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Sunday, March 3, 2013

Jameson Irish Whiskey appoints new brand ambassador for the northwest

Sibéal Bird Photo: Pernod Ricard USA

Irish Whiskey is the fastest growing category of Whiskey.  The category still has lower sales volume than the Whiskey market leaders (five million cases per year versus ninety million for Scotch and thirty million for American Whiskeys), but global category sales are growing at around 24% annually (rapid growth is normal when a product takes off from a low base) and Jameson owns 76% of the market.  Jameson is popular with Irish Whiskey drinkers in Utah; half of the 750 ml products stocked are Jameson brands. 

Sibéal Bird is a new regional brand ambassador for Jameson Irish Whiskey, the largest maker of Irish Whiskey.  Based in Seattle, her territory also includes Oregon and Minnesota, but she took some time out of a recent visit to Portland for a phone interview with the Utah Mixologist.  

What led you to become a brand ambassador for Jameson?
Last year I was finishing my degree in International Business, I decided that I wanted to work for an Irish brand, to do something that would help promote Irish business and the Irish economy, but at the same time I wanted a chance to travel and see some of the world.  When I heard about the opportunity to represent Jameson, and what the position of being a brand ambassador involved, it sounded like a perfect fit.  

I applied and went through a two-day interview process and was one of the lucky few to get selected for the role.  When you think about making whiskey, there are a lot of different people involved, from the farmers who grow the grain to the workers in the distillery; being a brand ambassador involves representing all of them. 

What was your most interesting experience as a brand ambassador?
One of the high points during training was going to the Midleton Distillery and getting to meet Whiskey legends like Barry Crockett.  There was a huge warehouse full of barrels, and it smelled of all kinds of wood and spices; it was really impressive.  The high point in America so far was attending the Jameson Bartenders’ Ball in New Jersey; that was really fun, getting to meet all the bartenders who support the brand.

When did you decide that you would work with cocktails and spirits for a living?
It goes back to what I said about wanting to work for an Irish company.  I was raised on a barley farm, so the Irish Whiskey business was a good fit, and then the rapid growth of the category means that there is opportunity.  It also helps that I have always been a big fan of Jameson.

What do you think is/are the keys to Jameson’s excellence? What differentiates Jameson from other brands?
Jameson has a single distillery in Midleton and can control the process from end to end, so Jameson Whiskeys are hand-crafted, and we have great quality control.  We control the product from grain to glass.  Jameson knows and works with the farmers that grow our grain, and that fits right in with consumer desires to know where their food comes from.  Our master distiller, Barry Crockett, who spent 47 years in the Midleton Distillery, has changed the face of Irish Whiskey.

Do you ever use Jameson products in cocktails?  One of my favorite Irish Whiskey cocktails is the Emerald (a Manhattan variation), what do you like?
I love using Jameson in cocktails.  My two favorites are an Old Fashioned made with Jameson 12 and chocolate bitters (I love Whiskey and chocolate), and a Manhattan made with Jameson Gold with caramel.  One of the best parts of being a brand ambassador is getting to try the new cocktails that bartenders develop using our brands.  I had Jameson with Ginger Beer and fresh ginger with a squeeze of fresh lime juice.   There is a trend toward using fresh ingredients in cocktails, and in Minnesota I had a cocktail that mixed Jameson with homemade apricot jam and freshly pureed apple juice with a squeeze of lemon.  It was delicious.

Did John Jameson really fight a giant squid?
I’m not actually sure! You would need a time machine to find out for certain.  John Jameson was a hero among men; he is a legend in the Irish Whiskey business, and he embodies the Irish personality, so his legacy lives on.  You know, those commercials are not shown in Ireland.  We’re not permitted to advertise alcohol on television there, so you have to be in America to see them.

Thank you, Sibéal, I really enjoyed talking to you and good luck in your new career.

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