‘Star’ scheme aims to boost profile of whisky

A MICHELIN-STYLE scheme could be introduced for grading Scotland’s bars, based on the staff’s knowledge of Scotch whisky.

The Whisky Ambassador, co-founded by Victor Brierley, who runs Glasgow Whisky Tours, will provide a training scheme aimed at improving the level of service offered in pubs and hotels. Up to three stars will be awarded to a premises, based on the levels of training staff have received.

Mr Brierley said he wants to create a network of “whisky ambassadors” who are able to explain the difference between brands. The scheme will also aim to give bar staff confidence to persuade customers to experiment with more expensive premium drinks from within the range of more than 2,500 Scottish whiskies on the market.

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He said: “There are some excellent whisky bars and a lot of knowledge in some places, but many bar staff even in high-end bars and hotels don’t know what they are talking about. Premises will have sommeliers who can talk about wine until it’s coming out of their ears, but shockingly, they often don’t know the first thing about whisky.

“Recent VisitScotland research has indicated that the bar trade in Scotland could be doing better and of course, knowledge is power. We’re giving them this knowledge.”

Mr Brierley said Scotch whisky was the “Rolls Royce” of drinks, and Scotland should not be “under-selling” it.

He added: “Bar staff should be able to talk about the colour, the age, the peatiness, the sweetness, and how it has come to find its way into bars all over the world.

“They should be knowledgeable and confident enough to up-sell, encouraging people to try a malt, even if it costs a couple of pounds more than a blend. Our mantra is to get people to drink less but drink better.

“If they can do that, then bars can take in thousands of pounds more a year, helping them to be more viable and vibrant.”