Johnnie has 10 years ambassadorial experience representing brands including Auchentoshan, Bowmore and Glen Garioch and in spring 2015 he assumed the role of Suntory Japanese Whisky ambassador where he specializes in brand education on the house of Suntory Whiskies; Yamazaki, Hakushu, Hibiki and Toki.
Johnnie has become renowned for creating connections between attendees at his events as he employs unique methods to bring each geographical and historical context to life. Johnnie’s mission is to effectively create and build communities of fans for Suntory whisky in everything he does.
She launched the cocktail program at Manresa, served as Hakkasan’s San Francisco bar manager and was most recently the Absolut Vodka Brand Ambassador in Northern California, where she consulted on Absolut programs and created new, original cocktails.
With a passion for flavor and innovation, Jessamine currently serves as the National Brand Ambassador for the Powers & Single Pot Still Irish Whiskey portfolio at Pernod Ricard. Her role as National Brand Ambassador is to educate and showcase this unique portfolio of Irish Whiskeys including Redbreast, the Spot Whiskeys (Green Spot and Yellow Spot), Powers, and Midleton throughout the US.
No stranger to the spirits industry, she’s an award-winning bartender and also knows her way around a wine list. Jessamine has a level two certification from The Court of Master Sommeliers and previously worked as Wine Director at Chez TJ in Mountain View. She’s also an active member of numerous industry groups. She graduated from BarSmarts, made it to the top eight in San Francisco’s Speedrack competition, is a proud participant in LUPEC and is the co-founder of LOH (Ladies of Hospitality).
Jonathan Driver is the Rare Whisky Director for Whyte & Mackay. In this role he has the responsibility for managing and developing the Company’s Luxury Scotch Whisky offerings primarily the higher marques of Dalmore Single Malt Whisky but also working with the rare expressions of Jura, Fettercairn and Tamnavulin.
Driver began his career, with a degree in Japanese History, then working in Japan for an importer of European Art. After two years he returned to the UK to take up a marketing position with Garrard, the Crown Jeweller working on the building of two successful Garrard concessions in top Tokyo department stores, Seibu Saison and Mitsukoshi.
He was appointed in 1989, as a Luxury marketing specialist for United Distillers, the spirits arm of Guinness plc (today Diageo plc). Driver was responsible for the global development of the Classic Malts of Scotland, the company’s premium malt portfolio, and then worked on the development, launch and commercialisation of Johnnie Walker Blue Label with United Distillers’ Travel Retail division.
At the time of the Diageo merger in 1997, Driver took on the role of Global Malt Whisky Director. He oversaw the turnaround of the £100m Classic Malts portfolio. In addition he developed and launched the annual bottling of Diageo’s Rare and Special Releases.
In 2005, as Acquisition Marketing Director for Diageo’s £200m purchase of the Bushmills’ Irish Whiskey brand. He oversaw the marketing integration of the Irish Whiskey business into Diageo’s Whisk(e)y portfolio.
Subsequent to Driver’s time in Diageo he created his own Luxury Sales and Marketing consultancy working to develop Super and Ultra-Premium variants for Global Whisky brands across a range of different portfolios and territories.
In 2012/13 he helped develop and then represented John Walker & Sons’ Diamond Jubilee, a £100,000 a decanter project designed for Her Majesty the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and with all profits going to the Queen Elizabeth Scholarship Trust (QEST).
He chairs the Industry Committee of the Worshipful Company of Distillers, is also a Trustee of the Wine & Spirits Education Trust and Non-Executive Director of Compass Box, a boutique Scotch Whisky blending company
He is responsible for Whyte & Mackay’s flagship blended whisky, the rare and exclusive Dalmore whisky collection, the varied flavour profiles seen in the Jura single malt range and he was the man who re-created a piece of history when he brought to life the 100 year old Mackinlay’s ‘Shackleton’ whisky. He also has a unique and one-of-a-kind whisky collection named after him – The Paterson Collection – that he created in partnership with premier retailer Harrods.
Being a third generation Master Blender, Richard quickly learned that the complex art of producing the perfect whisky is not one to be taken lightly.
He began his career as a general production assistant at A. Giles & Company Whisky Blenders & Brokers where he learned the art of blending before joining Whyte & Mackay, one of Scotland’s leading makers and distributors of Scotch whisky, becoming their Master Blender at just 26 years old. With a truly unique talent for ‘nosing whisky’, one of the main tasks of a Master Blender is often nosing hundreds of samples of whisky over the course of a day, and being able to distinguish each to maintain particular layers of flavour, aroma and depth. It is his skill that earned him the nickname ‘The Nose’ and so valuable is his nose that he has had it insured by Lloyds of London for £1.5 million!
When Richard isn’t in his sample room creating whiskies he is often out travelling the globe extensively as not just an ambassador for Whyte & Mackay but for the Scottish whisky industry as a whole. His entertaining presenting style coupled with his passion and knowledge for whisky has earned him a legion of fans across the world. He has been awarded The Spirit of Scotland Trophy at the International Wine & Spirit Competition, named Whisky Magazine Whisky Ambassador of the Year and has even had a series of Manga comic strips created in his honour! When he isn’t receiving plaudits for his work, Richard likes to spend his time getting other’s involved in his passion as he is a Diploma Lecturer for Scotch Whisky for the Wine & Spirit Education Trust in London. He also works extensively with the Benevolent Trust in Scotland, to raise money for those who have previously worked in the drinks industry and have fallen on harder times.
In 2008 he added author to his list of achievements when he published his very own book, Goodness Nose. He writes a regular column in Sweden’s leading whisky magazine, Whisky & Bourbon. He has also contributed to the Huffington Post, The FT How to Spend It and Whisky Magazine, as well as bringing his inimitable presenting style to life on programmes such as CNBC (US), Style TV (Russia) and STV (UK) to name but a few. Richard is also a keen tweeter and regularly discusses his love of whisky through his social media channels.
What the press say about Richard…
‘Paterson is at one moment, a dedicated curator of both whiskies and history, the next, an inspirational innovator with a completely unconventional approach to building a whisky, drawing on influences from gastronomy and astronomy, from folklore, from (whisper it) smoking. Above all, he takes his cues from life and the way that whisky fits into it. In either incarnation, his eyes sparkle with passion for his subject.’ Chris Madigan, Brummell Magazine
‘Paterson is a snappy dresser — tailored suits, pocket squares, shirts with French cuffs — and an obsessive reciter of dates and historical factoids. He seems less like a whiskey-maker than a high-end perfumer, and much of his job consists of sniffing and mixing flasks, flagons and vials of amber-colored fluid in a glass-walled room that is part laboratory and part museum… (he) also takes whisky drinking very seriously.’ Charles McGrath, New York Times
‘It’s the measure of the man that, after a distinguished career and 44 years in the whisky industry, he is still excited by Scotch whisky, and his energy and passion spill over because he wants you to be excited as well’ Ian Buxton, Tasting Panel
‘a huge and internationally renowned character’ James Davidson, WeHeart
‘Richard has been hugely, hugely helpful to me in whisky information, entertainment and education… I think it’s fair to say he is currently the best ambassador for scotch throughout the world’ Charlie Maclean, Whisky Writer
Master Blender at Chivas Brothers. With over thirty five years in the business, Colin is following a family tradtion of dedicating his life to Scotch whisky. Colin knows the characteristics of each and every whisky in the Chivas Brothers’ extensive, aged inventory and is the Global Ambassador of Royal Salute.
Kirsten Grant Meikle is the great-great-granddaughter of our founder William Grant, and the fifth pioneering generation of the family to run our business since 1887. She is currently Director of Prestige at William Grant & Sons UK.
Born in Edinburgh in 1975, she knew early on that her future lay in the drinks industry. After studying Business at Napier University, and travelling the world for 14 months (and doing the odd stint of bar work to pay her way), she entered the on-trade in the UK.
While spending two years as Bar Manager of Ecco Vino, an Edinburgh bar famous for its wine selection, she fell under the spell of fine wine. It led her to Matthew Clark, a renowned UK drinks distributer, where her passion for the business, sheer dynamism and inexhaustible work ethic saw her go from Account Manager to Wine Controller in seven years.
Born in Pitlochry in Perthshire in the Highlands of Scotland in 1953, Ian Millar joined independent family distillers William Grant & Sons Ltd in 1998 as Distilleries Manager for the company’s flagship Glenfiddich and Balvenie Single Malt Scotch Whisky distilleries.
Ian is celebrated 40 years in the whisky industry in February 2014, having worked for a number of distillers in various technical and production roles, including mashing, distillation, warehousing and production management. He was previously Distillery Manager at the Bladnoch, Mortlach, Blair Athol, Dalwhinnie, Linkwood and Glen Elgin Distilleries before joining William Grant & Sons as General Manager of Glenfiddich, Balvenie and Kininvie Distilleries.
Kieron Elliott started his bar and spirits career 22 years ago as a bartender in his college town of Paisley, Scotland and quickly established himself as a passionate single malt enthusiast and advocate.
He moved to London in 1998 and started managing bars and coordinating events for big liquor companies including Bombay Sapphire and Jack Daniels while also pursuing a performing career, landing hosting slots on ITV’s long running travel show “Wish You Were Here?” and the BBC’s science and technology show “Tomorrow’s World” as well as played a long running character in the BBC1 drama, “River City” and hosted the weekend morning show on Scotland’s #1 radio station, Real Radio, for 4 years. He then helped launch the UK’s first Classic Rock Station on FM, Rock Radio, and hosted the morning show for a year.
In 2008 he made the move to the U.S. and was quickly picked as the William Wallace expert on Spike TV’s Deadliest Warrior. He must have done something right as the producers asked him to host all three seasons of the spin off show: Deadliest Warrior; The Aftermath. In 2010 Kieron was picked from thousands of voices to play Hoark the Haggard in DreamWorks’ “How to Train Your Dragon”. He’ll appear in all three movies and narrates the audiobook app.
Never far away from the spirits trade, Kieron worked as a special events mixologist for British Bartenders in LA where he naturally gravitated towards the scotches, working for Dewars and Chivas among others but it is was a chance meeting with Highland Park Brand Ambassador, Martin Daraz at one of Kieron’s stand up gigs that lead him to joining Edrington part time as an associate Brand Ambassador. Six months later, in August 2013, Kieron stepped up to become The National Brand Ambassador for The Macallan, where he currently and happily resides.
Richard Urquhart is a member of the fourth generation of the Urquhart family, owners of Gordon & MacPhail. Established in 1895 and based in Elgin in the north of Scotland the company is famous for selecting, maturing and bottling some of the world’s finest and rarest single malt Scotch whiskies.
Gordon & MacPhail sends casks to distilleries throughout Scotland where they are filled with “new-make” spirit and left to mature for many years at the distillery or in bonded warehouses in Elgin. Gordon & MacPhail bottles over 300 expressions of single malt under various ranges including Connoisseurs Choice, MacPhail’s Collection and Cask Strength. In 2015 the company launched the world’s most exclusive single malt, Generations Mortlach 75 Years Old by Gordon & MacPhail, at the Royal Opera House in London. In 2013 HRH The Princess Royal visited Elgin and presented the business with its second Queen’s Award for Enterprise of International Trade.
Richard joined Gordon & MacPhail in 2009 after working in Information Technology for six years. His career at Gordon & MacPhail started by spending two years working through all of departments within the business. Since then, Richard has worked in UK Sales and Marketing before moving to the Export department in November 2013, a department that exports the company’s whiskies to over 50 international markets.
Richard became of a Keeper of the Quaich a prestigious society whose purpose is to recognise those that have made an exceptional contribution to the Scotch Whisky Industry in 2015.
From his highland roots in Scotland’s legendary Campbeltown – an area steeped in whisky tradition – Balvenie Brand Ambassador and renaissance man Lorne Cousin brings a wealth of craftsmanship and skill, and a lifetime’s worth of unexpected experiences, to his role with the most hand crafted Single Malt Scotch. In a career that has seen him representing Scotland’s most beloved cultural products – music and whisky – he has travelled the world, sharing a platform with characters as diverse as royals, distillers, international pop stars and athletes.
Bénédicte Hardy was born near Cognac, France in Angoulême on March 18, 1957. She is a fifth generation member of the famous Hardy family, producers of Cognac. Her ancestor, Antoine Hardy, originally of English and Scottish descent was a merchant who fall in love with the French Countryside and decided to become a French citizen settling in Cognac in the second part of the 1800’s. After years of working for other Cognac producers, he learned the craft and founded A. Hardy & Company, the first bottle of Hardy Cognac was sold in 1863.
Bénédicte herself attended High School in Cognac finishing at the age of seventeen. She then went on to study in Bordeaux and graduated with two majors when she was 21. Intending to continue her education in law,Bénédicte applied and was accepted to Columbia University in New York. She chose, however, to attend the University in Geneva, Switzerland where the skiing conditions were much better than in New York. When Bénédicte graduated from Geneva with a degree in International Law (Maritime law or “law of the seas”), she could have begun practicing Law immediately. Instead she chose the wine and spirits industry and joined the family business in 1986. But Bénédicte has no regrets. She has been in charge of the U.S. and Canada for A.Hardy & Company. Along with her importer, Hardy USA, she has worked to build the Hardy brand stone by stone.
Bénédicte is has a wonderful husband, Ludo and two beautiful children, Pierre and Caroline. She hopes that one day her “little ones” will share her passion for Cognac. Bénédicte skis as much as she can, plays tennis, swims, and runs on a regular basis. She is also an avid reader and wine lover.
Stephen Rankin has a passion for Scotch whisky and an in-depth knowledge of the product andindustry, having joinedfamily-owned whisky specialist Gordon & MacPhail in 2000. Stephen is proud to be a fourth-generation member of the Urquhart family that owns the Elgin-based business, embracing the knowledge and expertise in whisky maturation passed down through the generations.
Following in his family’s footsteps, Stephen has dedicated his career to building his understanding of single malt Scotch whisky, travelling the world to share his passion for Gordon & MacPhail’s extensive portfolio.
Recognised for his contribution to the whisky industry, Stephen is a Keeper of the Quaich – an exclusive and international society that acknowledges those who have shown outstanding commitment to Scotch whisky – and is a Liveryman of the Worshipful Company of Distillers in the City of London.
Over almost two decades,he has built his understanding of whisky and the wider wine and spirits industry through a range of advanced qualifications with the globally recognised Wine & Spirit Education Trust. Courses have included specific sensory analysis and technical trainingand he has won several awards as part of this process. It is this wider knowledge of wine and spirits that brings additional value to Stephen’s role within the business.
He furtherdeveloped his expertise in a range of sales-focussed roles with previous positions including Director of UK Sales, with responsibility for more than 2,000 customers,strategies and long-term forecasting.
Having gained a great understanding of Gordon & MacPhail’s unrivalled liquid library and its customers across the world, Stephen was appointed as the company’sfirst Director of Prestige in October 2017.
In this role- a position that is pivotal to the ongoing success of the business – Stephen identifies and forges relationships with lovers of the finest whiskies across the globe.He uses his passion and knowledge to introduce discerning whisky drinkers to Gordon & MacPhail’sunique range of single malts in the global luxury consumer market. He focuses on the rare and aged expressions which make up the company’s renowned whisky collection, including the‘Private Collection’ and ‘Generations’ranges of single malts.
Stephen manages various relationships whichinvolvetravelling to global conferences and events, delivering exclusive and intimate tastings of personally selected whiskies and directly engaging attendees with the story of single malt Scotchwhisky and Gordon & MacPhail.
He also hosts a limited number of events and master classes at high-end whisky shows around the world, including the Nth annual whisky and luxury spirits event in Las Vegas, introducing visitors to Gordon & MacPhail’s vintages from its portfolio and archives. In doing so, he brings to life the company’s skills as leading maturation experts and whisky creators.
In addition to conductingprestigious tastings, attending events and working closely with trade customers, Stephen welcomes the most discerning whisky consumers to Elgin to help build their knowledgeand collections ofsingle malts. Stephen hosts guests in Gordon & MacPhail’s historic homewhere they are educated and entertained during their stay in Speyside.
Raj Peter Bhakta is the founder of BHAKTA Spirits, a purpose-driven family of spirits brands formed around a mission to revive the campus of Vermont’s Green Mountain College, which he purchased in 2020. Widely considered to be the progenitor of the luxury rye whiskey category, he is also the founder of Whistlepig Whiskey.
After exiting Whistlepig in 2019, Bhakta embarked on a sabbatical in search of new discoveries in the world of spirits. A twist of fate brought him to Condom, France, where he unearthed—and acquired—a miraculous cellar of ancient Armagnac brandy dating back to 1868, which BHAKTA Spirits now releases as single vintages and as BHAKTA 50, a blend bearing a minimum age statement of fifty years.
A first generation American and son of immigrants, Bhakta attended the Hill School in Pottstown, PA, before graduating Boston College. Formerly an investment banker, U.S. Congressional candidate, and contestant on The Apprentice, he lives in Poultney, Vermont, and Vero Beach, Florida.
As one of the visionaries behind America’s craft distilling resurgence and the creator of several award-winning spirits brands, Christian Krogstad is the founder and master distiller of Westward® American Single Malt Whiskey. Westward represents the culmination of his lifelong quest to produce a whiskey that embodies the spirit of the Pacific Northwest while drawing inspiration from Oregon’s deeply-rooted brewing culture.
Prior to founding Westward, Krogstad managed the Carlton Winemakers Studio, in Carlton, Ore., the country’s first green-built cooperative winery that is made up of a network of independent small-batch winemakers. He also founded and managed Orchard Street Brewery in Bellingham, Wash., and later served as head brewer at McMenamins Edgefield brewery. A native of Seattle, Krogstad attended Siebel Institute of Technology, America’s oldest brewing school, in Chicago, Ill. He eventually settled in Portland, Ore., and he led the development of the city’s famed Distillery Row.
Working closely with Master Blender Billy Leighton at Irish Distillers’ Midleton Distillery, Deirdre’s role involves the development of new and existing blends, marrying together specific and intricate flavours and aromas, ultimately, creating a palette of tastes that make up Irish Distillers’ portfolio of Irish whiskeys.
Deirdre is also responsible for the management of stock, a large part of which involves laying down whiskeys for future generations.
One of the first graduates to join the Jameson Engineering programme in 2012, Deirdre gained a solid foundation in the whiskey-making process and upon completion, was appointed Process Technologist. In this role Deirdre was an integral member of the commissioning team that installed and operated the Pot stills and Distillation Columns that were a part of the €100 million expansion of Midleton Distillery. Prior to being appointed as Blender, she served as Bond Supervisor, oversee the filling and emptying of over 1.7 million casks in Midleton’s inventory.
Deirdre holds a degree in Food Science and Technology from University College Cork and a diploma in Distilling from the Institute of Brewing and Distilling.
With more than 30 years’ experience in blending Scotch whisky, Sandy Hyslop has recently taken on the
newly-created, prestigious role of Director of Blending across all of Chivas Brothers’ blended Scotch
whisky. In this role Sandy, will lead the Chivas Brothers Blending Team.
Sandy had held the rare position of being only the fifth Master Blender in the long and distinguished
history of Ballantine’s blended Scotch whisky. Appointed Ballantine’s Master Blender in 2005, Sandy
oversaw a blending team of four, to ensure the continued excellence of the blend. His role at Ballantine’s
saw him charged with monitoring the distillation, blending and maturing of whiskies – a responsibility
that has now been extended across the Chivas Brothers portfolio, although Sandy remains the
Ballantine’s Master Blender.
In September 2016, Sandy was appointed Director of Blending. In his new role, Sandy oversees the
creation and blending of all Chivas Brothers blended Scotch whisky, by leading a team of seven blending
experts. The team is set to strengthen Chivas Brothers’ position as a global leader in the blended Scotch
whisky sector. Through this appointment, Sandy also took on the responsibility of blending the
prestigious range of Royal Salute whiskies.
Sandy started working in the whisky industry on 1983 as a Quality Controller at a whisky plant in Dundee.
At a very early stage he was asked to assess whisky samples and showed a natural aptitude. In 1992
Sandy was invited to spend one day a week with Jack Goudy, the legendary Master Blender of
Ballantine’s. Sandy spent more and more time learning from Jack and, after this period of apprenticeship,
Sandy was appointed Blender at the Ballantine’s Headquarters in Dumbarton.
With an emphasis on quality at all times, Sandy’s good-humored nature and commitment to excellence is
very much in keeping with Chivas Brothers’ ethos.