With over two decades working in the drinks industry under her belt, Dawn Davies certainly knows her alcohol and the way around a whisky cask. The Head Buyer at The Whisky Exchange, Master of Wine and all-around drinks guru sits down with us to talk about a subject close to her heart...
Where are you from originally? The UK, although I grew up in the States. Current role / title / company you work for? Head Buyer for Speciality Drinks/ The Whisky Exchange How many years in the industry / how did you get started? 20 years and counting. I started out in restaurants as a waitress and a sommelier, working for Zuma, Gordon Ramsay, The Square, and the Ledbury. This was before joining Selfridges as their head wine and spirits buyer. Nine years later, I joined Speciality Drinks.
Did you have any female mentors that helped you along the way? Absolutely – the first person who gave me a chance with wine was Nobuko Okamura. She took me under her wing and taught me so much. Since that time, I have been fortunate enough to know so many inspiring women who have had faith in me. From Angela Hartnett to Helena Hell and many more.
Have you noticed more women drinking whisky in recent years? Yes, I see it most at Whisky Show where the demographic is slowly changing and becoming more female which is fantastic to see!
Your desert island dram? Can it be a rum ;-) Clairin Sajous!
Your favourite whisky at under £40 per bottle? I am loving everything coming out of Loch Lomond at the moment, just for easy drinking fruitiness.
Favourite money no object whisky? Half of the whiskies in Sukhinders collection ;-)
Best distillery trip you’ve ever been on and why? I was lucky enough to go on the Malt's advocate trip with Diageo years ago with Dave Broom. He has very much been my whisky guru and has graciously, over the years, answered all my stupid questions. Travelling with him around all the distilleries was amazing. The highlight however had to be fresh oysters from the bay drizzled with Talisker 10 at the distillery itself.
If there is one thing you could change in the industry what would that be? More diversity in top roles in the industry. We are changing but far too slowly…
What have been the major challenges in your career and what advice would you give to any young women starting out? This industry can and will take over your life. I have had to work insanely hard to get to where I am today, but I have been very lucky to have fallen on my feet career-wise. Work hard and be yourself. Don’t be afraid to be strong and speak your mind. You will have to work harder and be more aggressive than your male counterparts at times but there are plenty of amazing women and men who will have your back.
Looking into your crystal ball where do you see the Scotch whisky industry in five to 10 years’ time? The Scotch Whisky industry is going to face some stiff competition from all these new whiskies from all over the world. It cannot rest on its laurels, it must talk to younger consumers but not dumb down its liquid.
At Cask Trade our female Masters all certainly know their way around a whisky cask. If you want to find out more about adding whisky to your portfolio, get in touch and let's talk whisky!