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Whisky Jobs… Michael van der Veen talks Distillery Experience Managers

Whisky Jobs… Michael van der Veen talks Distillery Experience Managers

As Distillery Experience Manager at Kingsbarns Distillery & Visitor Centre, Michael van der Veen is responsible for the smooth running of the whole customer-facing operation. We asked him to tell us more about the day-to-day and what qualities are required to succeed in the role…

I look after the customer-facing side of the Kingsbarns Distillery & Visitor Centre; tours, (online) shop, café and the team. Our job is about ensuring that all visitors to the distillery have the best experience possible.

Often many things are happening at the same time, so you need to be able to work under pressure and be flexible in working hours. The role covers everything from planning rotas and tours, dealing with bookings, stock control and ordering, budgeting, profit and loss reporting, general maintenance and upkeep of the building, maintaining business relations and planning/conducting tastings. Obviously, a good knowledge of whisky helps…

To be successful in a role like this you need to have high standards in customer service and management. There is a much greater emphasis on digital media; maintaining social media channels, online reviews and online shopping have changed the way visitors find out, book and buy from the distillery. There are a lot of benefits to this though it is still great to chat face to face with whisky enthusiasts or to introduce novices into whisky and whisky making.

Often, as a manager, you need to be ready to do anything that your team might have to; so knowing a little bit about everything really helps! Learn about the product and the industry, build up your work experience so that you become an all-rounder; it’s great to know a lot about the product, but you also need to be able to deal with the booking software and know how to operate the coffee machine in the café, or drive the fork lift….

One thing that has amazed me since I started working in the whisky industry is the non-competitive attitude of people in the industry. Everybody is willing to help each other when needed and it’s a really hospitable industry to work in.

When you get a chance to taste these extraordinary whiskies you cannot help but get passionate about them. I’ve worked in some very nice hospitality establishments that gave me the customer service understanding but also gave me a chance to learn about (and sample) some amazing whiskies that I never would have tried if it wasn’t part of the work training.

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