Ardbeg Whiskies Cameron George: Brand Ambassador and Master of Smoke

In the whisky world, few voices are as passionate as Cameron George when it comes to evangelizing the smoky drams of Scotland’s iconic Ardbeg distillery. As the U.S. National Brand Ambassador and Master of Smoke for the cult favorite, George is not only shaping the conversation around heavily peated single malts but also advocating for greater diversity and representation in an industry long overdue for change.

George’s connection to Scotland was forged at an early age during a childhood trip to the remote Shetland Islands for a family wedding. From the rolling hills to the rugged cliffs that plunged into the turbulent North Sea, the untamed beauty of the landscapes captivated him. He also reveled in the earthy, smoky aroma that permeated the air, a scent that would later become synonymous with his beloved Ardbeg whisky.

“There are very few places on the planet where you get that full-body reaction the moment you arrive,” George recalls. “The connectivity between the people and the offshore islands that comprise Scotland is an energy you can feel in your soul.”

George’s pathway to Ardbeg continued as he began working as a dishwasher at one of Seattle’s dive bars in his teenage years. As he quickly progressed through the ranks, he discovered a passion for the bar industry.

His skills and dedication attracted the attention of the city’s top bartenders, who mentored him in advanced mixology techniques. George soon began participating in and winning prestigious bartending competitions, such as the Bacardi Legacy and Diageo World Class.

“That dive bar is where I really honed my ability to talk to all walks of life and advance my bartending skills,” explains George. “From there, I started running one of Seattle’s top cocktail bars by the time I was just 22 years old.”

During this whirlwind period, an ambassador role became available at Louis Vuitton Moët Hennessy in San Francisco. George seized the opportunity to work with premium spirits brands like Glenmorangie and Ardbeg.

After his first encounter with Ardbeg, George felt an uncanny connection to the peat smoke and brine that transported him back to fond memories of foraging for oysters and exploring the shores of Seattle.

In 2017, Ardbeg recognized the need for a dedicated national ambassador in the United States, someone who could embody the brand’s values and effectively communicate its rich history. The global team was introduced to George by Ardbeg’s senior brand director, who believed George’s passion and extensive knowledge made him the ideal candidate for this inaugural role.

“Ardbeg created this position specifically for me because they saw how much I knew about the distillery and how I could convey that sense of heritage,” says George. “They recognized my passion for Ardbeg and Islay and knew that I would be the perfect fit to promote the brand.”

Cameron George smelling a glass of whiskey | Photo credit: Ardbeg

A Day in the Life of Cameron George

George’s responsibilities extend beyond the typical duties associated with brand ambassadorship. He spends about half his time on the road, representing Ardbeg at major whisky festivals across the country and hosting events for Ardbeg’s signature Masters of Smoke Tour, an educational program that runs year-round through September, showcasing the multifaceted nature of smoke in Ardbeg’s whiskies.

“Ardbeg makes the most heavily peated and smoky whisky in the world in regular production,” says George. “During the Masters of Smoke Tour, we’re training consumer palates to recognize the nuances in our five distinct smoke categories: medicinal, coal, herbal, woody, and savory.”

The brand advocate also works closely with distributors and accounts to understand consumer mindsets and keep his finger on the industry’s pulse. Additionally, he shapes the scholarly approach to teaching heritage, sense of place, ancestral techniques, and the influence of colonialism across the scotch industry.

Reclaiming a Birthright

As one of the few Black ambassadors representing a major spirits brand, George views his role as an opportunity to highlight the contributions of the African diaspora to the spirits industry. The historical erasure and lack of diverse representation in the business are just two aspects of systemic inequity that George is working to rectify.

“Sadly, there is a long history of famous scotch blending houses benefiting financially from selling products like tea and sugar harvested by enslaved Africans,” says George. “By birthright, whisky is ours as much as anyone else’s, and I encourage people of color to reclaim their space in this arena.”

George strives for more authentic representation in the spirits industry by challenging stereotypes that often pigeonhole Black consumers. He aims to counter the assumption perpetuated by many brands that Black consumers are primarily interested in nightlife and flashy marketing when it comes to alcohol.

“We aren’t a monolith, but rather a nuanced community with different areas of expertise, upbringings, and perspectives,” George proclaims. “I want to show there are so many ways to explore and savor a whisky as sublime as Ardbeg beyond the cursory promotional trappings.”

Alongside educating consumers and spirit-industry titans, introducing new and innovative product lineups is a crucial aspect of George’s role.

Each year on June 1, Ardbeg Day is celebrated with the release of a limited-edition bottling. For 2024, the distillery released the Ardbeg Spectacular edition – their first single malt aged in ruby port casks, offering unique tasting notes of Turkish delight, raspberry, and basil.

Cameron George with consumers during Masters of Smoke tour stop | Photo credit: Ardbeg

Throughout the year, Ardbeg will also release additional small-batch limited editions, continuing the distillery’s tradition of bold approaches to producing whisky, a hallmark of the brand for over two centuries.

With his passion for whisky education and innovative approach to brand ambassadorship, George remains committed to using his platform to challenge conventions and advocate for progress as the spirits industry continues to evolve.

The changemaker envisions a more diverse group of whisky enthusiasts and professionals, helping to ensure the industry is more representative of the various cultures and experiences that have contributed to its history.

“I want to inspire people to explore the world of whisky and claim their space within it,” says George. “By sharing my passion for Ardbeg, I hope to create a more welcoming and accessible community for all.”

To learn more about Cameron George, follow him on Instagram and Facebook. You can also stay updated on Ardbeg by following the brand on Instagram and YouTube.

Read about Ardbeg Ten Years Old Whisky here