Drinks With: Laura Hay & Karel ‘Papi’ Reyes

We sit down with Pernod-Ricard’s Scotch Whisky & Havana Club ambassadors


One of the great things about Sydney Bar Week is all the amazing talent that jets into town for the week-long celebration of the booze biz. So we took the chance to sit down with two of Pernod Ricard’s finest and here’s what they have to say…

What’s the worst question you’ve had asked to you in an educational session?

Laura: This is a tough question! I have had some gems through the years! My best one to date was a gentleman I was taking on tour, back when I first started. He was convinced that all Scotch whisky was distilled from… onions!  I laughed at first then realized throughout the hour length tour, this guy was still convinced it was made from onions!


Papi: If I am a real Cuban? Hear my accent, mate… come on!

Laura Hay – Scotch Whisky Ambassador

How long have you been working in the industry and what was your first job?

I started working in the whisky industry just over 10 years ago!  I fell in love with whisky as soon as I started working at The Glenlivet Distillery.  I was a tour-guide for 3 and half years for Chivas Brothers… I am a whisky geek.  I cannot spend enough time with it!

Laura – What’s the biggest thing you miss about Scotland?

Apart from my friends and family?  My distilleries! There were times if I couldn’t sleep I would just go and hang out at the distillery helping my brother or stepdad when they were on night shift… in my jammies!

What are the biggest misconceptions about Whisky in the market today?

The misconceptions about Scotch whisky are changing a lot these day. No longer is whisky seen as an “old man’s drink”, although some may still think that.  The world is changing and I have definitely seen a movement in the market of whisky!  People are becoming more exposed to a much wider whisky range than before. Therefore becoming more educated in the world of whisky.  I feel it is a lot less daunting ordering a Scotch whisky at a bar now.

What is the single most important thing about Chivas Regal that gives them a point of difference?

Every company has their point of difference.  That’s what makes all our whiskies unique!  For me, each of our single malts and our Chivas Regal range has a special place in my heart.  My family and friends make the whiskies.  I have seen each of our products through the years go from grain to glass.  The story of the Chivas Brothers (John & James) itself is a story of standing strong through hard times and sticking together and actually achieving something beyond their wildest dreams!

How do you like to drink Chivas Regal

My go-to whisky and my welcome dram for those who visit me is Chivas Regal 18!  Sooo easy to drink.  I used to just drink it straight or with a little water.  Now, since I am living in Australia and not the sub-zero temperatures of the “heeland’s”, I enjoy Chivas 18 poured over a large block of ice in a glass.  Simple, but oh so good! Slainte Mhath.

Karel ‘Papi’ Reyes – Havana Club Ambassador

How long have you been working in the industry and what was your first job?

I have been working in the Industry for around 10 years and believe it or not before that I was a teacher in Cuba.

Papi – what’s the biggest thing you miss about Cuba?

Family aside, probably a drink – a bottle of rum – with my Cuban mates in front of the beach without a paper bag. All the atmosphere around is almost impossible to describe.

What are the biggest misconceptions about Rum in the market today?

The styles of rums. It’s not wise or fair to compare different styles of rum with the same expectations. For example when you talk about the Spanish Style or light rum you are hoping to get a crisp, smooth and delicate spirit made from the sugar cane molasses and if you compare that with a fresh style or rhum agricole you are expecting a biting and intense rum in most of the case, because it is made from the sugar cane juice. To compare isn’t fair – there are so many different styles, each with its own brilliant characteristic.

What is the single most important thing about Havana Club that gives them a point of difference?

To name a single element will be hard because in a chain production process the quality of all the elements play an important role together (from the molasses to the last touch before bottling). But I will say: The Havana Club Maestros Roneros (Master Blender) who are in charge to keep the consistency, the quality and the secrets of Havana Club.

How do you like to drink Havana Club

Usually neat with a Cuba Libre (my Holy Water) behind to keep me fresh and after that I always appreciate a nice Daiquiri. Salud!

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