The Phoenicia Malta at the heart of whisky tradition with Nicola Riske
The Phoenicia caught up with marathon runner Nicola Riske, Macallan Brand Ambassador, for a chat about one of the world’s most famous and valuable whiskies. Nicola has an infectious smile that cheers all around her as well as an articulate whisky-filled vocabulary, the dynamic Canadian brought her Macalllan Master Class to Malta for The Whisky Fair at The Phoenicia Malta and made a big impression.
Nicola has a gigantic heart and incredible passion for her brands and the industry that she is so proud to work in. Five minutes in her company is a heart-warming experience, although she dug in for almost two hours to reveal a few of the mysteries of the Macallan, much of which is about the people who create the masterpieces for this wonderful brand; and if Nicola is a mirror of all that is Macallan there are many incredible people working on what connoisseurs and critics consider the world’s most elegant and exclusive whisky.
Nicola’s life is intertwined with whisky’s rich history and heritage and she is a wonderful raconteur on the uisce beatha, she embodies the “water of life” with her keen insights and affinity for the luxury products that she devotes all her time to. At the heart of her profession is emotion. The stories that first drew her in, tugging on her heart strings. She fell in love with her Scottish heritage and the different aromas, flavours and textures of aqua vitae. And then learned more. Inquisitive by nature, she interrogated all her colleagues, including Macallan Master Whisky Maker Bob Dalgarno and The Famous Grouse Master Blender Kirsteen Campbell.
On her LinkedIn profile Nicola cradles her Macallans like her babies with that wonderful glowing smile. No Ambassador has ever been happier bringing the world to enjoy the subtleties of cask and taste. And it is nose and taste that distinguishes Nicola’s approach to her profession. She recounts that science has deemed women to have far more sensitivity and capacity for understanding and processing aroma. You would understand that in her Master Class, where she waxes lyrical on what she finds on the nose with her Macallan.
I was deeply impressed to find her taking copious notes during other Master Classes during the The Whisky Fair at The Phoenicia. Nicola is a true student of the spirit and an incredibly dedicated professional. She constantly questions, searching for answers that ultimately only come from personal experience. She says, “I always have my nose in either a dram or a book, usually both!” This is a woman who feels whisky and knowledge in her soul.
Nicola is the best teacher about whisky that I have ever encountered. Her Master Class includes tree dances, theatre, magical story-telling and that ever-engaging smile. If only my teachers at school had smiled like Nicola, I might have even become a decent student. She teaches respect for the individual palate. And uncharacteristically for a Whisky Expert, respect for the palates of the people in the class. Whisky is something “very personal, very emotional” she says. It’s clear she loves teaching people about the flavour and fun of whisky.
To find out more about the Macallan try a dram at The Phoenicia, or attend a Master Class by Nicola Riske, the most ardent Whisky Ambassador on planet earth.