Mike Whatmough is a brand ambassador for Scotch gin brand Brockmans. He talks to Joe Bates about why he’s raring to return to Miami, why he wants to share a G&T with Mick and Keith, and why it’s always worth checking the dress code before setting off to a party.
Joe Bates (JB): What have been some of the most memorable and interesting countries and places that your work has taken you?
Mike Whatmough (MW): I’ve attended several amazing Brockmans events in the UK and Spain. We once took bartenders from The Curious Group to Barcelona. They created a superb cocktail for us called the Curious Blue l. The event was memorable because we Brits shared tips and trends with Spanish bartenders and had a fascinating time discussing how we do things and how they do things. One of the most interesting events I’ve ever attended was The Gin World Ginposium USA in Washington, D.C. in 2020, where I was part of the expert panel. We explored the history of the sector and what the future holds, including the need for more regulations to define gin and its subcategories. I also loved attending the Berlin Gin Festival, where we ran a VIP bar until 4am. The German guests attending our masterclasses and the free VIP lounge liked to party and loved the surprising and unique taste notes in our gin.
JB: What spirits other than gin do you like to buy in duty free when travelling overseas?
MW: Whisky! You’ll often find limited editions of various drinks in duty free, so I love to browse. I like whiskies with sherry cask finishes. I remember I once bought a Laphroaig Pedro Ximénez (PX) cask with the idea of enjoying it when I got to travel in the US, but it was gone very quickly. I like to pick up drinks that act as a memento of the trip and of the country. For instance, the taste of grappa reminds me of a work trip to Italy. A taste of the place stimulates memories.
JB: Do you spend a lot of time on the road? If so, what travel tips do you want to pass on to our readers?
MW: A charged set of headphones and a good book. My top travel tip is not to stress out; try to enjoy every aspect and remember what a privilege it is to travel.
JB: If your flight was delayed, who would you most like to share a G&T with in an airport bar?
MW: My two musical heroes: Mick Jagger and Keith Richards. I’ve seen The [Rolling] Stones on stage many times. The role they played in teen and youth culture means they’ll have amazing stories to tell. My opener would be, “Right, Mick and Keith, start from the beginning…”. And, naturally, I’d then invite them to enjoy a Brockmans Gin and Tonic.
JB: If you had 24 hours to spare, what city in the world would you most like to explore?
MW: Tokyo is top of my list because of the fascinating cultural differences. There would be so much to immerse myself in. I’d love to explore the neon-lit streets and enjoy the spring cherry blossom.
JB: We have a long 12-hour flight ahead. What book would you recommend we read to while away the time?
MW: I read a lot of Richard Dawkins, so for this journey, I’d pick The God Delusion. Whether you are religious or not, this book reminds us that community is important and what matters in life is sharing with people and living a more grounded life. Having read that, I’d then move onto Bill Bryson’s Shakespeare, because I grew up in Stratford-on-Avon and love the plays.
JB: Brand loyalty aside, what are some of your favourite gins and gin cocktails?
MW: The creativity of the gin industry in the last decade means there’s always something new to taste, always a new botanical to try, and that’s what excites me. My favourite gin, apart from Brockmans, is always the one I have yet to try. My favourite serve is a Martini as, although it’s simple, there is so much variation. Mixing one is also great way for bartenders to showcase their individual styles, giving them a chance to shine.
JB: Tell us about a funny, strange or unusual thing that happened to you on your travels.
MW: The Ginposium in Washington was the scene of one of my most unusual evenings. I’d been travelling on business for a week prior to the event, having had an invitation to attend a James Bond-themed party with a black-tie dress code. I made myself look very suave in a tux, completed with a silk scarf, only to be greeted by gin industry professionals wearing t-shirts and jeans. They’d changed the dress code, but I didn’t receive the message. What could I do? I ordered a Dry Martini that, like me, was stirred but not shaken. We all had a laugh about it, because it’s such a nice industry and it felt like being with a bunch of friends.
JB: Now international travel is getting back to something like normal, what destination (international or national) will be top of your list to return to?
MW: That’s hard, because I’m looking forward to going back to reconnect with so many distributors around the world, especially in Spain, Germany and Italy. If I have to pick one destination as top of my list, it’s Miami: I visited at the start of lockdown when bars were closing, [and] I’d like to be back there as things open up, to see how people are enjoying themselves once again.