Five questions for... Alain Vervoort, Belgian SMWS Ambassador

I'm going to try to publish interviews on a regular basis. For the first interview, I had a chat with the new Scotch Malt Whisky Society ambassador for Belgium Alain Vervoort.

The Scotch Malt Whisky Society is a subscription-based whisky club with three venues in the U.K. (one in London, two in Scotland). Being a member you get access to the venues and you can buy the single cask whiskies. You won't find distillery names on the labels but a numeral code, descriptive titles and poetic tasting notes. Although with a bit of help of our friend Google, it is not that hard to find out what you are drinking...

I have been an SMWS member for about 2 years myself now and am happy to see Alain Vervoort started organising tasting events in Belgium too. With the old Benelux branch, most of the tastings were organised in The Netherlands and Germany. Belgium limped behind. (As we did in football for many years ;-) )

Let’s start with the classic introduction. Who are you and how did you end up in the whisky business?
There are several reasons, but the most important one is that I was involved in the Belgian Owl Whisky project. Some years ago, with my first Whisky Festival organisation in Mons, Etienne Bouillon was invited at the beginning of his Belgian Owl process. Etienne asked me to be one of the panel members to decide on the taste of The Belgian Owl. Etienne choose me as the first distributor of his whisky, so I was travelling as an Ambassador to represent this wonderful whisky at Whisky and Spirits Festival…
With Mario Groteclaes from The Nectar, we decided to create Spirits in the Sky festival for the launch of The Belgian Owl… Today, The Nectar is the Belgian Owl distributor and for my part, I give lessons, Masterclasses and Workshops for Bartenders and Baristas in my Brussels Bar Connector Training Center.

The Society releases a monthly Outturn of single casks. Could you give some sort of sneak peek of an exciting bottling coming up? Has the Society plans to bottle other spirits. They did rums and cognac already. Why not… mezcal for instance?
Cask No. 36.115 « Let’s get the party started ». The name is a good start, this name speaks to me ;-) I want to taste it !!!

Society tasting notes from 36.115. Let's get the party started
At first the sweet and fruity aroma of plum jam and cream soon followed by a minty, slightly herbal note of a liqueur, such as Galliano or Chartreuse, possibly in a Eros Elixir cocktail of Thai chile-infused Chartreuse, pear syrup and citrus. On the palate neat the cocktail theme carried on with a refreshing whisky sour punch, mixing fresh lemon and orange juice with a dash of sugar – let’s get the party started. Water released additionally the floral scent of lavender and the freshness of mint syrup. The taste was now spicy and dry with some orange bitters added to the mix.

Yes, indeed, SMWS planned to come with other spirits, and I hope they will come with Tequila and Mezcal, That’s why with my Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET) Level 2 in spirits qualification, I was very interested to be part of the « Scotch Malt Whisky Society » project.
 Because I travel a lot, to know as much as possible the different spirits process, I know a lot of Tequila, Mezcal & Cachaça producers. My next travel destinations are Peru & Chile to learn more about Pisco spirit.
Maybe I can help them to come on the market with some interesting casks coming from Mexico or Brasil

If you could describe The Scotch Malt Whisky Society in three words, which words would it be and why?
Classy, Unconventional, Intriguing

Could you describe a typical day of a Society ambassador?
First of all, it’s not a paid function. It’s honorific and I’m very happy to be chosen by SMWS as Ambassador. Thanks to others jobs, Ambassador for Monin Syrups, Diageo Bar Academy Trainer or Brussels Bar Connector Trainer, I’ve had the chance to meet and to be in contact with a lot of Bartenders and others professionals in the Spirit Industry. Facebook is also a very good media to be in contact with interested people.
My principal activity as SMWS Ambassador is to organise tastings with as much passion as possible…

Let’s conclude this interview with the mother of all whisky related questions. You get to pick two desert island drams. One has to be a Society bottle, the other one is absolutely free of choice. It doesn’t have to a whisky either.
A bottle of The Scotch Malt Whisky Society with the word Mezcal in the name… there is one bottle like that and by chance, I could taste it in the new Scotch Malt Whisky Society Club in Edinburgh on Queen Street. 27.110 Horse harnesses and mescal 'worms', a 22-year-old Springbank first fill sherry hogshead from 1992.
The other spirit would be a Diplomatico Ambassador Rum. A rum from Venezuela matured in ex-bourbon barrels and finished in Pedro Ximénez casks.

That's it, folks. The Belgian ambassador Alain Vervoort put the base. Watch out for next month's interview.

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