Narcisa Pheres, talented jewellery designer and CEO of Italian fashion label Pheres, recently added one more feather to her cap when she was invited to the Johnnie Walker Blue Label Mentorship Programme. As a mentor to the brand, she travelled to Scotland’s picturesque countryside and explored the almost ‘mystical’ process of whisky making. We recently caught up with Narcisa to find out more about her exhilarating experience.
How did you feel about being named a Johnnie Walker Blue Label mentor?
I was honoured to be chosen by Johnnie Walker and, more specifically, to represent the Blue Label brand because it is such a unique product.
It was also a pleasant surprise. I did not expect a woman to be chosen to represent a whisky brand in the beginning, but then I learnt that a part of Johnnie Walker’s early success was actually due to the efforts of one woman in the late 18th century. More power to us!
How was the experience of travelling to Scotland as part of the Johnnie Walker Blue Label brand?
I went to Scotland as part of the mentorship programme for Johnnie Walker Blue Label. They invited me to explore the local scenery and to visit their distillery to learn the process behind creating each bottle.
Given my background in artisanship, design and craftsmanship, it was a thoroughly educational trip for me.
Where did you stay?
We stayed at the Craigellachie Hotel in a beautiful part of Scotland called Speyside, which is close to the Johnnie Walker distillery.
The hotel was wonderful, and looked like a castle. In the room they even prepared lovely cashmere socks with my logo on them, as well as a beautiful vintage basket holding a complimentary bottle of whisky for me. Such a lovely touch!
What intrigued you about the Blue Label brand?
How much effort goes into making just a single bottle! Only one in every ten thousand bottles of blended whisky makes the cut to becoming a Blue Label. It’s not only about attention to detail and having the right skills, it’s also about maintaining a very high quality every single time.
Of course, this is challenging because making whisky relies so heavily on nature producing perfect crops of wheat and barley, clean water and just the right amount of rain and sunlight. Since nature isn’t so reliable, there are years where nothing is added to the Blue Label stock.
Which part of the crafting process left an impression on you?
Watching the specialists at the Cardhu distillery – which supplies some of the best whiskies that go into Johnnie Walker blends – building the casks was simply amazing. They source rare white oak trees from America which they shape into barrels without any nails. It’s just oak and metal rings!
The casks are then fired and smoked for conditioning, which, in turn, allows the oak to flavour the whisky that is aged inside it. Attaining this level of cask-building skill can take up to ten years. I really admired their dedication to their craft.
Do you feel like this trip has inspired you?
Yes, of course. I draw inspiration from the places I travel to. Being surrounded by the beautiful Scottish countryside with its trees, clear sky, cold water and crisp air, all these things open up a brand new perspective for me. It’s a sharp contrast to being in Hong Kong!
Interview: Sadia Lima
Text: Tenzing Thondup