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Double up on the Diploma in Single Malt Whisky at the Port of Leith Distillery (11 & 12 July 2024). When you gift a place, you get a place for free!

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Meet the Educator: Ann Miller

Meet the Educator: Ann Miller

During her career as an International Brand Ambassador (mainly with Chivas Brothers), Ann Miller was responsible for communicating about a wide range of premium whisky brands as well as delivering in depth and bespoke training for guests from around the globe.

Now independent, as The Dram Queen, Ann’s passion for Scotch whisky remains as important as ever. Drawing on 30+ years of experience in the industry, she shares expertise through tastings and events (online and in-person), in the hope people will enjoy whisky even more.

Based in Speyside, we’re delighted to welcome Ann Miller onboard as an Approved Course Provider. We caught up with her to learn more about what brought her to the role, what makes her tick and what her whisky world looks like, quickfire style.

At university in St Andrews and later, living and working in Edinburgh, I explored the world of Scotch whisky and gained an insight into what makes one dram different from another and an appreciation of why this extraordinarily versatile spirit is so rewarding.
Later, working in tourism, I applied this enthusiasm to organising whisky tours around Scotland for French and Spanish speaking visitors as I realised that most of them wanted to see Scotch whisky first-hand and to taste it in the place where it was distilled.

A year or so later, work began to create the Scotch Whisky Experience just beneath Edinburgh Castle and I was appointed Marketing and PR Manager before it opened; I was proud to play a key role in putting it on the map. While there I met many people in the industry and later, I was offered the opportunity to join Chivas Brothers, and move to Speyside, the heart of malt whisky distilling.

As the first woman International Brand Ambassador for major malt whisky and premium blended Scotch whisky brands, I travelled widely, often using my French and Spanish to communicate what made each brand stand out as well as delivering in depth and bespoke training courses in Speyside for guests from many countries.

As one of the founders of the Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival over 20 years ago, I served as one of its volunteer Directors until recently and I remain one its lifetime Ambassadors. Ten years ago, I was honoured that my contribution to the Scotch whisky industry was recognised as I was made a Keeper of the Quaich.

Throughout my career, communicating what is so special about the brands with which I worked was always an important part of my role. Often it helped that I could explain clearly the steps of the Scotch whisky making process so that the guests, with varying levels of knowledge, could appreciate the complexity of flavour development in the drams they tasted.

Sharing my enthusiasm for Scotch whisky with the people who have a thirst for knowledge is what I enjoy. I delight in helping people understand the fascinating nuances of Scotch whisky. It is always a pleasure to demystify the complexities of whisky, especially for people who may not already be aficionados of the fantastic spirit we distil and mature in Scotland.

Whether they are complete novices, perhaps convinced Scotch whisky is a drink they will never enjoy, or industry insiders with a good awareness and appreciation of it already, it is always a delight to add to their experience, expertise and most importantly their enjoyment of Scotch whisky.

Working with the EWA as an Approved Course Provider offers me the chance to share my expertise about whisky, not just from the perspective of a single brand, but the fascinating way in which the entire industry works to create Scotland’s iconic spirit. I’m excited about the opportunity to share my passion with people who want to embark on a voyage of discovery of Scotch whisky and to appreciate it in the round. However, I also look forward to learning from the delegates on these courses and appreciating Scotch whisky from their perspective.

Whisky wisdom: quick fire questions

First whisky you ever tasted?
It is so long ago that I first tasted whisky that I can’t name my first dram, but I do know for certain that I immediately liked the taste!

[Once I had tasted whisky for the first time I danced for the rest of the night until I fell asleep exhausted. My father had rubbed whisky on my gums as a traditional remedy for teething not long after I learnt to walk.]

Best whisky you have ever tasted?
It is impossible to name only one whisky, as over the years I have enjoyed some amazing drams! I do, however, believe whisky should be enjoyed in good company. Some of the best drams I have tasted have been those I have enjoyed with good friends.

Favourite distillery to visit?
The next one - discovering new distilleries is always exciting. The Scotch whisky industry has developed in such a dynamic way recently that one of my post-COVID challenges will be to visit as many of the recently opened distilleries as possible.

Favourite non-whisky drink?
Just like choosing a favourite dram this depends on the moment and the company; I enjoy wine, champagne, and gin as well as Scotch whisky.

Favourite whisky and food pairing?
An impossible question as whisky complements so many types of food so well! I have really enjoyed almost every pairing I have tasted, as when done well they reveal so many facets of both the dish and the dram. I particularly appreciate those created by my friend Martine Nouet who inspires me whenever I create a whisky pairing menu.

What person, dead or alive, would you most like to share a dram with?
Dead - Mary Queen of Scots who faced many challenges as a woman in a world where men expected to make the rules. Alive - David Attenborough who has opened our eyes to the wonders of our world and the many threats it faces.

Finally, what advice would you give someone wanting to get into the whisky industry?
Keep an open mind. Taste extensively, read widely, listen attentively, and make up your own mind about the drams you enjoy as you share them with friends.

Persistence pays. Good things take time, just like a great dram.

Embrace opportunities – even those you weren’t expecting – as they often open interesting doors.

Never stop learning. Be aware that however much you learn about and enjoy Scotch whisky there are always more things to discover.

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