Guest Q&A: George Dickel Ambassador Douglas Kragel

George Dickel Ambassador Douglas Kragel  The title “Whisky Ambassador” sounds like a dream job. What’s your background, and how did you find your way to George Dickel?
My background is in both service and sales. I have worked every position in restaurants and bars since my first job as a dishwasher. Before becoming the National Ambassador for George Dickel, I worked as a sales representative for a liquor distributor in Baltimore, MD.

You must love whisky. What’s your favorite way to drink it?  What do you drink when you’re not drinking whisky?
There are so many great ways to enjoy whisky that it’s hard to choose a favorite, but currently I’ve been drinking a good amount of whiskey sours. When I’m not drinking whisky I’m most likely drinking a cold beer.

American whiskey is really hot right now. Why do you think that is?
I think one of the factors behind the rise in the popularity of American whiskey is the rise of craft in the beverage industry. Craft beer has paved the way for consumers looking to quality American products, and craft cocktails have brought attention back to the use of American spirits from the pre-Prohibition era.

Traditionally people think of whisky as a cold-weather spirit. How do you teach people to think differently?
I tell people to drink what they like and not to follow convention. What’s better than a cold whisky sour in the summertime?

What kind of trends are you seeing, either among bartenders or consumers?
I think the biggest trend I’m seeing is honesty. That means bar programs that are upfront and have a genuine identity, and consumers who aren’t afraid to forgo that list and order what they really want.

In July you participated in Tales of the Cocktail, which is like the Super Bowl of the spirits industry. Any favorite moments/experiences?
It’s hard to pinpoint any one particular moment at an event as lively as Tales. What I do love the most about that week is the opportunity to work alongside all of the Diageo Masters of Whisky, and tap into the vast network that they have built across the country.

Whisky brands have been doing a lot to bring new in consumers, including women. What are you doing with the brand?
Generally, to get new consumers to try your product, you have to make it more accessible. Whisky can be an intimidating category. For us, it’s all about educating folks on what George Dickel Tennessee Whisky is, and how it differs from other spirits. For instance, our unique charcoal filtration process produces a smooth sipping whisky that goes down easy.

What’s your favorite meal (or flavor) that people might not think to pair with whisky?
Seafood. I think the rich flavor of say, oysters, can be complemented nicely with the dry nature of rye whisky, for example.

If you could enjoy a glass of whisky with one person, dead or alive, who would it be?
Eddie Vedder. For the simple reason that it would give me a chance to spend a little time with an idol, and talking while drinking whisky would help me feel a bit less nervous.

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