We talk to Haig Club Global Whisky Ambassador Ewan Gunn, 37, about traveling the world, the ultimate Haig Club cocktail and Gordon Ramsay's Panna Cotta.
How did you start out on the path of becoming a Whisky Ambassador?
It's been an interesting journey. I got a job straight from university with a very small independent Scottish whisky company, running their global sales and marketing. The first thing they said was, 'Before you go out there talking about Scotch whisky, you are going to spend a few months working in the distillery'. So I spent three months working a 12 hour shift, learning every part of the production process, which gave me a great grounding in making Scotch - when I went out to the markets I knew what I was talking about. It gave someone who was relatively young in the industry a lot of confidence.
What does your job entail?
It's quite varied, involving a lot of travel to some awesome cities around the world. My time is spent ensuring our marketing and sales teams fully understand Single Grain Scotch Whisky, as it's a new category in a lot of the world markets. I also spend time liaising with media in each market, to help answer any questions they have about Haig Club. And a good chunk of it is also spent working with influential bartenders and mixologists in each city, introducing them to Haig Club and keeping the brand front of mind when they're developing new cocktails and serves.
Do different countries have different customs for drinking whisky?
Traditionally I think they did, but the world's getting smaller and things that were once common in one country and not in another are starting to blur. In China, for example, whisky is very much enjoyed with food , so a lot of what we've been doing there is pairing Haig Club with different dishes. And now that we know it works well paired with seafood, we are introducing other markets to it.
You've travelled a lot, where's the best place you've visited?
I've enjoyed them all. Vietnam was somewhere I had wanted to go to for a very long time but never had the opportunity; in the past couple of months I've been there twice, once for the Haig Club launch and then a few weeks later on honeymoon. If you go to a country with an open mind and an open heart you'll have a good time. I always dive into the culture, eat the local food, speak to the local people and never go as a tourist.
It has been a privilege to help launch a Scotch which not only tastes great, but which encourages drinkers to make their own rules when it comes to how to enjoy it.Ewan Gunn
Back to whisky - what makes Haig Club different from other Single Grain Scotch Whiskies?
It's a whisky that's been carefully crafted so that the liquid appeals to new whisky drinkers and whisky connoisseurs alike, which is quite challenging to do. It's smooth, balanced and accessible but it's also got a delicious depth of character to it. It's amazing that our master distillers have managed to achieve that, to get that balance just right takes huge talent and skill.
Describe the famous Cameronbridge Distillery in Scotland where Haig Club is made.
The distillery was established back in 1824 by John Haig, of the Haig family. There's a wonderful combination of traditional whisky production methods that go back two centuries and also some incredibly advanced technical innovations that have been pioneered since it was first built. Someone visiting would see a combination of traditional buildings and cutting-edge technologies. They would also bump into some of the most talented and skilled whisky makers in Scotland.
Is there a right way to serve Haig Club?
That's one of the great things about it, there's no perfect serve; it's carefully created to be a very versatile style of whisky. It's wonderful neat, I really enjoy it on the rocks, but it also works really well in the signature cocktails (link to cocktail recipes, prefiltered on signature cocktails) we have developed.
What's your favourite Haig Club cocktail?
They're all amazing to be honest, but on a warm summer's day the Haig Clubman is really hard to beat; it's delicious and really simple to make. However it's pretty cold up here in Scotland at the moment, so some of the seasonal cocktails for the winter months work really well; the Festive Flip I love, especially with a nutmeg garnish.
People have many assumptions when it comes to whisky. What do people generally get wrong when talking about Single Grain Scotch Whisky?
People outside of the Scotch whisky industry assumed that grain whisky was just a whisky to be blended with and that was it. And one of the things we are trying to get out there is, yes it's wonderful in a blend but as a stand-alone scotch it's incredibly good. A lot of people are unaware of how good Single Grain Whisky can be when it's done right.
What was the most exciting part of launching Haig Club to the world?
Unveiling a new whisky was a very cool feeling and the Founder's Dinner, with some of the most famous people in the world and probably the best meal I have ever eaten. It was cooked by the Michelin-starred Tom Kitchin, and the desert was a Panna Cota, made by Gordon Ramsay, using Haig Club which was absolutely delicious. It was a night to remember.