Fraser Campbell is toasting the world with his whisky cocktails
Fraser Campbell, Dewar's Global Brand Ambassador and drink strategist talks about how he is raising the profile of whisky across the world and how the drink has evolved over the years
He’s a drink strategist – a job description most of us would love to have - but only a few like Fraser Campbell can! He travels the world putting the joy back into the business of drinking whisky.
He was in India for the first time recently, busting myths about whisky being a stuffy serious drink, and creating interesting whisky-based cocktails for folks in Bengaluru.
“What I bring to the table is a fun attitude to drinking and social occasions. I make sure people have a good time and that there is a spirit of hospitality and sense of humour around whisky. A lot of people usually tend to think whisky is an old stuffy and boring drink,” says this towering global brand ambassador for Dewar’s, in an exclusive interaction with YSWeekender.
He’s pretty much living the kind of life Dewar’s founder and whisky distiller Tommy Dewar did, travelling the world to promote the drink. “In the last 15 years, whisky has crossed over, and so people are also opening up to cocktails made with whisky,” he explains.
“The classic way of drinking whisky -- considered mostly a drink for men – is that it's consumed neat. I agree that people are very set in their ways.
But, a lot of women have been coming for whisky tastings in India at the workshops and a lot of people are exploring cocktails made of whisky,” adds Fraser.
Where it began
Literally born into the lap of Scotch, in Speyside, Scotland’s most prolific whisky region, it was during his student days at Aberdeen University – when Fraser sustained his student lifestyle with various part-time bar jobs – that he got infused into the world of mixology.
This experience held him in good stead through the next phase of his life in Edinburgh during the cocktail revolution. It’s been 20 years now for him as a bartender, travelling the world, mixing up potions.
Whiskey across the globe
Fraser has done stints in the UK, Australia, and Spain. In Australia, and is credited with developing the bar, The Alchemist, into an award-winning space. While in Melbourne, he also co-founded The Global Bartender Exchange, an online platform for bartenders, which is now over 1,50,000 members strong.
As far as hard-core whiskey drinkers go, the Philippines was an eye opener, says Fraser, especially for how much whisky they consume.
“France and Latin America are big consumers of whisky; France specially is the largest consumer of single malts,” he observes. The largest consumer of whisky in the world is the US.
“Travel retail is another big segment in the global whisky market and by this, I mean the stores at airports that sell whisky. Then again Russia and Japan are big markets too, as is India,” he says as he talks about whisky consumption across the world.
Make the right choice
Combining his 20 years of bartending experience with his love for whisky made sense, and so he become a brand ambassador for Dewar’s, says Fraser.
“There is a lot of category confusion in the world of whisky. My job is to explain this difference. I teach people to make their own blends. Any good bar may have a hundred varieties of whisky and it can be very daunting for people to order the right one.”
Pairing is about balance
“Whisky pairs very nicely with beer,” he says, suggesting that these drinks should be drunk side by side.
He dismisses the thought that the concept of food-and-drink pairings – of which food goes with which category of type of drink is getting staid.
“People need to eat. Whisky and food need to exist and coexist. For us, food is monumental. Balance is essential - you don't kill out one flavour with another. Just like with wine, whisky and food pairings are very important.”
The classic highball
In India, he’s been focusing on the creating innovative whisky highballs – the drink made by mixing whisky with a non-alcoholic drink, usually soda. Only, Fraser is making it more contemporary and fun.
“At the workshops that I have been doing in India, I am concentrating on three different styles of highballs - one is made with coconut water, another with elderflower, and a third, with aromatics.”
While the classic highball is a Japanese favourite now, and a constant staple at their bars, legend has it that it was way back in 1892, while out with friends in New York, that Tommy Dewar ordered a ‘ball’ (the traditional term for a glass of whisky) of Dewar’s. When the glass of whisky was presented to him, Tommy decided to ask for his whisky to be served in a tall glass, along with soda and ice - and so the ‘Original Highball’ was born.
“In Japan the highball is very popular. This drink has made a big resurgence with Dewar's. We are bringing it back,” he declares.
Blends versus single malts
During his travels around the globe, Fraser has been attempting to stamp out the all too common misconception that blends are inferior to single malts and he is also trying to raise the profile of blended Scotch whisky around the world.
“People fell in love with the romanticism of the purity of whisky. They want to drink it neat and pure, from a source. The variety and high pricing make single malts to be perceived as superior. But it is blended Scotch that keeps the industry alive -- more than 90% of exports of our Scotch are blends,” he explains.
Single malts were used in blends from the 1850s onwards so they have not been around long enough.
“What makes Dewar’s blends different is that we do a double ageing -- we have 40 single malts and we blend it and then put it in a cask for 6 months again -- it creates a smoothness and harmony.”
What is his poison?
“At the end of the day what I drink depends on where I am. I may have a neat Dewar's 18 with a beer on the side. I love coffee too. Otherwise I drink beer or wine.”
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