky Consultancy. Here, I also managed the iconic whisky bar The Auld Alliance which houses Southeast Asia’s largest whisky selection.
Fast forward a few years, I was headhunted for the regional brand ambassador role for Glenfiddich under William Grant & Sons. There, I had the opportunities to network and collaborate with top minds in the industry across the Asia Pacific. The company groomed, supported and opened many doors for my personal development within the company and in the industry.
In late 2018, I was approached and started my new role as Chief Marketing Officer at TSH Limited, Singapore’s only public listed whisky group. I increased visibility, channels and bench strength for the Group, from retail to distribution. Unfortunately, COVID-19 had a global impact on the F&B business and I was made redundant mid-2020. This propelled me to continue my research and education on whisky.
As a big believer in whisky community, I am one of the creators of the 20,000 strong whisky community Dram Full with four chapters in Asia Pacific. Namely, Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia and Perth, Australia. I am also the author of Whisky Molecules and Son of Whisky on Facebook. When inspiration strikes, I contribute to the more satirical but still community-oriented Dramocracy. Along the way, I have written extensively about whisky, including the two authoritative papers on chill-filtration published by The Malt Maniacs.
During my time at William Grant & Sons, I was awarded Icons of Whisky – Rest of World, Scotch Whisky Brand Ambassador of the year, 2017, by Whisky Magazine. In 2018, my peers in the Singapore drinks industry selected me as the Best Education and Community Ambassador for Singapore Bar Awards. I furthered my whisky education and obtained a General Certificate in Distilling (Cereal Option) from the prestigious Institute of Brewing and Distilling in same year.
Awards & CERTIFICATES
WHAT I DO
Loving whisky is sharing and educating about the dram. My work can generally be classified into:
Whether you want to learn more about whisky, be a better public speaker or become a brand ambassador, I can help. I’ve designed whisky training courses for people of all levels of experience from a quick 101 session or a full day of whisky training. In 2015, I started and developed the curriculum for Whisky Academy. Over the years, I have built my career in coaching and sharing as a single malt whisky brand ambassador. For my work, I have been fortunate to bag some awards.
A great whisky tasting session is a mixture of entertainment and education. These tastings must be tailored to each audience and their knowledge level. Having hosted whisky tastings and food pairings for 14 years, I can provide a memorable and engaging experience.
I have written tasting notes, news articles, fun stories and deep analysis on whisky. My writings have been published extensively in the media in different formats. I have given expert commentary about the industry in the media such as BBC and CNBC. You can also read some of them in my blog.
On a smaller scale, I make industry introductions and product sourcing around the world, and provide bar consultancy.
WHAT I LOVE FUNDAMENTALLY
As an experienced whisky educator, I enjoy nothing more than talking to people about the Water of Life, as whisky is also known. I frequently warn guests at my tastings, “Don’t worry about asking too many questions, you’ll get tired of me talking about whisky before I get tired of me talking about whisky”.
Everything I do today is intended to grow the appreciation for whisky generally, and single malt whisky specifically through this guiding principle of wealth beyond sales.
If you try to sell bottles, you will but a few. But if you sell the experience of a dram, you will earn great friends, support and loyalty.
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