If you’re lucky enough to be travelling to either Campbeltown or Islay next week for the upcoming festivals, you might spot an unfamiliar face hosting the Society’s tastings and masterclasses.
Matt Bailey is already a leading light on the Australian whisky scene, where he’s been an SMWS ambassador since 2015, as well as guiding the Society’s development Down Under.
We caught up with Matt at The Vaults ahead of his first-ever trip to both Campbeltown and Islay.
When did you first got into whisky, Matt?
It was around 2003, when I took a punt on an independent bottling of a Clynelish and was fascinated with the waxy paper taste that I had never had before. As a younger lad I certainly enjoyed the odd core range Glenfiddich, Bruichladdich, and sometimes a Laphroaig, but that indie Clynelish really opened my eyes. The second epiphany I had was at the very first Society event I attended in 2011, hosted by our cellarmaster Andrew Derbidge. I was introduced to the Society at the time by my now good friend Murray Hassan, which I’m very thankful for. Of course, if you ask my mum how I got into whisky, she’d say it was the whisky rather than teething gel she rubbed on my gums when I was an infant…
How did you end up taking on role of ambassador for the SMWS in Australia?
I was blind copied into an email from our cellarmaster about the Australian branch seeking out an ambassador, and the rest is history. I’ve reshaped the role in many ways over the years however and its scope as a far wider development role to grow the Society in Australia. Since then I’ve absolutely enjoyed every moment in the Society, all the experiences I get to create, all the new bottlings we feature, all together unique!
How does it feel to be able to present tastings and masterclasses in Campbeltown and Islay for the Society?
Honestly, this is a dream come true. Going to both Campbeltown and Islay is an incredible treat to begin with, let alone being asked to host events there all the way from Australia! The Society’s global brand ambassador John McCheyne is a guiding influence on my presentation style and I’m super humbled and excited to be able to present alongside him.
First trip to both festivals? What are you looking forward to the most?
Yep, first trip to both! Strangely, the thing I’m looking forward to most is what I’ve been told is a difference in the air. The smell of the country, the new make, the peat, the earth. And of course, sharing some ripper drams with members along the way.
To find out more about what Matt and the SMWS are going to be up to at this year’s Campbeltown Malts Festival and Islay Festival and how to get involved, visit campaign.smws.com/whiskycharacters/