Social Media Distilled – Karen Stewart

It’s Monday again so a fresh week has started and you probably dread the workweek. But don’t forget we’re deep in spring season, everything is blossoming so breath deep (unless you’re allergic!), enjoy the scenery around you and go ahead and read a fresh and new Social Media Distilled interview.

Today I’m happy to introduce Karen Stewart – PR & Marketing Manager of Wemyss Malts and Kingsbarns Distillery and the keyboard behind @WemyssMalts. Wemyss Malts are a small yet growing Independent bottlers producing well known blends and also single casks bottlings. Later this week there will be a Tweet Tasting (on twitter) where four Wemyss malts will be tasted (including the new Lord Elcho), so follow the #WemyssTT3 hashtag on 15th May!

Please tell us a bit about yourself.

Karen Stewart - Wemyss MaltsI grew up in the Stirling area of Scotland, went to St Andrews University and started my career in the beer industry with Bass Brewers (now Coors). I moved into the whisky business about 10 years ago.  I now work in Edinburgh for the family owned independent bottlers, Wemyss Malts.


What is your exact position in Wemyss Matls? Could you tell us a little about your journey in the whisky industry? How much of your day to day activity is dedicated to social media?

I am PR and Marketing Manager for Wemyss Malts, Darnley’s View Gin and Kingsbarns Distillery.  I spent 7 years working for The Glenmorangie Company and I’ve been at Wemyss for just over 3 years.

How much of your day to day activity is dedicated to social media?

I probably spend around 2 hours, but it varies.

How do you see and define the audience on the different social media networks? From your point of view, are there any differences between Facebook, Twitter and other sites?

We mainly use Facebook and Twitter, but have a presence on YouTube and Linked In are looking at some of the other sites too.  I’ve found Facebook to be more consumer focussed with opportunities to be more expansive with content, where businesses and professionals are more on Twitter with more news headlines; but there is a big overlap.  There’s a lot more whisky chat goes on than on gin at the moment!

What are your goals when engaging the audience via social networks? How do you measure success?

We try to find ways to talk to talk to everyone in our chain, from importers and distributors, to bars and shops and the end consumer.  We are very much still trying to build awareness and distribution for our brands, so social networks are proving quite effective at getting new leads and supporting our current customers.  The whisky blogging and journalist communities have been very good to us, so we try to recognise their input too.

lord elcho nasHow often do you checks social networks notifications (mentions, Direct messages, FB tags)? Every day? Once a day, twice a day? Whenever the phone beep/vibrate?

I have a good look first thing and then check in a few times through the day. We’ve just had a new member of our team start, so I’ll probably spend less time going forwards, but this recognises what a valuable and time-consuming job working with social media can be.


Did feedback from users on social networks impact your marketing and business decisions? If so, How?

Yes, comments and feedback from social media do impact on our marketing and business decisions, alongside speaking to our distributors, customers and consumers directly.  We have some changes in the pipeline for next year which have been influenced through this channel – watch this space!

Can you point out any other distillery/group that works well in social networks? What are they doing right?

I think everyone is taking their own path through social networks, so we do cross over at some points.  I follow a few of our closer (and nameless) competitors just to make sure we know what’s going on.

How can distilleries and independent bottlers distinguish their activity and brand on the net? Are there any other areas, besides Social Networks, in which you can promote your brand?

Smaller companies like ours have the opportunity to have a bigger virtual presence than we might enjoy in the “real” world.  We can move fast and give personal responses.

Are images as effective as text in social networks? Or maybe even more effective?

Images get a lot more attention than just text or web links.  We try to use a mix of whisky, locations and people content.

What was your highlight moment with your Social Networks work? Which parts of it do you enjoy, personally?

Our first Tweet Tasting with @TheWhiskyWire really gave social networks a new dimension.  It was very engaging and we were trending in the UK at one point.  I really love it when consumers taste our whiskies and understand why we gave them that particular name.  We’re about to do our third Tweet Tasting, so it’s definitely something I’d recommend (#WemyssTT3 on 15th May).

What were the weirdest and funniest (separately!) interactions/contacts you ever got through social network?

There have been a few. Whisky drinkers like to have fun, but also take their whisky seriously and there’s no such thing as a daft question in my book.  They might get a daft answer though!

Do you remember your first whisky dram? What was it? Did you like it right away?

Don’t know.  Being Scottish, I felt that I was missing out by not understanding Scotch, so it seemed like a good idea to go and work for a company who could teach me about it. I think my first “professional” dram was during my induction at Glenmorangie. I was privileged to enjoy my first tuition with Rachel Barrie (@TheLadyBlender) and was mesmerised by her elegant and passionate descriptions of what was in the glass.  I still enjoy Glenmorangie Ten Years Old today.

What’s your current favorite whisky? Where do you like to have it?

peat chimneyI’m writing this on a Friday, so I think I’m ready for a tackling a peaty one, so Peat Chimney it is.  Usually, I have whisky in a glass!  Some of my favourite whisky memories are visiting distilleries and enjoying drams in their proper home.


Do you have any ceremonies or quirks related to drinking whisky?

Site of Kingsbarns Distillery 2 by John Giustina Med ResNo. We’re planning to “top out” our new distillery when the roof is finished by pouring a dram on it.

Do you prefer drinking alone or with others?

Whisky chat is definitely more interesting with others.

Do you limit your drinking? If so, in what way?

Just regular responsible drinking for me!

Do you get to drink on the job? Do you HAVE to drink on the job? 🙂

I have worked in the drinks industry for quite a number of years, so there might have been the odd social occasion to drink on the job!  Nowadays, it’s more about tasting whisky for naming and tasting notes purposes. I rarely drink when I’m working at whisky shows so I can focus on the visitor and last to the end.

Do you have a professional dream?

The Wemyss family is building their first distillery at Kingsbarns near St Andrews. I think this is a rare and very exciting opportunity for to build not only a physical distillery and visitor centre, but also a new brand, so launching both over the next 3 years is the my goal  (Follow the story on Twitter @kingsbarnsdist and Facebook at The Kingsbarns Distillery)

Thanks Karen!

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