Mal Spence, long-term stalwart of the Glasgow drinks scene, is stepping into a new role with Black Bottle Scotch whisky. From leading the opening team of the stunning Blythswood Sqaure Hotel to opening his own Kelvingrove Cafe, Mal has an impressive career behind him, but says he's excited about creating a brand new role with Black Bottle which will see him supporting the launch of the whisky in new countries around the world.
How did you get into your ambassadorial role?
It actually came about quite naturally. I was invited to do some masterclasses and guest bartending shifts in Russia. I started to fall in love with Black Bottle and the role and it was a natural progression.
Who has been your biggest mentor in the industry?
Keith Richardson, who used to run Down Mexico Way and Mel Barr who ran The Lounge, taught me the fundamentals, things I'll never forget, but I've sort of been flying solo since then, learning from people I've worked with and for. The one person I always call on for advice is Andy Gemmell, so he has had an influence on the decisions I've made. I would say my two biggest inspirations are Xavier Padovani and Sean Muldoon.
Why did you opt to work for Black Bottle above the many brands out there?
I've had a relationship with the brand for a few years now, the last thing I did at Blythswood was to establish it as the house pour whisky, then I went across to Russia in April and it just seemed like a perfect fit.
What's your favourite aspect of your job?
Getting to experience other bartending communities and styles outside of the UK. Highlights in the last couple of months include checking out ECC and Prescription in Paris, Noor and Delicatessen in Moscow, Arka in St Petersburg and working at Bar Convent Berlin.
What's the retirement plan, rum hut on the beach?
I've already owned my own bars so the next thing is a house on the banks of Loch Lomond and maybe a dog or two.
What's your preferred Black Bottle Serve?
If I'm in a regular bar I'll drink it either straight or with tonic, lemon and lime. If I'm in a cocktail bar I'll always have it in an old fashioned. I quite like my classic, American cocktails and Black Bottle works well in them.
Where do you like to drink on a night off?
My favourite bars in Glasgow are The Finnieston, The Crafty Pig and Stravaigin. Most times I'll be in Kelvingrove Cafe though.