Strange things happen when I meet up with Blair Bowman. There was the time in the sheep field outside Edinburgh when we stuck him in a whisky barrel and tarred and feathered him. Or the trip to the top of Arthur’s Seat when we set up a very smart little table and served free drams to confused walkers. More recently, our presentation to the Scottish Business Network on 17 April left us with another memory to treasure. If you ever wanted to know what some of Scotland’s finest entrepreneurs look like with clothes pegs on their noses, we provided the answer.
How did it happen? Well, we were in London to talk about World Whisky Day, the global celebration of whisky that was founded in 2011 by Blair at the age of 19, and which I now run. Whisky enthusiast Blair had noticed that there were ‘World Days’ for everything from hamsters to cabbages, yet oddly there wasn’t one for whisky. So he chose a date (now established as the third Saturday in May) and encouraged people to take a dram and share their experiences on social media. It took off immediately – hundreds of thousands of people across the world embraced World Whisky Day.
By 2015, the project had become too large for Blair to manage. As publisher of the rather lovely booze magazine Hot Rum Cow, I’d become friends with him and we chatted about how we could help take it on to the next stage. My main business is the Edinburgh-based content marketing agency White Light, and I could see great potential in Blair’s clever thinking.
Many of the people who follow World Whisky Day are young, open-minded, adventurous whisky drinkers – exactly the sort of people that many whisky brands want to speak to. So there seemed an opportunity to retain the grassroots appeal of World Whisky Day, whilst building up some really great content for our audience and giving brands a chance to get involved.
It’s been an exciting few years since, with World Whisky Day growing significantly every year – as explained entertainingly by this video created by my team at White Light. Last year, we oversaw more than 300 events across six continents, achieved a reach on Twitter and Instagram alone of 54 million people, attracted swathes of media coverage and achieved significant brand buy-in. Meanwhile, Blair has gone on to establish himself as one of the UK’s leading whisky experts, presenters and authors – which is also brilliant for the World Whisky Day brand.
I really enjoyed explaining our story to the friendly audience at the SBN event, generously hosted by Smith and Williamson in Moorgate. As part of the format, I was quizzed by Christine Esson on everything from the growth of the gin industry in Scotland to how we reacted when a large, well-known drinks corporation plagiarised our ideas. It made for a lively and entertaining discussion.
When I was finished, Blair took centre-stage to guide the audience through a short whisky tasting, thanks to some bottles kindly donated by our friends at Dewar’s. The clothes pegs enabled participants to experience the powerful release of aroma and taste sensations once the pegs were removed. There was much hilarity – and the whisky went down a treat.
But then you can’t really go wrong with Scottish Business Network. At each gathering you meet warm, enthusiastic entrepreneurs and business people with ideas, ambition and personality. And a sprinkling of whisky only adds to the magic.
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