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#421

A WORD WITH MATTHEW FERGUSSON-STEWART

25 Oct 2016 By

Glenfiddich’s brand ambassador (APAC) Matthew Fergusson-Stewart has been named by Icons of Whisky as a ‘Scotch Whisky Brand Ambassador of the Year 2017’. So of course we had to ask him what it’s all about.

Matthew Fergusson-Stewart is the Glenfiddich Brand Ambassador for APAC. Which means he travels around the region teaching people about the finer points of, not just Glenfiddich, but whisky in general (the man’s a whisky wonder). So whether it’s a masterclass or just a simple pairing dinner, he’s always ready with a quip and a quick reply. I know he shares my great love for Glenfiddich 21 Years Old Gran Reserva, but he has access to so many more secrets and spirits. So of course an interview is in order.

 

Congrats Matthew! Really big honour, you’re the Scotch Whisky Brand Ambassador of the Year 2017, an award bestowed by Icons of Whisky. To put it into perspective for our readers, winning this is the equivalent of, say, an Emmy for a Best Performance?

Haha, well that might be pushing it a little. I’ve been named as Scotch Whisky Brand Ambassador of the year for the rest of the world, a classification that excludes the US and the UK. There is an award in March for the overall winner, so we’ll wait and see how that goes! For now, let’s consider it the whisky equivalent of an Emmy nomination. It’s funny, I’ve always said in a joking way that “all I want is to be the best Brand Ambassador in the world”. I don’t think I’m there yet, there are still many people in the industry that I look up to immensely, but this award suggests that I’m at least heading in the right direction. Lots more work to be done though.

And who would you like to thank for this?

So many people, I wish I could name all of them but I don’t think space here will permit. An old boss Kevin Hewitt encouraged me to get involved in the whisky community, Andrew Derbidge of The Scotch Malt Whisky Society in Australia gave me my first ever job in whisky, an old colleague Phil McVeigh encouraged me to pursue a full time career in whisky in Singapore, Emmanuel Dron of The Auld Alliance made me manager of the one of the best whisky bars in the world, and Ian Millar, the former Global Brand Ambassador of Glenfiddich was one of the people that was involved in recruiting me into this role. I have an incredible team of colleagues at William Grant & Sons that have made my job an absolute joy, particularly my Balvenie Brand Ambassador colleague Neil Strachan. Most importantly, my wife Elaine Seah has always been there supporting me in chasing this dream.

Matthew Fergusson-Stewart Glenfiddich Brand Ambassador for Southeast Asia

 

Take us back to that day when Glenfiddich offered you this job. What was the interview process like, and when they gave you the job, which whisky did you drink to celebrate?

Much of the interview process was fairly standard, but then I had to meet Ian Millar, the Global Brand Ambassador. The only time he was available was one evening while I was behind the bar at The Auld Alliance. He came in with a group of people and ordered each them a whisky himself, and didn’t ask me a single question, but he was watching carefully how I interacted with customers.

After a couple of drinks he was leaving and at the door he said to me “I should be back in Singapore in October, but you’ll be with the team by then anyway.” Classic Millar, in a very offhanded way he gave me incredibly exciting news that I’d be working with ‘The World’s Most Awarded Single Malt’ and then made his way off into night to do some more work for the brand.

Glenfiddich 1965

Tell us about the small part you played in getting the Glenfiddich 1965 SG50 edition off the ground.

This was a really exciting project for me, and one I am proud to have initiated. Singapore has become my home over the last seven years and I was very excited about the SG50 celebrations. Naturally, I wanted my brand Glenfiddich to play a small part in those celebrations. We are very fortunate as a distillery to have fantastic reserves of very old whisky stock, so it all just fell in to place. I enjoyed the irony that what makes for a very old whisky also makes for a very young nation, but both share an incredible vibrancy. (Read more about the Glenfiddich 1965 here).

What was the one whisky that changed your life early on?

There have been a few whiskies and a few moments that have been pivotal. I had been drinking blended Scotch whisky for a while, and then I remember having an Islay single malt on the eve of my university graduation ceremony. At once I was amazed and drawn in by the aroma, flavour and character; it really helped set me on the path. Another very important moment was a night at The Auld Alliance with Arun Prashant and Emmanuel Dron, where thanks to Emmanuel we tried nearly a dozen legendary whisky bottlings. I knew then that single malt whisky would always be a very important part of my life. Everything was not quite the same the next day. Today, single malt is a hobby, a passion and a career.

Whisky Molecules

You have a Facebook page – Whisky Molecules – that provides a very geeky “chemical constituents” approach to whisky appreciation. What should people know about it?

Before I worked in whisky I was an analyst, and I naturally take a very analytical approach to things in my life. One of the reasons I fell in love with single malt whisky is that you can get a huge variety of aroma, flavour and character from just three simple ingredients – barley, water and yeast. Whisky Molecules is part of my desire to understand exactly how this variety arises.

Many questions can be answered by a simple online search, but sometimes an answer requires a lot more research, piecing together a great puzzle. Once I work something out I post it so that others can share in the knowledge. It’s just like drinking a great single malt – it’s a great experience for the individual, but it is far better when shared with good friends. If you have a geeky approach to things, please do ‘like’ Whisky Molecules, but be warned, it gets really geeky.

It’s impossible to pick a favourite whisky… But which bottle would you like to be buried with?

In all the whiskies I’ve ever tried, and I estimate there have been over 3,000, I have never given a score higher than 99 points. I am still holding out for that 100 pointer, and when I find it, that will be the one. Perhaps it is hidden away in one of the 46 warehouses on site at Glenfiddich, waiting for me to discover it. When I do find my 100-pointer, you can be sure I won’t be telling anyone what it is!

Like this? Read about another whisky evangelist – Dave Broom

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