Born and raised in the Highlands of Scotland, Gemma Paterson grew up in the Hebridean Isle of Lewis, where she first enjoyed a dram of The Balvenie DoubleWood 12.
After graduating from the University of Glasgow with a degree in Russian Language and Slavonic Studies, Gemma moved to Speyside, Scotland and joined The Balvenie distillery to study the art and science of whisky – making her an expert in everything that goes into creating the most handcrafted Scotch whisky.
She said: “Living and working in Speyside and surrounded by some of the most iconic Single Malt distilleries in Scotland inspired me to start learning about whisky. Once I started, I couldn’t stop. I fell down the rabbit hole so to speak. I love learning about the production, the history, maturation, the sensory side, the liquid…it’s never ending.”
Passionate to continue learning, Gemma became a member of the William Grant & Sons Nosing Panel and obtained a General Certificate in Distillation. She spent time with The Balvenie Malt Master, David C. Stewart MBE, to absorb his years of knowledge, participated in countless local tastings and events with the whisky community and shadowed The Balvenie craftsmen at the distillery. Gemma is also studying for a diploma in Distillation from the Institute of Brewing and Distilling in London.
In May 2016, Gemma’s whisky journey took her to New York as The Balvenie Ambassador, United States East. Highlights from her role include:
- Working with Anthony Bourdain to showcase The Balvenie’s Raw Craft YouTube series
- Closing half of Park Avenue in Manhattan, NYC, to deliver a bottle of The Balvenie 50-Year-Old to the iconic Waldorf Astoria
- Launching the first flight in the world of The Balvenie DCS Chapter 3 at the Four Seasons Hotel, NYC
- Hosting a tasting of the rare Cask 191 1952 50-Year-Old for collectors and press in Washington, D.C.
- Partnering with talented craftspeople from across the United States to deliver collaborative tastings, food pairings and showcase their work
- Hosting a variety of tastings and trainings for trade, novices, connoisseurs and collectors, from introducing people to their very first sip of whisky through to owners of some of the largest Balvenie collections in the world
Gemma has placed a lot of effort in developing engaging bartender programs, including creating and designing hand blown mixing glasses for bartenders in Florida and custom-made sterling silver bar spoons with bartenders in Brooklyn, NYC.
She still hosts distillery tours for journalists, influencers and experts and reveals that: “One of my favourite parts of the job is the opportunity to introduce people to the distillery for the first time, as it is such a magical place.”
In 2018, Sam Simmons, The Balvenie’s previous Global Ambassador, handed over the role to Gemma, for her to continue the future custodianship of The Balvenie. In March 2019, the following year, Gemma’s dedication to connecting people around the world with The Balvenie story, and bringing the unique whiskies to life for them, gained international recognition when she was awarded the title ‘Scotch Whisky Brand Ambassador of the Year’ at Whisky Magazine’s Icons of Whisky Awards 2019.
As the Global Ambassador, Gemma’s love for travel and languages will be fulfilled. In her spare time, she’s also an avid surfer and climber and continues to give her spare time to a host of local charitable and cultural causes.
However, she always comes back to her love for whisky. She commented: “Whisky and learning about it is the only thing that has remained constant for me. I have new hobbies every month but whisky for me has become a lifelong passion.”
Follow Gemma on Twitter and Instagram @BalvenieGem.