This October, I escaped the looming dark evenings and impending cold weather for sunnier climates stateside (no complaints there!). My trip consisted of a full tour of Florida before heading west to San Francisco. The goal of this trip was to spend time with our U.S team and distributor reps, visiting lots of different bars and spreading the good word of Walsh Whiskey.
First stop: Miami – I was beyond excited to see if the city would live up to the hype and it didn’t disappoint. I spent the day with a distributor rep and visiting some amazing cocktail bars where our Writers’ Tears went down a treat. The day was finished with a Happy Hour at Fado, a quintessential Irish bar where I had great fun tasting consumers on our brands and teaching them how to have the “craic”. My Miami dream was short-lived however, because next stop was Fort Lauderdale, a quick spin up the road. Equally as picturesque as Miami, Fort Lauderdale has a plethora of unique craft cocktail bars who were all very excited to try some Writers’ Tears and get creative using it in their concoctions. After this, my time in South Florida had come to an end because we were on a late flight north, to St. Petersburg. After some much needed sleep, I was fresh and ready to hit the streets of St.Pete on Wednesday morning. A quaint little town, St.Petersburg is full of skilled bartenders with a bar to suit every fancy. We had an especially productive day, selling in product everywhere we went. We finished the day with a staff training and happy hour at Copper Shaker and because I’m a huge Red Sox fan I simply had to visit the local Boston bar to watch the World Series afterwards! Thursday came too quick and we were on to the road trip leg of the tour! Orlando was next on the agenda and we had a busy day of meetings ahead. After a day of selling and education, we travelled out to Winter Park to a newly opened Irish bar where I conducted one last staff training before sharing a few drams with the owner – a proud Wexford man. Friday morning was an early rise, I was headed for beautiful St.Augustine. (Fun fact: St.Augustine is actually the oldest established city in the U.S.!) A small community, it is home to lots of charming little bars which made covering a lot of ground easy. We tasted what seemed like the whole city on our wares and we are now proudly represented in Meehan’s Pub – one of the largest Irish whiskey collections in the U.S! After this, it was a quick drive north to Jacksonville for some more tastings and staff trainings before turning in for the night around 8pm – the exciting life of a brand ambassador.
After all the excitement in Florida I was looking forward to some R&R time in San Francisco. I arrived late Saturday afternoon and spent the weekend ticking all the tourist activities off my list (top of which was a visit to the world-famous Buena Vista Café).
On Monday, I began the week with staff trainings. All the groups were excited and engaged about our brands, which is always great to see. My second training was with a group of wine sommeliers who probably could’ve tasted and nosed me through the products! On Tuesday, we educated more bartenders, this time in Irish bars. In the final account of the day, Bar Nua, I of course ended up sitting beside a Carlow man. The world is too small. On Thursday, I was hosting a distributor lunch at ROOH, so I visited on Wednesday to train the staff and set things up. After this, I conducted a training at Nihon, home to one of the largest whiskey collections in the U.S. I had a great time chatting to the staff and answering their questions – they even taught me a thing or two! There were lots of whiskey industry folks there due to WhiskyFest on Friday so I got to do some networking and talk to some influential people about our brands. On Thursday afternoon, I hosted some distributor reps and managers for a luncheon at ROOH. We did some food pairings and I tasted them on our whiskies between courses. This was followed by a consumer tasting at Cask, a high-end liquor store owned by a man from Kerry. The clientele were all knowledgeable whiskey enthusiasts which made selling a couple of bottles easy!
The next day was the grand finale – WhiskyFest San Francisco, a trade show with 100’s of different whiskeys showcasing their brands to the general public. By Friday afternoon we were all set and ready to pour Walsh Whiskey to the masses. There were thousands of people in attendance and our table was extremely busy with people eager to taste product that isn’t available in the U.S. We were all exhausted by the end of it but happy in the knowledge we had succeeded in putting lots of liquid to lots of lips. We finished the evening with a few night caps to toast to a job well done. I was looking forward to catching a well-deserved sleep on the flight back home! Overall, a very busy, successful two weeks stateside.
Katie Shaughnessy, from Carlow, is a Brand Ambassador for Walsh Whiskey Distillery. Katie’s background in the drinks industry and her previous knowledge of the Irish Whiskey category give her an excellent foundation for travelling the world educating trade and consumers on all things Irish.