Ten Minutes with Simone Kelly, Marketing Manager with Irish Distillers

Simone says storytelling can be a vital skill for many roles within the marketing industry.

Share This Post

How did you get started in a career in international marketing?

I started my career with Irish Distillers 11 years ago on the Jameson International Brand Ambassador Programme. I was based in Florida in my first year on the programme and then in Vancouver for two further years. My role as Brand Ambassador was to build brand advocacy and to educate both trade and consumers about the history, heritage and production process of Jameson.

After working internationally, I returned to Ireland after the programme where I had the opportunity to work in various roles with our prestige portfolio and also on the Jameson brand team in the domestic market. I then joined the international marketing team where I’ve worked across communications and new product development for Jameson and for prestige and specialty brands such as Midleton Very Rare, Method and Madness and Spot Whiskeys. I have recently moved into a new role as Marketing Manager for Jameson Global Innovation.

Why did you choose to work with Irish Distillers?

The opportunity to represent an iconic Irish brand abroad initially attracted me to the Jameson International Brand Ambassador Programme.

What are you working on at present?

As Marketing Manager for Innovation, I help to define the strategic path for innovation at Irish Distillers, overseeing the new product development process. This includes everything from consumer research, concept and liquid development, packaging, commercial and launch strategy as well as communications and asset development for new products to our portfolio of brands.

What is the best part of your job?

I have the privilege of working closely with the team in our distillery in Midleton, Cork on innovation projects. They are makers of the some of the world’s best loved whiskeys, they have years of craft and expertise between them and at the same time are so grounded and great company. I get goosebumps setting foot on the grounds of Midleton Distillery, there’s no place like it. There’s a real sense of history and heritage there, from the old mill which once powered the distillery to the Distillers Cottage which is home to Irish Distiller’s archives with records dating back to the 18th century.

What is a defining career moment or high point? / Is there a career moment you are really proud of?

A high point of my career was launching the first Midleton Very Rare Silent Distillery release. At the time it was Ireland’s oldest and rarest whiskey release at 45 years, utilising some of the final stocks from Old Midleton Distillery which closed in 1975. To house this precious whiskey, we developed individually mouth blown crystal decanters with House of Waterford and used reclaimed ancient wood in the packaging. This launch solidified Midleton Very Rare’s position as the luxury Irish whiskey. Its feature on RTÉ news was a proud moment!

Where do you see the spirits industry five years from now?

Trends of recent years point to a more discerning consumer, drinking less but better. This is driving growth across the premium end of the category and is a trend we see continuing. Sustainability is also a priority within the industry. Lightweighting of bottles and more responsible packaging initiatives as well as a commitment to reduce emissions at Midleton Distillery have been some of the ways in which Irish Distillers has made good progress. Irish whiskey is showing great resilience and growth in a global context with major growth opportunities emerging in Asia.

What’s the best piece of professional advice you’ve received?

I studied English Literature and Theatre in college and wasn’t sure where to go from there. A family friend told me not to underestimate storytelling as a skill and to leverage it as a way of setting myself apart.

Storytelling and writing skills have been an important part of every role I’ve had with Irish Distillers, from crafting communications across our brands, writing internal training documents and whiskey guides, planning new product launches, to adapting scripts for TV commercials in various markets.

If you could go back in time and give yourself a piece of advice at the start of your career, what would that be?

Don’t settle for a job you don’t love. Put your head down, work hard, push yourself and you’ll find that sweet spot eventually.

What advice would you give to someone who is thinking about interviewing for a role in a marketing position?

Working in the drinks industry has many benefits such as travel, meeting interesting characters and learning about consumers in different markets. Naturally, the industry follows its consumers, which means our working week is not always your typical 9-5, Monday-Friday structure. It’s hard work but it’s great fun too.

What would you say are the key skills and capabilities necessary to be good at what you do?

Communication and interpersonal skills are key when working in the drinks industry, whether in a market or brand company. Creativity, strategic thinking and project management skills are also core to brand building and dealing with various teams, markets and agencies on a daily basis.

What is the best career lesson you have learned so far?

Be solution orientated. There will be hiccups along the way, how you respond is what will make people want to work with you.

Which industry professionals should people be following on X / LinkedIn?

I like a good mix:

Whiskey world: Mark Gillespie — his weekly podcast WhiskyCast is great to stay up to speed on what’s happening within the whiskey world

Industry: Jack McGarry, one of the founders of the famous The Dead Rabbit bar in NYC, originally from Belfast

Economics: David McWilliams on what’s happening in the world and how it’s impacting consumers’ psyche

Design: M&E Studio — the Irish / Swedish design duo behind the Method and Madness brand ID, packaging, and assets. They’re incredible!

Is there a particular book or resource you’d recommend to someone early in their career?

If you are interested in whiskey and want to know more about the industry, Irish Distillers has a podcast called ‘A Story of Irish Whiskey’ — a handy way of getting up to speed on the history of Irish whiskey and the formation of Irish Distillers.

What’s your favourite place to holiday ? 


What are you watching at the moment? 

Lessons in Chemistry

What’s your favourite meal? 

You can’t beat a roast!


Related articles


Discover your perfect job

Looking to take the next step in your career?
Kickstart your search with indepth profiles and 

handy career advice and find your 

perfect match today.


10 Minutes With…

Find jobs in your area

Copyright © 2022. Developed & Designed by Square1.