Spirits Platform’s National Brand Ambassadorial Program Manager, Mark Hickey was awarded Scotch Whisky Brand Ambassador of the Year – Australia, late last year. This month Mark will be representing Australia at the Global Icons of Whisky Awards. The winners of the regional finals will be considered for the Global Icons awards, which will be presented in London on 28 March 2019.
The Icons of Whisky Awards are organised by Whisky Magazine, to recognise the people, places and products that complete the whole dynamic of the whisky industry. The 2019 Icons of Whisky Awards will include for the first time, China as a sub-region to the Rest of World Awards. The 2019 awards will also include three new bar categories; Bar of the Year, Bar Group of the Year and Hotel Bar of the Year. These establishments play a huge part in spreading the word about good whiskies and it is with that in mind that Whisky Magazine now recognises the best that the bar-world has to offer.
Mark Hickey is the son of a chef, so from a very young age he gained quite a few insights into the hospitality business and understood that in order to succeed you had to have speed, efficiency and lots of patience. Mark’s first job in hospitality was at the casino on the Gold Coast, working his way up to be a waiter and bartender.
He spent several years in the alcohol industry working his way up from venue manager to working for alcohol companies like Suntory for a decade before joining Spirits Platform. His current role focuses on developing the skills and knowledge of the Spirits Platform sales team, customers and industry people like Bartenders, Bar Managers, Venue Managers whilst also delivering masterclasses to consumers at Whisky tastings & events. However, Mark admits the best part of his job is travelling across the country, meeting people who love whisky and other spirits, who work to create wonderful cocktails for the customers to enjoy. “Travelling to overseas distilleries where I can learn about products first hand is very beneficial. This is where I can learn intimate details about a product, whether it’s the story behind the brand, the unique way it’s made that helps me to share compelling information to our customers”, explains Mark.
Mark adds “There is nothing more compelling than to share a story that you know & believe”.
Spirits Platform has a portfolio of liqueurs, cognacs, vodka, gins and whiskies of over 36 brands, so there is a lot of information and knowledge that one must learn and retain. When asked if he had any favourite brands he said “I have many favourite brands, I would have to say Bruichladdich is my number 1 due to the story, all made by hand, no computers, touch, feel & taste with old Victorian equipment dating back to 1881. Other favourites are The Macallan, Highland Park & Irish whiskey such as The Irishman & Writers Tears. Then there’s Remy Martin Cognac… the list goes on as I love sharing Whisk’e’y & cognac stories. We have so many great brands in the portfolio to be proud of and I love discussing them all!”
He continues to explain that one must know the differences between the products as their unique points help one understand the product, its profile and ultimately helps one to understand how to use it in a cocktail or what cocktail to make with it to give it a full, rich taste. “Customers are constantly looking for a unique experience, so it’s the bartender’s job is to create that experience & know-how to make a cocktail and sell it based on its merits,” says Mark.
A role like Mark’s is important for an organisation and the brands it represents, but he is also a valuable resource of knowledge and expertise that venue managers and bartenders can take advantage of. Mark and his team of Brand Ambassadors’ key objectives are to not only provide brand information & education but experiences for consumers & bartenders, through dinner pairings, tastings and cocktail list support. They work with all different venues types & are always looking for new ways of working successfully together…
What does a guy like Mark drink? Mark’s response to his favourite drink is, “Neat whisky or a Margarita, it depends on the moment, there is nothing better than enjoying a whisky with friends as it’s all about the flavours and the memories you create together. Whether the whisky is from Ireland or Scotland each whisky evokes a different experience and therefore memory. The margarita is all about the party, the versatility of Cointreau, combined with Sierra Reposado tequila & lime…. It invigorates me and says game on”.
We asked Mark if he had to pick one brand that he thought everyone should have behind the bar, what would it be & why? Without a doubt, the answer is Cointreau, the versatility of the liquid is incredible, it’s the ultimate mixer. That’s why Cointreau is featured in over 350 cocktails because it works so well with other liqueurs/spirits. With 1/3 the sugar of other triple secs & 40% ABV it gives cocktails body & rich orange flavours for a balanced yet sweet taste.
Mark describes himself as a passionate man, passionate about people, his work, his family and the brands he represents. It is this passion that has brought him to be a serious contender (representing Australia) in the Global Icons of Whisky awards for Scotch Whisky Brand Ambassador of the Year 2019. We wish Mark all the best, and whatever the outcome we are proud to have him as a member of the Spirits Platform team. Stay tuned for results which will be announced on March 28.
If you’re a bar/venue wanting to ignite the passion of your bar staff, our highly expert team can help with providing high-quality education, inspiration and knowledge through engaging and interactive methods that can assist you to offer unique, memorable and delicious cocktail experiences to your customers.
OUR BRAND AMBASSADOR TEAM
Andy Buntine – VIC, TAS, WA
Mob: 0459 079 148
Andy started his working as a glassy to help fund his university studies in Advertising when he moved to Melbourne and got a part-time job at Velvet Bar at Crown Casino in 2003. He fell in love with bartending, then fell out of his university course, and started working in hospitality full time. He wanted to experience everything that hospitality had to offer, so he worked in pubs, clubs, dispense bars, restaurants, fine dining, cocktail bars and even a bowling alley!
Andy managed venues for over 10 years, the last was Katuk bar in Melbourne. During his time there he won several cocktail competitions. The most memorable was the 2012 Chartreuse Chevalier competition, a National comp with a trip to the Chartreuse distillery as a prize! Andy fell in love with the liqueur and brand ever since – now he has the honour of representing it!
He felt it was time to give back to the industry so he moved into a role where he could train and help to improve the skills and knowledge of the bartending community around Australia. Andy joined as Brand Ambassador for Spirits Platform in 2018 and has been having an amazing time representing the remarkable brands in the premium portfolio.
Josh O’Brien – NSW, ACT, SA
Mob: 0455 024 781
Josh started working in the hospitality 10 years ago, picking up glasses in a dirty night club in the UK. He worked his way up the ranks through lots of hard work to become their assistant manager. He then hopped around the UK for 3 years, learning the classic English style of cocktails before moving back to Australia and hometown of Newcastle.
Several years later he travelled to Brisbane to work and eventually run the Brisbane cocktail institution – The Bowery. A year ago, he moved from Brisbane back to Sydney to join the Spirits Platform team as NSW Brand Ambassador. Josh has won several State, national and international cocktail competitions, his most memorable the Cointreau La Maison, winning both the Australian and Asia-Pacific titles.
Mark Hickey, National Brand Ambassadorial Program Manager – QLD, NT & National
Mob: 0420 941 853
Mark Hickey has been in the Alcohol industry for 25 Years, with a family of Irish descent coming from Galway, there is no wonder he loves whiskey. Constantly travelling across the globe Mark shares his love for whisky & fine spirits. Marks’ passion for the industry is obvious when discussing the topic of whisky with guests, trade or media. He is currently writing educational books on both Scottish & Irish whiskey.
Mark has believed in immersing himself in his education, (including self-funding numerous trips to understand each distillery in greater detail), to gain a clear understanding of the methods, history & story of the people behind such amazing brands & distilleries he represents. He believes in first-hand education through the interaction of all the senses (sight, sound, touch & of course taste).
In August 2018 Mark was awarded the 2018/19 Icons of Whisky Scotch whisky ambassador of the year & will represent Australia in the World Ambassador finals in London March.
Pictured below from left to right: Brand Ambassadors Josh O’Brien, Andy Buntine, Mark Hickey together with National Sales Manager, Ben Inglis.