Tomatin Distillery is one of the easiest distilleries to find, just off the A9 main road, it is a perfect stop to explore a great distillery when crossing the spectacular Cairngorm National Park coming from Edinburgh to Inverness. It is established in 1897, located in the Monadhliath Mountains, and one of the highest distilleries in Scotland at 315 metres above sea level.
On our previous trip to Scotland we made a visit to the Tomatin Distillery. There we got the opportunity to meet Jennifer Masson and Graham Eunson who both took us around the distillery in an awesome tour. We already planned to come back soon on our next trip over to Scotland when showing some friends around Speyside, but more on that soon to come.
We are very happy we got the opportunity to ask them both some questions about their job and Tomatin. The response was great we got back, so we had to divide it all in two pieces. Ladies first, so read on to know what Jennifer has to share with us about her job?
How did you get to be the marketing manager for Tomatin?
I was very keen to get into the whisky industry so I applied for a sales job at Tomatin – with no sales experience! Funnily enough they had other experienced candidates, however my CV caught their eyes and they told me they would be hiring a Marketing Manager the following year so would be in touch in due course. The rest, as they say, is history!
Can you tell us a bit about yourself? What are your hobbies and other passions?
I love food so a lot of my spare time is spent keeping fit to allow me to indulge! This past year I decided to join an amateur theatre company as part of my turning 30 bucket list. That has been an amazing experience meeting new people and putting myself in numerous embarrassing situations! We’re on stage in Inverness this month with “West Side Story” – I’m excited but also petrified! My other hobbies include jewellery making and travel.
Were you interested in whisky before starting to work at Tomatin?
Ever since moving to the Highlands after I graduated, I developed an interest in whisky as a product and its industry. I’m not going to lie, it took a lot of practice dramming, but I now appreciate the product for what it is and am always trying to convince whisky virgins to give it a go!
Can you take us through how a working week normally looks for you?
No week is the same so I couldn’t possibly say! I look after the Tomatin brand, along with the newly launched Cù Bòcan brand and our blend brands; The Antiquary, The Talisman, Big T, Legendary Scot and Ancient Clan. My week varies from working on new products with designers to approving final carton prints on press, working with our customers on plans for promotions in their market, planning our events and sponsorship activity, Visitor Center marketing, maintaining our social media accounts and updating the website, scanning the web for latest trends in the industry, press release and newsletter writing, sourcing weird and wonderful promotional items…I could go on!
Is there a marketing team to help you with all these activities?
We are a very small team – I look after all elements of Marketing by myself but work very closely with the Sales Team; we support each other.
In terms of number of cases, out top 5 markets are the USA, Sweden, Russia, Japan and France. We are developing well in the Far East and are also hoping to develop further in South America. There is definitely a lot of potential out with Europe however Europe is still important for us.
What can we expect in the future coming from Tomatin?
I think you can expect a lot more from Tomatin. We don’t have any plans to change the core line up again any time soon but for sure you will see more finishes from Tomatin! We have very much been the underdog but people are sitting up and noticing Tomatin for its consistent quality and wondering why they haven’t tried it before. Our whole team from production to sales is committed to the brand and always looking for new and interesting ways to present our product – we have a new launch in September (via Tweet Tastings!) which I think will really grab people’s attention as something a bit different.
How would you describe the spirit of Tomatin?
Interesting question – liquid or personality?! The answer to both is “soft”. We are not your typical rugged Highland malt, and we are not your typical whisky company – we are likeable and approachable and don’t take life too seriously!
Being at Tomatin we noticed that you are trying to focus also a bit more on educating visitors on the science and workings of equipment. What are the plans for this all looking at the future?
We definitely have more plans to develop on this aspect of our tours. The fact is, we are not a “pretty” distillery and never will be and that comes with our history. But, as we were once the biggest distillery in Scotland, we have a wealth of unparalleled knowledge and machinery to tell the story. Our aim is to let people see parts of the equipment up close, to touch it and really see how it works rather than looking at it from behind a rope. And where else can you climb inside a mash tun?!
There are lots of changes in the world of whisky with modernization’s, cask management experiments, marketing techniques etc. From a marketing point of view how do you look at this, and on the discussions about NAS?
Ah, the “evil NAS”! Cask management is vitally important – no amount of marketing techniques can disguise a poor whisky. The fact is, the industry is changing. There is less older whisky in our warehouses and you don’t need to know anything about economics to realize that high demand and low supply equals higher prices. We introduced Legacy last year with an element of trepidation. However, true to our company values, we were very open with anyone who wanted to know the age of the whisky and, I believe, we priced it very fairly. It was the same with the Cù Bòcan brand – we launched it with no age statement but are quite happy to tell anyone who asks what age it is. For us NAS is not about deception, it’s about adapting to the current market.
Do you get to attend much whisky fairs/festivals yourself?
I attend some festivals, it is a great opportunity to speak to end consumers directly and get their feedback. I try to get out to our key markets as much as possible.
Social media plays a huge roll in the life of people, and there are many channels available to reach people. What are your thoughts to these changes in the market from the marketing perspective?
Personally I think social media is great. What other advertising medium allows you to speak to your customers directly and get an instant response? I think it is easier for smaller companies to manage – large companies have so many policies they have to adhere to that it can mean they sometimes miss the boat in waiting for approval.
I look after the accounts all year round other than when I go on holiday (we all need a break!) so whether this is during office hours or at 11pm at night, if I’m awake I’ll respond! I enjoy the challenge of being creative, sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. Social media barely existed when I was at University so it’s something you pick up on the job, and if you’re not interested in it personally, you shouldn’t be doing it for your job! All in all I think it’s a fantastic marketing tool.
Thanks Jennifer for the answering of all our questions and letting us have a look into your world at Tomatin Distillery! Soon we will be sharing the interview with Graham Eunson, so stay tuned! First we are going to enjoy participating in the Tomatin Tweet tasting from the Whisky Wire Jennifer was talking about on the 3rd of September. You can follow all the action on Twitter by following the hash tag #TomatinCuatro. And of course you will read a full report on it here afterwards with tasting notes and all from us both.