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WHISKY BUILDS RELATIONSHIPS – Why Whisky Knowledge Is Good For Business
Whisky drinking is no longer just for the boys. Upon entering Whisky Live, a multi-city expo of the finest distilleries from Scotland and Kentucky, I marveled at the sprinkling of women, from quite young to very mature, making their way through the mostly male crowd. The Chelsea Piers venue held an assortment of sampling booths, each staffed with knowledgeable representatives designed to make us all more confident in the business of drinking whisky. I also learned that whisky knowledge had far ranging implications in the business world.
We sampled the fiery moonshine of Maker’s Mark (130 proof), colorless, as it had not been put in oak. Brand rep Amanda Ingram taught us to part our lips when inhaling the spirit. “You get less alcohol and more flavor,” she explained. Lauren Ward of Yamazaki, the oldest Japanese distillery and one who’s samples were uniquely devoid of that smoky or peaty flavor, gave a reason for whisky’s growing significance for women. “People you meet might be whisky connoisseurs. It may be their passion and when you expand your knowledge, you impress them,” she said.
After learning about the sherry casks that gave Black Bull blended scotch whisky its pretty color, I went in search of single malts. As I sampled the 100 proof single barrel and barrel strength from Four Roses, National Sales Manager Patty Holland offered her opinion on women and whisky. “More and more women are drinking whisky than ever before, but women need to know more. A man can bluff way more about [whisky] but women are judged on a different standard,” she explained.
While most will agree the whisky world is still mostly a man’s world, Margaret Lombard-Chibnall, President of Lombard Brands, has run her family’s business featuring aged and rare single malts as well as an award winning blended scotch whisky for 40 years. When asked if women should be conversant in whisky, she was quick and to the point. “Women, women in business should be knowledgeable full stop. They should be knowledgeable of whisky because they drink, too. They should always know what they are talking about.”
A business executive attending the show who we will call Anna is just the type of woman to which Ms. Lombard-Chibnall refers. She has attended whisky Live since its early days when it was held in Central Park’s Tavern on the Green. Both women agree that sampling is important to discover what you like best because taste is so subjective. “The range in taste is huge,” says Anna. “The men I know drink single malts till someone more important orders another, then they drink that one.” Anna attends many business conventions and shares that when she finds herself at the bar late at night, as the only female colleague, her whisky knowledge is something she can share with the men that they do not expect, but appreciate. She explains, “You’re not talking dirty or smoking a cigar when you may be the only woman in the group but you can drink bourbon whisky and you can bond.”
The audience agreed that the spirit is a great conversation point. With wine you may need to know about all the reds and whites and Californian varieties to appease an entire table of guests. With whisky, you find the one that you like. “You are just picking for yourself. There is less pretense about whisky. It is either, I like it, dont like it, end of story,” Anna says. “I enjoy that it is something you can sip without drinking too much.”
People at the show had their favorites-the light and thin for some, the peatiest for others, and some debated young versus aged. Mostly, people enjoyed learning from the distillers and said they would carry the stories they heard from them to their future whisky conversations-it would be a sort of knowledge they could leverage in the future. Anna is already an old pro at this. Upon receipt of a gift of whisky she had sent to a client, he called to thank her. Noticing his enthusiasm, she offered to put him in touch with the distiller directly, which by the client’s reaction was one of the greatest gifts he had ever received from a business associate.
By Faye Nwafor
Ethiopia is among the top 5 exporters of sesame seeds globally and arguably the largest exporter in Africa but sends 95% of it’s harvest abroad in its raw form. According to a Gro Intelligence infographic, there is a hefty price to pay for countries who export the bulk of their harvest in an unrefined form. Sesame seeds are Ethiopia’s 2nd most important export crop yet due to selling them raw instead of hulled, Ethiopia missed out on $64 million dollars in value add for 2012. The economic returns from hulling the sesame seeds could have been absorbed by the local economy, providing revenue for more jobs, infrastructure and a gain for the tax base.
The missed opportunity for Ethiopia is an example replicated throughout the continent as well-meaning government agricultural programs and zealous tradesmen focus on the importance of raw exports over more sustainable opportunities in the processing of crops into useable finished products for sale both within and outside the country’s borders. Nigeria is a top seven grower of sesame seeds globally and the second largest producer on the continent. It has seen its own government discussions on the potential for export, but here too, the usual discussion of export leads to a conversation on sending bulk goods abroad in their raw form, foregoing the larger financial and employment opportunities in producing for markets within its borders. As is the case with Ethiopia, Nigeria’s agricultural leaders are engaging in conversations to scale up sesame seed production primarily with a focus on export markets.
While exporting agricultural products is a fine goal, doing so without developing a sustainable market for the refined version of the food crop leaves growers at the mercy of external buyers eager to pay the minimum for agricultural commodities in raw form. The question of what becomes the fate of agricultural commodities if and when international buyers choose to seek alternative suppliers has the potential to leave farmers vulnerable and without a market for harvested crops. The results of such a scenario could be disastrous, particularly for farmers whose crops only have export value. When the goals of federal agricultural schemes is to add value to cash crops we need to look beyond purely exporting these crops in raw form and create value for foods within their own borders.
A Review of Sokhna: Senegambian Cuisine on the Upper West Side
Taking the train up to 116th street seemed a bit out of the way until I arrived at what was now the home of the most recent immigrants in the city-the Senegalese. A small community they do have their own shops and apartment buildings pretty much serving their countrymen. Sokhna is one tiny take-out joint in the middle of it all that serves mainly their Wollof and French speaking taxi drivers and street vendors with some Texas-sized portions of traditional Senegalese fair. (That’s what I love about immigrant dives, the food’s got to be a good deal to keep them coming, so I follow)
Grilled Lamb, Tilapia and other traditional favorites are a good bet. These are accompanied with salad and if you like some good old pomme frites. Did I mention the portions are inordinately non-standard for New York, in a good way? West African places are known for their soups and grilled meats and fishes and yes, they’ve got them too, some with a peanut base, some with a vegetable one, one was loaded with everything from seafood to lamb and chicken and I wondered how on earth they could be making a profit on these portions. Then again, immigrant patrons do demand more for their dollar. Some fun for the novice soup eater here: it’s eaten with a plate of fufu, which is similar to polenta (but usually eaten with your hands, and yes, you can use silverware) but my lord they give you so much that after looking around to make sure I was not alone, realized I was expected to be unable to finish it all. Took me a doggy bag home, I did.
Now for the other side of working class immigrant dives. The place is tiny. Very few tables. Decor is non existent. In the evening they are packed with mostly men home from work sitting for dinner and watching the news in their language on the tv with the lines. “Nagadeff” and “Bien sur” is all I hear them say. Service is slow because so much attention is put on the takeout line filled with Senegalese women who apparently don’t cook at home and the Americans of every ethnicity, from adult to teenager, who stand quite patiently waiting their turn. Our waitress was called away to help with phone orders and my dinner buddy, knowing I have a sweet tooth, surprised me by ordering an off the menu item, a lightly sweet dessert called Dege. If you like rice pudding you’ll love this. It’s made with something much better for you than rice.
Service aside the people are very warm, the customers too. When a group of women who’d come from a concert dressed to the nines walked in and were told there were no tables, a group of gentlemen near the end of their meal told them to take their seats. All this for about $11 an entree. I can live sans the decor.