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Mixing fun into whisky

Bacardi’s global single malts ambassador Georgie Bell wants to make the drink accessible and thinks whisky cocktails are the way to go

While purists may frown on the idea of mixing a single malt scotch in a cocktail, Ms Georgie Bell, global single malts ambassador for Bacardi, feels it is perfectly acceptable.

“It shouldn’t feel like a crime to mix a single malt in a cocktail as long as it’s done appropriately,” she tells The Sunday Times.

For her, it is all about making the spirit more accessible.

“Whisky cocktails are a great stepping stone, especially for those who are new to whisky because that way, you pair the whisky with flavours you are already familiar with,” she says. “Like red wine, coffee and olives, which are acquired tastes, you will slowly learn how to enjoy them.”

The 29-year-old Londoner was in Singapore for a series of engagements with members of the trade and media as well as consumers to introduce Bacardi-owned single malts and blends.

Better known for its eponymous white rum, Bacardi also has a scotch whisky portfolio that includes Aberfeldy, Craigellachie and Aultmore. It also owns John Dewar & Sons, makers of Dewar’s whisky.

Ms Bell, who read geography at the University of Edinburgh, did her dissertation on whisky and regional identity, and the creation of an image of a place through the whisky industry. She focused on the Islay region. She went on to work behind the bar and was an ambassador with the hallowed whisky club, the Scotch Malt Whisky Society.

After completing a second, biochemistry and chemical engineering- focused degree in distilling through the Institute of Brewing and Distilling, she moved on to work as the luxury malts ambassador for Diageo-owned Mortlach.

With all that experience under her belt, she is determined to “brush away the stereotypes of old”. She says: “Whisky isn’t just a man’s drink; it doesn’t have to be drunk straight up and after dinner; and not all whisky is smoky. Only about 10 distilleries out of our 119 smoke their barley.”

But not everyone is on board with using premium single malts in whisky cocktails. She recalls a trade session in which a bartender commented: “I like to respect the whisky.” He is representative of those who will only have whisky neat or with a splash of water.

But she feels such a narrow view on the versatile spirit is limiting and “builds even more barriers than whisky has already”.

“Whisky can be seen as stuffy, so it’s our job to break down these barriers and make it accessible, fun and interesting,” she says.

At a tasting session with the media last week, she suggested a few options, such as having the Aberfeldy 15 Year Old in a classic Manhattan cocktail made with sweet vermouth and bitters.

This whisky goes through a double- ageing process where, after initial maturation and blending, it spends an additional six months of marrying – or coming together – in oak casks . “This helps it stand out in cocktails because it has extra body,” she says.

On the other end of the spectrum is the light and delicate Aultmore 12 Year Old, which has floral and fruity notes on the nose and palate. She suggested having that in a highball, where the whisky is topped up with ice, soda water and a few slices of pear “to bring out the pear flavours even more”.

Bacardi-owned scotch single malts and blends – namely Aberfeldy, Aultmore, Craigellachie and Dewars – are available at La Maison Du Whisky (LMDW) and online wine and spirits distributor 75cl.sg.

Prices at LMDW range from $139 for the Dewar’s 15 Year Old to $420 for the Aberfeldy 21 Year Old.

Ms Bell has also had short work stints in distilleries such as Mortlach and Ardbeg. Coupled with the technical knowledge from her degrees, she seems well-suited for a job in a distillery.

But for now, she is content with her role travelling the world to share the spirit of Scotland.

That said, she does not rule out working at a distillery “in a couple of years, maybe”.

“I would probably choose Craigellachie because I love the traditional aspect of the distillery and how it uses traditional worm tub condensers (a reference to a coiled pipe sitting in a cold water bath) in the distillation process,” she says.

“I’d want to work somewhere I enjoy the whisky that it makes.”

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on January 07, 2018, with the headline 'Mixing fun into whisky'. Print Edition | Subscribe