The Tasting Panel magazine

April 2012

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Page 86 of 133

The Ballad of Simon Ford "S by Geoffrey Kleinman imon Ford is the most important person in the room, not because of drinks he's invented, but because he recognized what we were doing before we realized it," explains Mixologist Eben Klemm. Thus begins the Ballad of Simon Ford, a man who once dreamed about a career in economics, but for whom fate had something quite different in store. As with many things that have to do with Simon Ford, it was a friend with an opportunity to go traveling that changed Simon's life and would ultimately set him on a course that would lead him to become one of the most significant influencers in the spirits industry. In 1991, Simon, 19 years old, drops out of college and travels with a friend to Romania to help out at an orphanage. Upon his return to the U.K., he gets a job at a wine shop. Simon quickly begins to shine, and the shop decides to pay to put him through training for his WSET (Wine & Spirit Education Trust) sommelier certification. Simon spends five years working at the wine shop, making his way up to store manager. In 1996, Simon is headhunted by Seagram's as a marketing manager for Absolut Vodka. "The U.K. was trailing the U.S. by about five years in terms of popularity for vodka, so this was a really exciting time to be working for that brand," says Simon. At Seagram's, Simon works for Nick Blacknell. "Nick is a marketing genius. People like Sidney Frank get a lot of credit because they made a lot of money, but Nick has been a key guy behind the success of Absolut, Plymouth Gin, the revitalized Beefeater and now Jameson. He's f'ing brilliant and he's my mentor," explains Simon. If you could trace back to one defining moment that helped put Simon Ford where he is today, it would be Nick Blacknell bringing Plymouth Gin into the Seagram's portfolio. "Nick recognized something very important. He saw a vision of the future where Absolut is sold on image alone, when it shouldn't be. So he decided to start bringing in products that would be sold on qual- ity, and that's when he brought on Plymouth." Simon Ford always manages to be in the right room at the right time. 86 / the tasting panel / april 2012

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