The Tasting Panel magazine

September 2012

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DEPARTMENT HEADER Jim Ryan couldn't quite believe it when he took home the title of Best American Brand Ambassador at the 2012 Tales of the Cocktail Spirited Awards. "To have that recognition and to know that people are paying attention and care was really special. But I was totally taken aback," he laughs. Jim is photographed at Lighthouse in Brooklyn, NY. Charlotte Voisey has somewhat of a knack for picking out talent, hav- ing been the Hendrick's Gin Brand Ambassador in the early years of its U.S. launch and now representing the portfolio as a whole in her position as Portfolio Ambassador. She's become an icon in the industry, one of those people whom everyone knows (or wants to know) and whose respect and passion for her work is public knowledge. "Charlotte is a real role model for the team, and has really set the tone for what we're achieving now," says Birkitt. "If you want to connect to the bar- tending community, who better to do it than one of their own?" asks Voisey rhetorically. Voisey, whose time behind the stick in London during that city's cocktail renaissance from 2000 to 2006 prepared her for her duties represent- ing Hendrick's, the very peculiar gin, explains, "I lived through the London cocktail rejuvenation, and I saw how Hendrick's was taking hold in London, 58 / the tasting panel / september 2012 so I knew how to do the same thing in the U.S. Elevating Hendrick's was always the goal, and when we entered the U.S. market, most people looked at me like I had two heads," Voisey laughs, refer- ring to the juniper-phobic reputation gin had earned. But as Voisey worked her magic and Hendrick's began to gather steam, the brand she had lovingly nurtured was in need of another evangelist to spread the gin's unique charms. "I didn't understand how anyone else could work on Hendrick's, because no one else could love it as much as I do," says Voisey, devoid of hyperbole. "And then Jim Ryan came around." While it's clear that every single William Grant Brand Ambassador has done wonderful things with their respective brands, Ryan's is a name that pops up over and over alongside words like "hardworking," "amazing," and "committed,"—and on occasion, "annoying." "His attention to detail is incred- ible," says Voisey with a laugh, "so much so that it can sometimes verge on annoying." It's clear, however, that Voisey's affec- tion for Ryan far outweighs any brief annoyance she may feel when Ryan verges into perfectionist territory. "I've worked so closely with Jim since liter- ally day one, and I cannot say enough good things about him. He's really helped grow the Hendrick's brand, and his abilities have allowed me to step back a little bit and use all of my skills to get behind our entire portfolio." With Voisey leaving her "first love" in Ryan's capable hands, the William Grant & Sons portfolio has caught fire in recent years, with innovative brands like Solerno, Monkey Shoulder and Reyka Vodka rounding out the portfo- lio's classics, incluidng The Glenfiddich, The Balvenie and Tullamore Dew. "This is a special portfolio because we have hand-crafted family tradition brands who have a heritage and a reason for being," explains Birkitt, "so as we grow and add brands to the portfolio, with every brand we add, we look for that pioneering spirit in innovation that really haloes what William Grant set out to do all those years ago." With William Grant's mission constantly in mind, Jim Ryan and the entire Brand Ambassador team strive to innovate, which is, in fact, a tradition for the portfolio. "We add new Brand Ambassadors every year who will help us continue to innovate," says Voisey. "We've done that for 125 years, and if you look through the history of spirits and the William Grant & Sons portfolio, every few years, we come up with something interesting and innovative. There's plenty more to come." From Dreams to Reality At this year's Tales of the Cocktail, the William Grant way was on full display: From the complete-with-fireworks portfolio party, to the Hudson Whiskies tasting room, to the unveiling of Stolichnaya's Stoli Hot and Stoli Sticki, at every turn, the William Grant & Sons brands were the center of attention. "Tales is an opportunity for our brands to come alive," comments Ryan, whose detail-oriented brain spent months pondering how he'd enliven Hendrick's for the tenth anniversary of Tales. "I slept on it for eight and a half months, and I woke up one night from a dream with this image," says Ryan, whose commitment to Hendrick's has permeated even his deepest REM sleep. "I woke up and knew: We were going to build the most utterly ridiculous Collins bar in the world, a three-story bar where people would get their cocktails through a series of funnels and copper pipes and tubes PHOTO: KIRSTEN LUCE PHOTO: KIRSTEN LUCE

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