Brand Ambassadors Jennifer Wren and Jane Maher On Representing Two of the Whiskey World’s Biggest Labels
Written By: Alexandra Shubin Wild About Whiskey with Experts from Glenfiddich and Tullamore D.E.W.
Photographed By: Patrick Martin
Hair and Makeup By: Chelsea Gehr
Jane feels that whiskey is all encompassing. It represents craft, culture, history, science, innovation and lots of patience. Whiskey is a statement; it runs deeper than the glass.
While munching on a last minute breakfast, Jennifer Wren announces, “I am perfect for this job because I love whiskey and bacon!” She is able to multitask like a boss; mid-conversation she made sure to grab a bottle of Glenfiddich 14 for me to taste. Ireland-native Jane Maher shared a wealth of information about the process of whiskey making. Not only does she love whiskey, but she also wants people to truly understand and appreciate it.
Q: How and why did you become interested in whiskey?
Jane Maher: In terms of a career, I actually started in brewing. It was a part-time job for me while I was studying architecture at university. That role allowed me to learn a lot about the technical aspects of brewing, which is an important part of distillation. From there, a whiskey opportunity was presented to me and I couldn’t resist. At heart, I am a creative spirit. Some would say they are at odds but creativity and innovation are a big part of our world, which can probably explain how I’ve managed to apply my architectural skill set to whiskey.
Q: Glenfiddich has a long history as a household name; how does it feel to be a part of that history and reputation?
Jennifer Wren: The beauty [of Glenfiddich] is that we are a heritage band. The first drop of whiskey ran off the stills on Christmas Day in 1887. The fact we are still around comes from the fact that our distillery workers do what they do precisely and extremely well with the spirit of the Grant family leading the way. It is a brand that celebrates its legacy but is continually pushing for innovation, from barrel matching to production all the way to hiring me, a funky American girl to represent the brand as it moves into the 21st century. There is a dignity and beauty in what they created and it’s up to me to share that with the modern drinker.
So, a long-winded answer, but I just love the brand. I drink the entire portfolio. And, though I usually have the inside scoop, I am always surprised at the innovation. I am amazed by it.
Q: What’s being a brand ambassador like?
JM: Ever woken up on Friday and wondered where on earth the past week has gone? My life is like that! As an ambassador you tend to be on the go a lot, attending events and creating experiences. It’s a lifestyle as opposed to a 9 to 5 job. Also, what day is it again? The travel is my favorite bit; not just cities themselves but the individual cultures of those cities fascinate me. As a Tullamore D.E.W. Ambassador, I am always trying to seek out the “true character” of people and places.
Q: Your markets have an extensive and refined history. Do you have plans to branch to the millennial market?
JW: The term “millennials” aren’t really how we think of younger whiskey drinkers. Although they were once kids, “millennials” are now buying houses and getting married. What I want is for younger drinkers and inexperienced drinkers, whatever generation they come from, to be welcomed into the whiskey community.
One way to do this is by making sure Glenfiddich is always positioned in the premium way it deserves. It is the single most awarded Scotch whisky in the world! But, I can still sit down and talk about why it is a premium Scotch and make it fun and make it cool and make it relaxed and simple.
I always keep in mind that whisky is a drink of the people. And it is celebrated as such in Scotland. We should break bread around it. So the real culture of whiskey is different than we have made it here. Premium but accessible. Whiskey is fun.
Q: Tullamore D.E.W.’s recent commercial has amazing reviews. Can you tell me a little bit more about that campaign?
JM: Absolutely. It’s called “The Parting Glass” campaign; it’s about being a universal brand that people all over the world can relate to. When you look deeply you can see the nod to Ireland. We are proud of our heritage, but ultimately it resonates globally. You see the four guys—that’s the kind of consumer we are going towards. We call them true characters. It’s not about being Irish it is about have a true character. The gleam to the eye, the fun, the mischievous. That part of our consumer is whom we are thinking about. We are so proud of the ad because it encapsulates what the brand is about.
Q: What are some of the challenges you met as brand ambassadors?
JM: Three years ago, when I was first appointed, I would regularly be asked whether I actually drank whiskey, which always made me laugh. Recently, that question is much less common. What’s more, women in whiskey are intriguing to our audiences. People are far more inquisitive now; they find whiskey interesting because it is interesting and it’s my job to bring that to people.
JW: The biggest challenge worldwide is sometimes what people drink is kind of like a show pony. I try to educate [customers] on what they are drinking. Highlight differences. Explain to them the ingredients and processes. In America you get a lot of people who order American whiskey, but are afraid to branch out. So I also touch on stereotypes: Whiskey is not always expensive. It doesn’t all taste like Band-Aids.
Q: With so many other whiskey brands, why are yours consistently placed at the top?
JW: A couple reasons: [Glenfiddich] has a sense of control, dedication and perfection. We are constantly messing with stuff in the distillery to try and better ourselves. For example: We tried to use dry yeast, but it wasn’t the thing that made the whiskey best. So although it was cheaper, we didn’t continue to use it. A person who enjoys whiskey from 1987, 1993 and today, it will always have the same quality level. That reads loyalty.
JM: While prosperity and growth are really important to us, at the same time we try to maintain steady development but with substance. In other words, we want people to really appreciate the liquid and engage with us. I’d rather have a person enjoy one Tullamore D.E.W. and understand it, rather than absent-mindedly have two Tullamore D.E.W.s. Quality over quantity, right!?
Q: What’s your favorite way to drink whiskey?
JM: While I like to drink it neat, the great thing about Tullamore D.E.W. is its versatility. Neat or on the rocks, it’s a winner. However, if you wish to channel your inner creativity, a great cocktail is the Apple D.E.W. Simply fill a glass with ice, add 1 part Tullamore D.E.W. and top with 2.5 parts freshly pressed apple juice. Garnish with a lemon wedge or a cinnamon stick if you’re feeling festive. A superb cocktail that won’t bust those New Year’s resolutions either! Get juicing!
JW: Here’s a drink we call the Buck 75: Glenfiddich 12, pear juice, simple syrup, sparkling dry champagne. It’s more interesting than a mimosa. You can garnish with a pear. Drink it in a coupe or flute.
But I always drink it neat first. Neat is my go to. I have been drinking for many years, so I can handle the strong taste. I enjoy it. For your average drinker it can be harsh. I drink it with a little tiny bit of ice. And I mean a very little bit. I drink my Scotch neat.
Giving Back: Jennifer donates her time as an ambassador to charities all over California. She champions several charities in the U.S., and is continuously looking for opportunities to work with groups that uplift and educate women. She has a particular group she loves that provides women with new clothing and coaching for interviews, to help them get solid work and out of poverty. Glenfiddich also just participated in an event for Cultivate LA, a large culinary event that supports United Friends of the Children.
Irish Roots: Before moving to Los Angeles, Jane worked at their distillery in Tullamore, Ireland. As Distillery Ambassador, it was her duty to meet and educate VIP guests. Like many distilleries in Ireland, Tullamore Distillery closed in the 1950s. It was a difficult time in Irish history & for the industry. It’s been a seminal moment to see the return of the distillery to Tullamore in recent years. In fact, it’s been quite emotional, particularly for the people of Tullamore. This is definitely one of the most rewarding aspects of the job.
Did you know? Jennifer believes that females are uniquely designed to smell and taste things in a nuanced way: “Females have a nasal bulb that is 50 times bigger than a male’s. That isn’t to say that a female is ‘better’ at smelling than a male, as a ‘trained’ nasal catalogue can take several years to work on and perfect for both sexes.”
G O L D E N /// Girls. Whiskey Brand Ambassadors Jennifer Wren Brand Ambassador for Glenfiddich and Jane Maher Ambassador for Tullamore D.E.W. Discuss Work (And Play).