Gemma is a very dedicated Scotts lady who’s passion for the Balvenie whisky is second to none.. Gemma has taken the bold step to live abroad in order to spread the word of how good the spirit is from the Balvenie stable ( like anyone needs to be told !! ) As balvenie is so well loved worldwide how could I not ask some one to represent the brand and I was very lucky that Gemma agreed to get involved !
A Day In The Life Of…Gemma Paterson
(especially crafted for Sorren!)
I grew up on the incredibly windswept Hebridean Island of Lewis and it was right here that I tried my first few drops of this amber spirit we are all so enamoured with! During my first summer visiting home from University – having found myself keen to escape the bustle and bright lights of Glasgow (!), I found myself working at a beautiful retreat on the West Coast, surrounded by a new family of keen Fly Fishers and whisky drinkers. I spent many a day in pursuit of the elusive Atlantic Salmon on Grimersta Estate and its serious of winding and sprawling rivers and lochs. One particularly cold and miserable day – you know the like if you’ve ever visited the Hebrides – Easterly winds and horizontal rain – someone passed a shiny silver hipflask to me full of sweet and warming whisky. It was strong and caught in my throat but after a few sips I was soon filled with a pleasant warmth and sweet lingering flavours that even the most horrific East Wind could not blow from my cockles! I learned that this nectar was Balvenie Doublewood 12 year old. If it wasn’t for this day or this dram it is completely possible that my life would have taken an entirely different path…
Let’s fast forward a few years which saw me graduate from University, find a job in Moscow, a stint behind an office deskand a few more drams sampled along the way. Fly fishing and the mighty river Spey eventually brought my family to live right in the heart of Speyside. Smack bang in the middle of the Malt Whisky Trail. I truly felt starstruck – big names that are known across the world over in whisky were right on my doorstep. I found myself at the door of William Grant and Sons, who very warmly welcomed me and let me become a part of their world. I think we can all agree that there are no people as warm, generous and welcoming as those of us who have been drawn in to the whisky world! I left my full time job to start working part time at the distillery. Working as a guide at Glenfiddich I learned more than I could have imagined. I’m a naturally inquisitive character with a slakingthirst for knowledge so I made sure to learn as much abouteverything from production to marketing as I could.
Eventually I started working alongside our production team. Any spare minute I had I spent mashing at Balvenie with Jim– who showed me how to unblock the grist bin when it gets jammed en route to the mash tun. Just hit the side with a mallet! Distilling with Ian, malting with Alex – a nightshift spent on the malting floor evading the Green Lady (our resident ghost!) was one of the toughest work outs in my life. Probing the coopers with endless questions or watching the warehouse team effortlessly racking casks with awe. Sitting my GCD (General Certificate in Distillation) really allowed me to absorb the technical details and I enjoyed being tutored to join the Nosing Panel by our talented distillery scientist, Jill Boyd, the very person who taught me all about nasal blindness. (I’m still baffled by the fact that some people cannot smell Peat!). The generosity with knowledge and the willingness to share it is something that none of us should ever take for granted. Name any other industry that goes to such great lengths to educate?
I was happily immersing myself in all things Scotch when the opportunity arose to apply for a new role with the company in America as Ambassador for The Balvenie…
I am now into my fourth month living in New York and a day in my life here is not an easy thing to describe. 60% of my time is spent on the road travelling across the East Coast – from Maine to Miami – every day brings a new adventure. Planes, trains and automobiles. Travelling and telling stories about all the wonderful characters I have encountered in my last few years at the distillery. Denis MacBain has definitely given me a few gems over the years about all the mischief he and his colleagues used to get up to in the old days…but you’ll have to come along to one of my tastings if you want to hear them!
Today I am sitting on my balcony in Brooklyn, looking out over Manhattan. Mornings are spent catching up with emails, writing, planning and lots of coffee. I might be working on a new whisky pairing, tasting notes, seeking out an interesting bar or restaurant, hosting a tasting for a whisky society, exploring a potential partnership or attending a whisky festival, presenting our lovely liquid and meeting passionate enthusiasts, old and new. David Stewart as crafted a range that is so unique and special. Each one of our whiskies has its own distinct character, it’s now my job to introduce each one to people here. I love the creative elements that involves. All the different ways we can connect people with Balvenie. Our dedication to craftsmanship means that we have a multitude of characters we work with here in the States through our Rare Craft Fellowship and Partnership with the American Craft Council to our partnership with Anthony Bourdain in our Raw Craft YouTube series. Please check it out if you haven’t done so already!
Now I must get my suit on and hop across the Hudson to the Waldorf Astoria, where tonight we launch the first Balvenie50 year old to be found on East Coast America. I’m looking forward to sharing a few precious drops of this liquid this evening, filled into an American Oak Hogshead in 1963 (the same year our Malt Master joined us), matured for 50 years on Balvenie soil, drawn from cask no 4570, bottled by hand and flown across the Atlantic Ocean to us this evening! Wish us both luck.
Slainte whisky friends, see you on our travels.
I think you will all agree this is another great read and my thanks go out to Gemma for taking the time to sit and write this piece.. slainte..