Rick Edwards – Master of Scotch
An Iowa native, Rick Edwards spent six years in the U.S. Army before moving into the spirits world, where he recently was named the 2015 Icons of Whisky Ambassador of the Year.
The Master of Scotch for Los Angeles, Colorado and Arizona is traces his roots back to the country that produces his spirit, and he’s a member of the Scottish American Whisky Society and the Scotch Malt Whisky Society.
Edwards isn’t just a bartender, he’s played one on TV. He’s had recurring roles behind the bar on shows like The Young and the Restless and Melrose Place. When he’s not representing the world’s number one single malt, you can find him in the park with his three dogs, Farrah, Gibson and Milo.
Master Distiller Brent Elliott has accumulated a deep knowledge of the Bourbon industry in his ten years at Four Roses Distillery.
A native of Owensboro, Kentucky, Brent graduated from the University of Kentucky where he majored in Chemistry. He began his career at Four Roses in 2005 as Assistant Manager in Quality Control, working in the Lab, Distillery and Warehouse & Bottling. As his career progressed, he served as the Distillery’s Director of Quality, where Brent’s decade of experience with Four Roses included everything from applying his Chemistry degree to evaluate Bourbons in the tasting lab, to working side-by-side with former Four Roses Master Distiller, Jim Rutledge, on product formulations and the selection of barrels to be used for Limited Edition products and for all Single Barrel bottlings.
Brent became Master Distiller at Four Roses Bourbon in September 2015 and is now often on the road sharing his deep industry and brand knowledge through seminars, training sessions, events and promotions.
Brent has been married to his wife, Amy, for ten years. They have two children and reside in Frankfort, KY. His hobbies include running and most all outdoor activities.
The Balvenie Ambassador – USA, Central/South
Texas native and whisky expert, The Balvenie Brand Ambassador Jonathan Wingo has been making a name for himself in the whisky industry since 2010. In the past several years, Jonathan has been running a whisky specialty shop in Brooklyn, NY; founded an educational seminar dedicated to whisky and has worked in a variety of roles for distillers on both coasts of the United States.
After receiving a degree in Social and Historical Inquiry from The New School in New York City, Jonathan honed his skills in the service industry as a bartender and bar manager, eventually becoming a buyer for The Whiskey Brooklyn in Williamsburg. He opened a boutique liquor store in Williamsburg called The Whiskey Shop, dedicating his time to currating a collection of craft and obscure whiskies distilled from all over the world. His enthusiasm for the spirit was what led to his recognition in 2012 by Forbes Magazine’s “30 Under 30” in the Food and Wine category. As a result, Jonathan has been profiled in The New York Times and The Dallas Morning News. The Whiskey Shop has been reviewed by Zagat, Travel + Leisure and the Japanese publication, Pen.
In addition to his work with The Whiskey Shop, Jonathan also co-founded Camp Whiskey, a seasonal, 5-week course of informal classes that partners with distillers, suppliers and guest speakers in a greater effort to spread the message about whisk(e)y and develop a community.
Bourbon Marketing Director
Kris joined Buffalo Trace Distillery in 2003 but has been honing his leadership and strategic skills all his life. Selected by the University of Kentucky to play football in 1994, Kris played offensive tackle for the Wildcats from 1994-1998. After graduating with a degree in business marketing and management, Kris was signed by the Cleveland Browns before moving back to Kentucky and working in sports marketing.
It wasn’t long before the lure of bourbon called him, and Kris joined Buffalo Trace as the Bourbon Marketing Director. In this role Kris plans bourbon production for more than two decades into the future and oversees all marketing activities for the bourbons made at Buffalo Trace, including packaging, advertising, and strategic planning. Kris has been instrumental in the building of the Distillery’s flagship bourbon, Buffalo Trace, and his tireless work has helped it become increasing popular.
Kris has also been a leader in developing many of the Distillery’s best loved brands; including the Experimental Collection, E. H. Taylor, Jr. Collection, Stagg Jr. and the Single Oak Project, not to mention his efforts to implement the personalized barrel program for Buffalo Trace.
Considered a giant in the bourbon industry, not only for his height (6 foot, 8 inches), but his vast knowledge of bourbon, Kris is a sought after speaker who travels frequently to share his knowledge with the bourbon community.
Master Of Scotch, Pernod Ricard
Richard Varga, has over 20 years of experience in marketing and promotions for beer, wine, and spirits.
He has worked in the restaurant industry from coast-to-coast, at venues ranging from pubs to fine dining, building his brand marketing and event execution experience and learning about what makes consumers and accounts choose certain products over others.
Richard has been trained in Scotland by Master Blenders Colin Scott and Alex Robertson from the Strathisla Distillery, learning more about the intricacies of the finest scotch whiskies and further developing his passion for the Pernod Ricard portfolio.
Richard is a graduate of Miami University and earned a Business Management degree.
Dr. Nicholas Morgan
Head Of Whisky Outreach, Diageo
Dr Nicholas Morgan is Head of Whisky Outreach at Diageo plc, the largest Scotch whisky producer.
His previous role as Scotch Heritage Director was to champion the deep-rooted heritage of the company and its brands. Prior to that, he directed Diageo’s global malt whisky marketing team. leading key innovations such as the development of the Talisker™ range and the introduction of the Special Releases programme.
Nick Morgan joined United Distillers (now Diageo) in 1990, when he established the world’s largest collection of historical material relating to the spirits industry. He earlier taught modern Scottish History at the University of Glasgow.
National Director, Diageo Masters Of Whisk(e)y.
Ewan is a third generation ‘whisky man’. His father was maltings manager at Tamdhu Distillery in Speyside and later the distillery manager at Highland Park Distillery on the island of Orkney. His Grandfather was the brewer at the famed distillery Cardhu. Ewan was born in Dufftown, Scotland only a few feet away from Mortlach Distiller. Dufftown is often referred to as ‘The Whisky Capital of the World’ as more Scotch whisky is produced there than any other town in Scotland.
As though growing up on the grounds of a large distillery in Speyside wouldn’t be enough to put whisky fever into his soul, Ewan started his career in the Whisky industry at the age of 16 as a Maltman; a job that is only learned by one generation passing the knowledge to the next. The honor of this, the craftsmanship of the job and a family passion for whisky kicked off a career learning all aspects of whisky that continues to this day.
Since those early years as a Maltman, Ewan has broadened his knowledge throughout the world in all areas of whisky. From studying at distilleries on Islay to distilleries in Japan and the United States to marketing, and now as an educator, Ewan has become one of the most knowledgeable whisky resources in the industry.
Fortunately for us, Ewan loves sharing his unrelenting passion for whisky. If you asked Ewan what he loves most about his job he’d tell you ‘I feel very fortunate to have been born into possibly the best industry I can think of, I have travelled all over the World conducting tastings from the wilds of the Arctic Circle to the top of a mountain in a blizzard in Scotland. I love educating people about something I personally love and no two days are ever the same’.
Ewan is noted for his innovative sell out seminars and educational style from practical blending classes to multi-day chemistry courses on whisky maturation training both industry and consumers all over the US. Ewan is also a tutor writing and presenting seminars for Diageo’s ‘World Class’ program, the largest Global bartender competition with over 50,000 entrants every year.
Ewan also runs the ‘Masters of Whisk(e)y’ program of ambassadors in the US a team of 20 who last year (2014) mentored over 100,000 people Nationally making it the largest Whisk(e)y ambassador program in the World.
- Winner of Whisky Magazine’s Icons of Whisky’ ‘World Whisky Ambassador 2016’
- Nominated for Scotch Whisky Ambassador of the year 2012, 2013, 2014 by Whisky Magazine’s ‘Icon’s of whisky’.
- Diageo ‘Masters of Whisk(e)y nominated for Scotch Whisky Ambassadors of the year 2013
- Inducted as a Keeper of the Quaich in 2014 (The highest achievement in the Scotch whisky industry)
Ewan is also Educator ‘in-residence’ at Diageo House Washington D.C where he had educated many of the Congress and Senate staff on the Diageo Whisk(e)y portfolio.
Ewan currently resides in Annapolis MD with his wife, two children and a cat called Talisker.
National Master of Whisky
Director of Whisky Education Keeper of The Quaich
Gregor grew up at single malt distilleries in Scotland such as Caol Ila, Coleburn, Cragganmore and Cardhu where his father Evan worked as Master Distiller of these quality single malts. This is where Gregor’s apprenticeship truly began. Learning from his father something that he never imagined that would take him all over the world.
While working in Scotland as Global Brand Ambassador for Diageo’s whisky portfolio, Gregor developed a deeper passion for the technical side of Distilling so in 2009 sat and passed the Institute of Brewing and Distilling General Certificate in Distilling. He also became more involved in the quality control of whisky via sensory analysis and in 2011 (after 2 years and numerous organoleptic tests) became a qualified whisky nose.
Gregor has visited many countries around the World sharing his extensive knowledge of whisky to thousands of whisky lovers while passing on his passion about the history/heritage, production process, maturation, blending, the people and all their great stories told over a “wee dram.” .
He is now based in the USA working as Director of Whisky Education with the USA Masters of Whisky. A high performing team of Whisky enthusiasts who have turned a passion into a career.
In October 2011 Gregor was inducted into The Keepers of the Quaich, an exclusive Global Scotch Whisky society that honors individuals for their contribution to the Scotch Whisky Industry and for the years has been nominated and shortlisted in a number of other Whisky Ambassador awards.
Master of Scotch
Peter Karras has four years of experience in the spirits and hospitality industry and has extensive training under Master Blender Colin Scott and Master Distiller Alan Winchester from The Glenlivet. As a former Chivas Regal Brand Ambassador Peter also received training from Global Ambassadors Alex Robertson and Max Warner.
With a family in the restaurant, wine, and spirits business and growing up between Europe and the culturally rich Washington DC area Peter was naturally drawn to pursue a career as a Master of Scotch.
Peter prides himself as an educator and mentor with his natural ability to cultivate relationships and genuine love for the art of tasting. He holds a Finance degree from American University and also graduated from the Pernod Ricard Bar Smarts program.
National Brand Ambassador
Jessamine’s nine-plus years of experience have taken her through some of the Bay Area’s best restaurants and bars. She launched the cocktail program at Manresa, served as Hakkasan’s San Francisco bar manager and was most recently the Absolut Vodka Brand Ambassador in the San Francisco Bay area, where she consulted on Absolut programs and created new, original cocktails.
With a passion for flavor and innovation, Jessamine currently serves as the National Brand Ambassador for the Powers and Single Pot Still Irish Whiskey portfolio at Pernod Ricard. Her role as National Brand Ambassador is to educate and showcase this unique portfolio of Irish Whiskeys including Redbreast, the Spot Whiskeys (Green Spot and Yellow Spot), Powers and Midleton throughout the US.
No stranger to the spirits industry, she’s an award winning bartender and also knows her way around a wine list. Jessamine has a two certification from The Court of Master Sommeliers and previously worked as Wine Director at Chez TJ in Mountain View. She’s also an active member of numerous industry groups. She graduated from BarSmarts, made it to the top eight in San Francisco’s Speedrack Competition, is a proud participant in LUPEC and is the co-founder of LOH (Ladies of Hospitality). Her knowledge and easygoing personality have led to repeated love from the press, and she’s been recognized by publications ranging form San Francisco Magazine to SF Weekly.