The Balvenie ambassador Ross Blainey knows how to share a good story

From left: Jessica Arnott, Kayla Reid, Chelsea Catherine, Ross Blainey, Alissa Gabriel, Nicola Dean, and Alicia Clarke at The Balvenie Distillery earlier this year.

Story by Ross Blainey

Six of Australia best bartenders, a bottle of very special oloroso and me. Not bad for a Sunday afternoon in a hotel room in London prepping for our first takeover of The Balvenie Stories Tour UK 2020. I was lucky enough to be hosting six talented individuals in the UK for a week of collab events with Lyaness and Artesian in London and Kelvingrove Café in my hometown of Glasgow before hitting the malting floor at The Balvenie for a few drams.

As with any great stories, I hadn’t anticipated this happening when we began our journey six months before when I started a conversation hoping for some inspiration, making some cocktails and chatting whisky with our apprentice malt master Kelsey McKechnie. But after some hard work, creativity and a little diplomacy we were in London. Our six are about to show off what Australia has to offer in creativity and hospitality from around the country in one of the best bars on the other side of the world.

As we looked out over the Thames polishing off a wee Oloroso from Montilla, I explained that over the previous few weeks as I travelled around some of the top bartending cities in the world I couldn’t help thinking that we are so under-rated in Australia. Our bars are incredible and our people are so good that you can walk into pretty much any of the top 100 bars and find at least one Aussie. I’d put money on it. Some of the most influential in the world are Aussies. But our actual Australian bars don’t always get the deserved credit globally. I wanted us to take the opportunity while on The Balvenie Stories Tour to tell our story, tell the story of just how inspiring the style, passion and creativity of the Australian bar scene is. Let’s make sure everyone know we’re representing Australian bars. Another clink of glasses, tap on the table and that was it for the oloroso.

So why do I think we have such great bars in Australia? Maybe it’s the exposure to an array of flavours with such a diverse and flavourful culinary culture. It could be about our use of native ingredients or our focus on sustainability which has, quite rightly become so prominent. Or the passion, creativity and drive that comes from a close community across the country supporting each other and sharing ideas. For me, its all of those plus one big thing. The style of service expected in a world class bar is the natural style of how our bars work in Australia. Attentive yet casual, fun and professional. We know how to have a laugh in Australian bars while the work ethic means everything gets done at just the right time. The natural character of the general community is what makes Australian bartending so special and sought after around the world. 

From passing on the story of Kelsey McKechnie, our apprentice malt master and The Balvenie 12, Sweet Toast of American Oak to six bartenders around the country to sharing the story of Australia and its awesome bars to 1000’s around the UK. What a twist! At The Balvenie we know stories are our lifeblood. It doesn’t all get written down but we love to pass them on. I think more people should hear these stories of Australia being passed along, across the bar, over a dram.  

To find out more about The Balvenie Stories hit up Ross on Instagram at @thewhiskyspecialist & contact your William Grant & Sons representative.