Every Monday, we ask small businesses key questions. Here we speak to Ann Miller who owns The Dram Queen in the heart of Speyside.
How and why did you start in business?
Following a long career as an international brand ambassador with Chivas Brothers, the Scotch whisky company, during which I travelled the world promoting an extensive range of premium malt whisky and blended Scotch whiskies, I felt there was an opportunity to share an independent perspective on whisky with enthusiasts and beginners alike.
As the Dram Queen, I aim to demystify Scotch whisky.
How did you get to where you are today?
I offer clients, including incentive and corporate guests, behind the scenes insights to increase their understanding and enhance their enjoyment of the drams they savour.
I share my passion, enthusiasm and extensive knowledge during tailor made whisky experiences which are fun, engaging, entertaining and informative.
My experiences include tutored tastings and masterclasses, plus in-depth training sessions for amateurs and professionals.
I discuss the details with every group, offering a selection of interesting topics.
I aim to share fascinating aspects of Scotch whisky and enhance their delight, bringing whisky to life even for the person who announces at the start that they don’t drink it.
Another approach I enjoy pairing is whisky with food and hosting whisky dinners.
I am the approved course provider & educator for Scotland with the Edinburgh Whisky Academy whose courses lead to independent accreditation.
The certificate course provides an overview of the world of Scotch whisky and there is a new sensory appreciation course.
On the family farm in the heart of Speyside, I have created a comfortable dram room for up to a dozen guests.
However, I am happy to provide all these experiences wherever is convenient, so I often travel to hotels, holiday accommodation or elsewhere.
In addition, I can create – and host – whisky themed itineraries for guests who may wonder how to fit in everything they want to see and do.
Who helped you?
During a long and varied career, I have been privileged to work with many inspiring people.
I owe a great deal to all those who have generously shared their knowledge and expertise with me.
Some former colleagues encouraged me, as have the Visit Moray Speyside team. During the lockdowns I joined some useful Business Gateway online seminars.
More recently, membership of the Federation of Small Businesses and Moray Business Women has opened up new avenues to advice, support, and networking opportunities.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever had?
Not to put things off, having slept on them.
What is your biggest mistake?
Trying to start a business which relied on face-to-face communication during the lockdowns.
What is your greatest achievement?
To have been honoured by the whisky industry and received the rare distinction of a Master of the Quaich.
The Keepers of the Quaich is the international society, established to celebrate those who produce and promote Scotch whisky.
People come from around the world to be honoured for their outstanding commitment and inducted as keepers.
At each banquet a select few, who became keepers over 10 years previously, are elevated to the prestigious title of Master of the Quaich, a position of considerable honour, reflecting exceptional service to the Scotch whisky industry.
How are you managing rapidly rising costs, and how could the government help?
The cost of the whisky for tastings has risen following a recent tax increase which affects spirits more than other alcoholic drinks.
Reforming the tax system so that each unit of alcohol is taxed at the same rate irrespective of type would be more equitable and clearer for consumers.
What do you still hope to achieve?
I would love to share my enthusiasm for whisky more widely, especially with women who think it isn’t the drink for them.
What do you do to relax?
Walk the dogs, listen to music, read, catch up with family and friends.
What are you currently reading, listening to, or glued to on TV?
The Rugby World Cup has dominated our viewing recently but dramas or “Scandi noir” style thrillers are often entertaining.
I am currently reading The Mirror and the Light, the final novel in Hilary Mantel’s historical trilogy.
What’s the first thing you do when you get up in the morning?
Make the coffee, take the dogs out while it brews, feed the puppy, and drink the coffee while reading the news on my tablet.
If guests are coming to my Dram Room, I light the wood-burner, so it is warm by the time they arrive, then pour the drams for the chosen tasting.
If there are tastings elsewhere, I load whisky bottles, tasting mats, boxes of tasting glasses and props into the car and set off.
Some mornings I begin the day by responding to emails or updating the website.
What do you drive and dream of driving?
I drive a Suzuki Swift which is nimble but economical.
Ideally, I would prefer a vehicle that did less damage to the environment, so I would consider an electric car if the challenges of range and recharging were resolved.