Danny Dyer started out working at a number of distilleries in Scotland then went on to work in a range of bars and exclusive clubs across Edinburgh, where he mastered his trade as a bartender and a true ambassador of whisky. Last year, after ten years, of gaining invaluable experience within the industry, Danny entered the ‘Greatest Job Interview in the World’ – a competition by Grant’s to find their latest Global Brand Ambassador. With over 5,000 applicants from around the world, Danny travelled the globe, put his wealth of experience within the industry to the test and, after a gruelling interview, won the accolade of becoming Grant’s new Global Brand Ambassador. This year, as Grant’s new Global Brand Ambassador, Danny will be introducing different countries to the global refresh of Grant’s Triple Wood.
I had the best time chatting with the refreshingly charming and funny Scotsman during his East African trip in early November.
Congratulations. From 5000 applicants to top 3 and finally the last man standing. Why do you think you won?
That’s a good question and I think it’s a question I’m still asking myself if I’m honest. When we got to the final 20, I got to meet 19 other people with the same passion for whisky that I had and I’ll be honest, when I met them I was like, there’s a lot of good-looking people here, there’s a lot of knowledgeable people here and I’m a just a fair Scottish bearded guy, I’m like oh no, I’m done.
So I just really went for it, I had a lot of fun, shared my passion. I was just being me and I think maybe they saw that. I was just keen to talk about whisky and my passion shows through when I talk about whisky because I love it so much. I could talk about it for hours. I’m quite resourceful also, I can get myself into a jam and I can get myself out of one fairly quickly as well. I think they saw that when I was travelling around the world for the interview. Maybe my personality, maybe my whisky knowledge, I’ve had ten years’ experience with this stuff but I still don’t know… Maybe it was those things or maybe it was something else…
Sounds like impostor syndrome, you get something awesome but you’re not sure you deserve it.
That’s a perfect way of putting it. Spot on the money. I said that when I first got the job, I was like, why did you pick me? I’m not good enough for this job. What’s going on?
What did they say?
I talked to a few members of the team and they said it was obvious from the start. You just have this energy, you were being an ambassador before you even got to the final three, you were hosting things, you were helping people, you were explaining and taking your time, you just had this passion for this brand. That’s it, you were already doing what we wanted to do.
The more and more I travel, the more and more I do it, the more and more I’m like, yeah, I’m alright. I pat myself on the back, my ego’s way too big anyway.
Tell me what the greatest interview in the world was like.
I made a cocktail and I made a short video explaining the things I would take as an ambassador which got me into the top 20 and it all became so real. Twenty is a small number, that’s a number I can connect to, 5000 the total number of applicants was too big to picture. That’s also when they brought the top 20 together at their distillery and I met 19 other people who were just as passionate about whisky as I was and there was a good vibe, there was a good feeling together.
Having that connection with these people from all over the world was just fantastic. There were a few days of making cocktails and doing weird challenges then we had to plan a whole month of being away and what we would do in the market, how we would use the money there and we also had to do TV interviews. All these challenges that you would face as an ambassador were part of the challenge. After a few days of drinking as well, would you believe?
Oh, I believe.
Yeah. We were in a distillery, there was plenty of alcohol going around… we lined up, three names were called out and my name was the second and I had a cry. Three that’s it, I could taste it. I remember saying, I can taste this now. They took us and said, guys, congratulations final three, we’re giving you a suitcase, and we’re giving you a GoPro, that’s because you’re going to travel the world. They said to me, Danny, you’re going to travel from Scotland to Russia and then to Taiwan and then to Australia.
I didn’t travel much before so that was pretty huge- in 10 days. Ten days for all three countries. After the ten days, I figured out that I was actually on planes travelling for over two days, so that give me what, eight days for all these places. I was on trains, I was on scooters, I was in cars so that’s probably another day’s worth of travelling, so that leaves seven days which is not a lot of time.
In Moscow, I asked if I could make them a cocktail using Grant’s. They said yes, so I’m explaining what I’m making, why I’m making it and why I enjoy it, everyone’s talking, taking pictures, asking questions and the bartenders too, it was really fun. From there the team decided everywhere I go I’d go behind the bar. The next day I met Russian influencers and bloggers, made cocktails for them, did poetry in this Russian bar… it was just crazy.
In Taiwan the people were really friendly, the food was amazing, the place was so lovely. We had some tastings, some dinners, a really nice time. Then finally onto Australia and at this point, I was really tired plus Taiwan was just a really weird time change. You know how you’re exhausted after drinking one day, you can imagine nine days of this. I was really tired. I made drinks for the guys and went skiing although I can’t even swim and literally had to be rescued when my board flipped and I started drowning. They caught it all on the GoPro.
I think the Grant’s team was like, that’s commitment to the cause, you’re willing to die for this. I’m like, of course, I really want it. Like that’s an interview? It was the weirdest, craziest way. The experience alone was amazing. I was like, I’m done, I had the best time of my life, that was so cool. Plus I made some lifelong friends. A few weeks later I got the call, you’re the next global brand ambassador for Grant’s Whisky.
Why whisky? Why not vodka or beer or some other alcoholic drink?
That’s a funny one, especially considering the fact I had a really bad experience with whisky. Most people have had a really bad experience with whisky. Mine was when I was 16, I remember “borrowing” a bottle of whisky from my dad. I shared it with my friends, they didn’t like it but I’m Scottish so I was determined to drink it and I did. I drank too much of it and I was very, very ill, really, really ill for several days after. I said I’d never touch whisky again.
Two years later, I’m 18 and I applied for a job at a distillery. I needed money. I was honest, I hate whisky but I want the job and I got it. That’s where I met the man who taught me about whisky. He shared the history of whisky and it’s proper Scottish history, we used to fight each other for it, we used to smuggle it so we didn’t have to pay taxes, we were killing the English for it. I love the history of it. I love the craft, it takes a lot of skill and time, a minimum of three years. Eventually, the taste came in as well. So it’s the three, the history, the craft and the taste. The true Scottish thing is whisky. It’s our number one export. Grant’s is the number three Scottish whisky in the world. It’s just huge, my brother even makes the stuff.
What are some differences you’ve noted from country to country in the bar scene?
There are massive differences. I enjoy the bar scene and I quite enjoy the cocktail scene as well so I’m very interested to see the varying degrees of where countries are at cocktails. In Portugal cocktails are kind of new, where people kind of want to show off, they want to be intricate, they don’t want to go for simplicity. London is super advanced. Here it seems to be an upcoming thing, bartenders are learning about it. Bulgaria there are some great bartenders doing it as well.
When you go to all these bars, the cocktails they’re making from the same drink are so interesting to see. Their individuality shines through in the drinks they’re making so that’s a big one for me. And I love food. Everywhere I go I try the traditional food and traditional drinks, I think it reflects a lot on the people. The food and the drink is the culture for me, that’s what I can connect to. But there are so many differences from place to place.
Are there any misconceptions you had coming into the role of brand ambassador for Grant’s that were blown out of the water once you actually started doing the job?
Yeah. Oh God yeah. I think the biggest shock to the system was how much work a global brand ambassador does, maybe not necessarily me but the other guys. So much work, emails, planning, the work behind the bar, organizing and hosting events. It’s like you’ve got your 9 to 5 and then your 6 to 10-ish or 1 a.m. It’s 12+ hours a day. It’s non-stop.
It takes a real strong sense of character and stamina. Bulgaria is different from Africa, Africa is different from Portugal, it’s all different people, new culture, new food, new drinks, it’s an overload in my brain right now. You’ve got to be on it all the time. So I didn’t realize how much hard work a global brand ambassador did, again maybe not me, but those other guys. Huge respect to all global brand ambassadors and brand ambassadors as well. At Grant’s, we have such great camaraderie between all our brand ambassadors and we’re always up for helping each other.
Is there any such things as an average day for you and if so, what does a typical day look like?
Average days don’t exist any more. Average gone. There ain’t no average again. I’m glad there’s no average anymore. I can’t really cope with average. I’m a hyper kind of guy and I like different things, new things and I really struggle when I have to do a 9 to 5. I suck at that. I get into a lot of trouble like about responding to emails, I’ll sit for a bit and then I’m like, I just want to go play or do something so I end up procrastinating.
I can tell you about my yesterday though. I travelled by bus from Tanzania into Nairobi, then I went to Homeboyz radio station, after which I launched Grant’s Triple Wood. What happened last week? I was in Bulgaria last week. Just no more average days. It’s all constantly changing, constantly new, you have to be always ready which is a challenge I love. Plus, I love being around people.
What’s the best part of the job?
That’s a good question, I’ll give you that. I love travelling. I think travelling has really helped me understand more and just take my time through life. I’m currently trying to get better at living in the moment, not thinking about next week or last week or emails. I love travelling and talking about whisky and I get paid to do that? And I love getting people into whisky. It’s a big achievement for me when I get someone who wasn’t into whisky into whisky.
I work a lot, in fact, I don’t really work, I’m doing these things and I enjoy that and it’s fun, so is that working? I don’ think so. They say if you do something you love you’ll never work a day in your life, well I’m not working a day in my life unless I have emails, then I work. I’ve been blessed to be given this opportunity so I’m enjoying every moment and going 100%, trying my best.
What’s the dream? When all your dreams come true, what is Danny Dyer doing?
Ten years ago I dreamt of getting this role, I got the role. I never thought I’d get it but I did so now I’m like, what is my goal? The goal right now is living this. I’ve been given this opportunity and I want to make Grant’s as great as it can be and should be. I’m all in on this journey. Another passion is acting, I’d love to do voice-over work. I’d love to voice a cartoon character. If anyone’s drawing a cartoon, give me a shout. I’ve always played with my voice since I was a kid, I’ve always been a bit of a daydreamer. I enjoy doing theatre work, it’s something I’m probably going to look into and start doing again. Maybe even do some TV work as well, I like cameras and talking to cameras. It’s what I grew up doing and what I actually got a degree in, acting and performance.
This is huge, performing like I did last night has taken me to radio shows and all so now I just want to take my friends and family on this Grant’s journey, help as many people as I can and talk about important things like whisky.
What’s all the fuss about whisky? Check out this article on EABL’s Whiskey Masterclass.