Educating Bartenders Worldwide.
By Beverage Trade Network
Naomi Leslie is the East Coast Brand Ambassador for The Balvenie in the United States. Born and raised in Massachusetts, Naomi began her career in the spirits industry from NYC's celebrated cocktail bar, Dear Irving where she worked behind the bar and helped them to open a new bar called The Bennett. Before joining The Balvenie, she worked at BlackTail, one of the most acclaimed bars in Manhattan. Using her experience in bartending and her degree in Arts from Muhlenberg College in Pennsylvania, Naomi is now hosting tasting sessions and educating people about Balvenie's new release as well as their prestigious rare collection. Along with her role at The Balvenie, she is encouraging diversity and advocacy for women in the spirits industry.
As an Ambassador, my goal is to create lifelong lovers of our whisky. This is done not only by sharing knowledge and tasting notes but by sharing stories and experiences.
As a bartender in New York City, I was spending a lot of time learning about the spirits world. The more I learned, the more The Balvenie consistently stood out to me. Not only for how delicious it tastes but for the brand's history and values. I adore bartending but when I heard there was a chance to work with this distillery I knew I had to try. Luckily, the skills I developed bartending have been essential to growing as an Ambassador. You develop your palate, you learn how to assess guests' tastes, and you develop a category knowledge of spirits that provides valuable context for the brand you've joined.
There's quite a bit of travel involved in this role so I'm able to share The Balvenie with folks all over the country (and the world). The job is a blend of events and tastings that differ every single day. That variety is what drew me to the role. I've hosted tastings on private yachts on the Hudson, virtual launch events in Africa, blacksmithing with bartenders in Brooklyn, custom cigar rolling in Miami, foraging for cocktail ingredients in Scotland, and endless other amazing, crazy ways of engaging with whisky lovers.
Ambassadors for William Grant & Sons are focused on long-term advocacy. We have an incredible sales team who bring us in to be their spirits experts and storytellers.
My love for The Balvenie runs deep (since long before this role) so I could wax poetic for hours about its excellence. I always make sure to highlight our family roots, our handcrafted process, and our rich, honeyed flavor profile.
Naomi Leslie hosting a virtual tasting session, Source: Instagram / The Balvenie
When I host training, I make sure to include broader category knowledge as well as brand-specific information. This helps put The Balvenie in context within the whisky world. I also always share my own personal stories and experiences from my visits to the distillery, from ghosts in the maltings to run-ins with distillery sheep.
Any collaboration with a hotel or restaurant begins with genuine engagement. For Ambassadors, I believe the best way to initiate this is to host staff training. You get valuable time with the bar team and an opportunity to share your enthusiasm for the spirit.
I'm a big believer in the 'Thank You' email after any visit or event. It reinforces the relationship and encourages future partnerships.
Long before the pandemic, I noticed how often The Balvenie brings up warm memories and heartfelt stories amongst its fans. Stories of drams shared at special occasions, family dinners, celebrations Over the last two intense years I've had many people tell me they've spent time reminiscing on happier moments and reflecting on what they're grateful for with The Balvenie in hand. Now, even more wonderfully, I'm beginning to see The Balvenie at joyful, long-awaited reunions.
For Ambassadors, our digital marketing is focused on social media. We engage with consumers through live tastings, informative posts, messaging, and influencer collaborations.
The biggest challenge of the last two years has been navigating the balance between virtual and in-person work. The endless cycle of planning and then shifting those plans has reinforced the need to be flexible and understanding. I would advise any future Ambassadors to always remind yourself to stay patient and positive, not only for yourself but for your team.
The Balvenie pairs wonderfully with an enormous range of foods. I always recommend trying something a bit unexpected. Of course, the whisky will always be delicious alongside a nice steak but have you tried it with Peruvian ceviche? Incredible.
The key to using The Balvenie in a cocktail is to make sure you're highlighting the spirit rather than overwhelming it. Its full-bodied, spice-forward flavor profile works beautifully in classics like the Old Fashioned and the Rob Roy.
Image source: Instagram
Interviewed By Tushar Anand, Junior Writer, Beverage Trade Network