A Chat With Tullamore D.E.W Global Brand Ambassador John Quinn

A Chat With Tullamore D.E.W Global Brand Ambassador John Quinn

Global brand ambassador for Tullamore D.E.W is celebrating his forty fourth anniversary in the whiskey business. The former commercial director for the Irish Distillers Group started out in the whiskey business in the 1970s when there were only 3 distilleries in the region. Quinn was recently in town where he shared his vast knowledge with bartenders, brand mangers, influencers as well as consumers. We sat down for an in-depth conversation with the Irish man and talked about his second trip to Nairobi, bars, food and whiskey.

How was your last event at the Ankole Bar and Grill?

I hosted around 35 people for a night of good food and some cocktails. Each course through dinner was accompanied by our whiskey. I also got to explain to them what is unique about Tullamore and to mingle with every one as they got to know me and me them.

You seem to be the right person to ask why Ireland is known for whiskies?

The Irish picked up distillation through the monks traveling in the 4th Century from the middle east. They used distillation to make perfumes. When they came to Ireland, the Irish soon found a better use for it and started to distil local produce such as potatoes and grains. The product was then named Uisce beatha or Water of Life where the word whiskey is derived from.

What was the Irish Distillers Group?

Official distilling in Ireland started happening as far back as the 1700s and by the late 1800s Irish whiskey was the biggest category of whiskey in the world. However, this was affected by both our independence from Britain that led to an economic war and the Prohibition in 1919 further reduced exports which led to many distilleries closing down. In 1972 different distilling families came together to form the Irish Distillers group. I started in 1974 and was working with all the Irish whiskies then. I started as a post boy and went up the ranks over the years and 10 years later I got a role that made me responsible to spread our business to Australia, New Zealand and Asia.

You’ve been with Tullamore D.E.W as the global brand ambassador since it was acquired by William Grant for almost 7 years now. Tell us more about that…

Since I am probably one of the longest serving people in the whiskey business WG offered me the global ambassador role. Prior to that I was the commercial director responsible for Central Europe which meant I dealt with numbers (financial planning) and strategizing. Let’s just say it was a more stressful job. When I was offered this new role I was delighted.

Take as through your typical day?

I have no typical day… as cliché as that may sound. Like yesterday I was at the Alchemist bar where I had a masterclass session with 66 bar tenders across the country. We talked about, and tasted whiskies from casks and not bottles so that they could have a good grasp of the components of a whiskey rather than just what whiskey tastes like out of a bottle. I then had an interview at HomeBoyz radio and the Ankole whiskey dinner later.

Why is it important for you to train bartenders?

It is common for most people to ask bartenders for recommendations and this is why we choose to work closely with the bartenders. I personally love these sessions. Like yesterday at the Alchemist, the bartenders were sited taking notes and asking good questions. I always think of myself as a closeted teacher and the only difference is that the people I teach actually want to be there (LAUGHS).

What are your key points during the master classes?

The key messaging is about the Power of 3. Tullamore D.E.W is made like no other whiskey in the world. We use three natural ingredients, three varieties of grain distillations and three different types of maturation casks. It is triple distilled, triple blended (golden grain, full-flavored malt, and rich pot still) and triple cask matured in three distinct casks. I bring the whiskies straight from the casks and take them through some whiskies that they would never be able to have tasted. The bartenders walk away knowing a lot more about other whiskies too and this helps improve their craftsmanship.

Do you see a big difference between bartending back then and now?

Yes, back then there was a lot less creativity in the industry. Bar tenders mostly just served/poured you your drink. Today the industry has much more creativity.

What are some of your favourite bars?

Most of them are Ireland! One is called the Palace. I like it because it has an old Irish feel and it isn’t trying to be modern. They don’t really serve cocktails but they have a wide range of whiskies, mature bartenders and no television. If I was to pick another one I’d say, Dead rabbit in New York. It is a well known Irish cocktail bar in New York.

What stood out to you about our Kenyan bars and bartenders?
Kenyan bartenders are keen to learn and I was noticed how well educated they were by the kind of questions they asked and even the fact that most of them were taking notes just impressed me.

What is your favourite Tullamore D.E.W offering?

(Sighs) This is like having four kids and being asked who your best one is… I love them all. The 12-year-old is my go to favourite but say I would like to reward myself on a Sunday evening I would go for the 14-year-old one. I also have specific bottles that I prefer to have before or after dinner too.

Take us through some basics of pairing Tullamore D.EW with food?

A whiskey drinker will be able to appreciate the fresh fruity notes in the original and so it goes well with starters and especially fish starters. It heightens the citrus notes in dishes say salmon and prawn dishes. The 12-year-old has sherry casks from red wine and goes well with beef our 14-year-old variety goes well with cheeses or desserts because it is pretty fruity as well.

What does Tullamore mean?

It translates to Big Hill in Irish.

And the D.E.W?

Daniel Edmonds Williams. He started working in the distillery when he was younger and later came to own it when he bought it from the owners.

What next for Tullamore in the Kenyan Market?

We are determined to get Tullamore D.E.W everywhere across Kenya, in more cocktail menus, with even more bartenders interested in it and excited to use it because they understand it better. We also have more whiskies which we look forward to introducing here.