Drambuie Tasting Session with Jonathan Brown

10 Questions With..., Drink, Sydney / 19 March 2014


Jonathan Brown, Brand Heritage Director of Drambuie, was in Sydney last week to share his wealth of knowledge for a brand of exquisite taste and flavour, dating back to the 1740’s. Nestling into the library of Sydney’s Wentworth Hotel for a private tasting with Jonathan we got the opportunity to learn more about the remarkable history of Drambuie and how the face of the brand is changing. We also got answers to a few unconventional questions…

1. What drink was responsible for your very first ‘hangover’?
There was a particular Italian restaurant that I used to visit when I was in university, the owners were from the Isle of Capri. We used to drink Stingers, which was brandy and ‘Crème de Menthe’. I can’t say it was a drink I remember fondly.
2. You studied at Oxford University, what was your favourite drinking game?
There was more sport played and partying than drinking and little studying when I was at university. Drinking games were not played as much in my era, nowhere near as much as they are these days, so unfortunately I have none to share.
3. What inspired you to take on the Head of Brand Heritage & Directorship of Drambuie?
That all came about almost by accident after I joined Drambuie in 1994 in a commercial role as a Regional Director. This role absorbed almost 95% of my time. I have always been fascinated by Scottish history, as a brand, Drambuie has an amazing heritage that goes back 65 years, it has become a passion. Drambuie is influenced in art, in literature, in song and in dance; it’s a fascinating part of our Scottish heritage.
4. Since the launch of Drambuie 15 & The Royal Legacy of 1745, how has the brand performed here in Australia?
The brand is doing well; we are looking to engage the younger market of Australia and expand our presence with some easy recipes such as Drambuie mixed with Ginger Beer, warm ciders with Drambuie, Drambuie Hot Toddy, and The Dolce Vita. It’s warming and that’s what we are just tapping into now to look at further growth and stronger market share.
5. Apart from exposing the beautiful, rich colouring of Drambuie, what was the main contributing factor for Drambuie changing its bottle?
In 2009 we changed the bottle. Drambuie made a decision to take the brand to a new level. We aimed for the younger drinking repertoire. We launched some amazing marketing campaigns across our global reach. Locally, here in Australia we re-launched with the “Return of the Prince” ensuring our packaging was in line with our offering to use our drinks in various different forms as opposed to the restricted after-dinner-drink we were typically known for.
6. Drambuie can be traced back to Scotland after the Battle of Culloden in the 1740’s, now 3 MacKinnon Clan generations later the brand is still strong. What else is on the horizon for Drambuie?
It is a crowded market place. After the prohibition, there were 1,500 spirit brands, now there are 7,000 different brands. We are holding our own and seeing buyers coming into the brand. We are trying to rejuvenate and capture a younger market place at the same time. It is a challenge, which we don’t shy away from. We are looking at a unique entry into certain markets with the ‘hot drink’ era, which has been very successful within Europe. It has been a huge opportunity with great result so far. With Drambuie we are aiming to add something to both summer and winter drink combinations.
7. What is your favourite thing to do during your down time when travelling abroad?
Whether I am working or not, I like seeking out cocktail bars. I really love finding cocktail bars. I am fascinated by cocktails, what Australian mixologists are doing these days with their flavours, colours, and alcoholic strengths, especially with Drambuie- is very impressive. Other than that, playing golf and visiting family here in Australia is another enjoyable way I spend my time.
8. I know you are not a local, but where do you like to EAT when you are in Sydney?
Oh wow! That is so hard. I have never had a bad meal out here. The standard of food here is phenomenal. I ate at Bentley this week, which was amazing. One of my other favourites is Wildfire in Sydney, Stokehouse in Brisbane. I tend to spend a fair amount of time in Melbourne where my daughter is currently based. Melbourne has great fusion dining experiences.
9. What about your favourite place to have a DRINK in Sydney?
I drink at many different establishments. I have been to all kinds of places, especially those that stock Drambuie! I drink at The Baxter Inn and The Roosevelt in Sydney. The Black Pearl in Melbourne. I tend to keep my eye on the top 100 bars in the world to use as a basis. What I like around here is that you don’t have to go to a real trendy bar to get a decent cocktail. I had a great Rusty Manhattan from a side bar off Martin Place here in Sydney. I am a great believer in supporting places that support Drambuie.
10. When you aren’t working, where do you go to PLAY in Sydney?
They don’t give me time, do you want to see my itinerary (laughing)! I am here to add value, I have spent some time in Manly, but to be honest, I am happier to be working. I am very passionate about the brand and would prefer to be maximising my time whilst I am here ensuring that my visits contribute to the growth of Drambuie.
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