About Us

About Us

Speciality Brands is proud to have not only some of the world’s finest spirits, but also a dedicated team of the most experienced and well-respected personalities in the UK drinks industry. Comprised of award-winning mixologists, top brand ambassadors and experienced account managers, our passion is delivering first class products, training and impeccable service levels to the prestige on trade and retail sectors.

Chris Seale

Chris Seale

Managing Director

Chris keeps his steady hand on the tiller as he steers Speciality Brands on its path of growth.

Having spent over 20 years in commercial and marketing roles in large international businesses, Chris founded Speciality Brands with Raj and Sukhinder Singh, after becoming frustrated with big company politics and followed his desire to get closer to his products and customers. Having spent 10 years with Pernod Ricard, Chris has very strong experience with the UK on and off trade both in the wine and spirits sectors. His last role at Pernod Ricard saw him promoted to Head of Champagne and Cognac during which period he launched Martell XO and Cuvee R Lalou from G.H. Mumm.

Proud father to toddler Hayden, Chris is also a keen sportsman, and when he is not watching or talking about Welsh rugby if he is allowed, you will find him in one of London's many cocktail bars or restaurants enjoying a Negroni or glass of Chablis.

Stefanie Holt

Stefanie Holt

Head of Education - Whisk(e)y Ambassador

Stef is our first tame whisk(e)y ambassador (now joined by Nathan), who rhapsodises about the golden nectar around the country. Whether it be training bartenders, entertaining consumers or pouring drams to the thirsty masses at shows & events, her explanations of flavour, production and history really help bring our whisk(e)y brands to life.

Stef joined Speciality Brands in 2015 after being a global rum ambassador & was awarded both the UK and International Brand Ambassador of the Year (2010 & 2012) at the Golden Rum Barrel Awards for her work in that category. Along with her experience in growing young brands and reputation in the industry, she brings her Scottish heritage & passion for whiskies from all over the world to the fore in her ambassadorial role.

Stef has also recently become our Head of Education and is working on distilling our knowledge of what is special or unique about our brands and how we communicate that in the best possible way. She is enjoying working with Speciality Brands’ team of Ambassadors and creating innovative cross-category trainings like ‘Smoke’.

Outside of work, Stef is quite likely to be found planning adventurous holidays, buying shoes, scuba diving or cooking up feasts using only leftovers. Her favourite animals are otters and turtles, and her favourite word is the French for grapefruit.

Nathan Shearer

Nathan Shearer

Whisk(e)y Ambassador

Nathan is the first good news of 2018, having joined the team straight after NYE celebrations. Working alongside Stef to bring our amazing whisky portfolio to life, he joins Speciality Brands from the award winning Swift in Soho, a bar that celebrates all that is good in whisky.

Nathan has spent the last 13 years in the hospitality industry, almost half of his life.  He has worked in kitchens, events, restaurants and some of the best bars in the world – including the renowned Callooh Callay and Swift, both of which were awarded trophies from the Spirited Awards at Tales of the Cocktail during his tenure behind the stick. 

When not waxing lyrical about the benefits and drawbacks of tropical aging, different strains of barley or shapes and sizes of stills, you’ll probably find Nathan slurping ramen, filling his closet with Japanese denim, or scouring the markets of east London for the best beard balm.  Failing that, he’ll be at a bar with a daiquiri in hand.

Gabriela Moncada

Gabriela Moncada

Agave Ambassador

Gabriela or Gaby as she likes to be called, is Speciality Brands’ Agave Ambassador. Originally from Guadalajara in Mexico, Gaby is proud to be able to impart her knowledge, passion and love for the agave spirits produced in her native country to UK bartenders and consumers who are discovering this fantastic category through her tastings, trainings and talks.

After more than ten years’ working in cocktail bars in London, Gaby began promoting Tequila as a brand ambassador. A native of Jalisco, Gaby’s wealth of knowledge extends far beyond Tequilas of her home state, to the smoky stone pits for some mezcals in Oaxaca, and to the rustic Philippine stills used by the Maestros Taberneros responsible for making Raicillas in Jalisco.

Although she may not seem it, those who know Gaby will tell you she’s a wild child at heart! If Gaby isn’t out riding motorbikes too fast on slow country roads around the world, then she’s probably dancing salsa on one of London’s busy dance floors.

Olympe Courage

Olympe Courage

Hine Brand Ambassador

Olympe is our Cognac expert joining the team in April 2018 to look after Hine. Originally from Normandy, Olympe was raised drinking Calvados but is now firmly taking a walk the Hine side. Wine is also a great passion of Olympe’s having arrived in The UK from New York where she worked in Manhattan for a specialist French wine and spirits distributor. A huge fan of The New York bar scene Olympe is quickly discovering that The UK is more than a match for The Big Apple and she will more than happily give her advice on the latest trend setting bars and restaurants to hang out in either side of The Atlantic.

When not sat with a French 75 in hand talking about Cognac in a bar or restaurant you will find Olympe hurtling down the slopes in Chamonix indulging her second love or exploring London’s cheese shops trying to find the one thing she truly does miss about France.

Dean MacGregor

Dean MacGregor

Rum/Rhum Brand Ambassador

After 13 years in the industry, Dean has joined the Speciality Brands team as our Rum Portfolio Ambassador. Like many, he discovered his passion of bartending, great spirits and hospitality whilst at university, and has never looked back.

Working in an array of cocktail bars, his love of rum eventually took him to the infamous Trailer Happiness in London’s Notting Hill, where he moved into working with premium spirits brands and ambassadorial role.

He has joined us after his previous work with El Dorado, where he spent the last three years sharing his love and knowledge of rum across the UK, whilst searching for ‘the’ best daiquiri.

When he is not talking about sugarcane varietals and rum marks, you can find him in one of many venues, watching his favourite bands and DJ’s with close friends.

Jon Lister

Jon Lister

Head of Creativity & Drinks

Jon seems to have spent his entire adult life behind the bar. From craft pubs and boutique hotels to artisan restaurants and bespoke cocktail lounges, Jon has drawn on these to become an inventive designer of cocktails and a leading consultant in the industry.

He joined the Speciality Brands team in 2013, having represented the UK in the Diplomatico World Tournament cocktail competition. Now having swapped the back bar for the portfolio of Speciality Brands, Jon has not lost his love for the creative. He brings showmanship and originality to the table and is the “go to” mixer and shaker of the team.

Jon may be known for the experimental, from food pairings to original serves, but with his faithful hound Sazerac never too far from his side, it is clear that he still has a passion for the classics.

Phil Nickson

Phil Nickson

Head of Retail Sales

Phil joined the Speciality team in December 2014 to develop the off trade channel for the business, and is now responsible for developing plans with National Accounts in that arena.

With 10 years of spirits experience under his belt, Phil previously worked in commercial on and off trade roles for Morrison Bowmore Distillers and Bacardi Brown Forman and was also part of the team that launched Caorunn gin to the UK market in 2009.

When not looking at spreadsheets or hanging out at Milroy’s of Soho, Phil likes to relax with his family – he’s a proud Dad to two seriously energetic boys Zac and Finlay and spends a lot of his spare time building train sets and lego.

You’ll also find him at the bar with a Boulevardier cocktail and guzzling a glass of red wine or down the studio with his favourite Fender Jazz bass guitar – still playing in bands in his 40s, still dreaming of being a rock star one day.

Sam Smythson

Sam Smythson

Retail Development Manager – North of England

Sam fell into the drinks trade by complete accident. After studying history at university, he did what most students do and got a job that had nothing to do with his course.

After working in various roles at Selfridges in Manchester, Sam landed  a position in the Wine and Spirits department. Within the first month he fell in love with the drinks category and started his WSET qualifications, within three years, Sam had become the manager of the department. After 7 years at Selfridges Sam moved on to explore various roles in the drinks trade before joining Speciality Brands in April 2017.

In his spare time he loves nothing more than watching all things sport, including cricket usually with a peaty dram in hand.

Sarah Parr

Sarah Parr

Retail Development Manager - London & South

Sarah joins the Speciality Brands team from sunny Manchester as our Retail Development Manager for London and South, managing both regional groups and independents. Her heart has been captured by London and is here to stay.

Sarah’s love for wine and spirits began during an Erasmus year in the South of France. Whilst her fellow Université de Montpellier students were indulging in their favourite pastime (striking), Sarah was enjoying all the liquid delights France has to offer. Sarah joins our retail team with 10 years of experience in the wine and spirits industry, including retail and commercial roles at Majestic Wine and managing the Northern sales channel for a start-up drinks agency, where she helped to launch Three Rivers Gin into the UK market.

Often found with a Martini in hand and impractical shoes on her feet, her main passion is eating. She relishes a humble burger just as much as a 12 course Michelin meal.

Angus Russell

Angus Russell

Business Development Manager - Scotland

Angus is our Business Development Manager for Scotland. Having tried a huge variety of hobbies including equestrian vaulting, audio engineering and even an attempt at rock stardom... Angus decided his skills would be best put to use working in the hospitality sector where he worked his way up from the lowly pot washer to managing some of Scotland’s finest hotels and restaurants. 

Having developed a passion for cocktails and spirits, and having achieved everything he felt he wanted to on the hospitality side, Angus started work with Scott Gemmell at LA Group, bringing Glasgow bartenders new and exciting products to work with. Later on, Angus seized the opportunity to head up the Premium Brands division at Inverarity Morton; training bartenders on all aspects of spirit production and use.

Seriously patriotic, Angus invests as much time as he can into helping Scottish bartenders and bars achieve their full potential.

 

Tom Bartram

Tom Bartram

Business Development Manager - North of England

Tom, our resident drinks geek, has over 16 years of industry experience under his belt, including tending bars at some of the world’s best drinking establishments, and 10 years working for spirits brands.

After spending his first four years with Speciality Brands building a solid foundation for for the company in London, Tom has now moved back to his roots, looking after the on trade in the North and Midlands. 

Tom is known for delivering ground breaking training sessions on a variety of subjects and spirits categories. With a particular focus on the spirits of South and Central America, Tom has travelled extensively from the vineyards of Peru to the mountains of Oaxaca searching out the perfect tipples, which he will tell you about at great length, whether prompted or not!

Matt Harrison

Matt Harrison

London Sales Manager - On Premise

Matt, who has spent all his working life in the drinks trade, or as his friends say never having a proper job, divides his time managing the London On Premise Team and  looking after hotels and groups in London Central and West Area.

Matt has worked in retail, for wholesalers and brand agencies across the country and is bringing his experience in building strong long lasting relationships with customers. His drive for high quality service and passion for premium brands found the perfect fit in the Speciality Brands family. Partial to the odd Manhattan he can be found in London’s prestigious hotel bars talking all things spirits, sampling their wondrous creations and smiling politely.

Hailing from the teeming metropolis of Ashton-under-Lyne, but without the accent, he has moved around the country before coming an honorary Man of Kent in 2003, where he spends time with his teenage family, watching various sports and rooting for the mighty Valiants, Port Vale FC.

Daryl Avery-Smith

Daryl Avery-Smith

Business Development Manager - West & Central London

Daryl joined the Speciality Brands team as Business Development Manager for Central and West London. Over the last 5 years he has gained a wealth of experience across the wholesale and agency business from Amathus Drinks, with specific responsibility throughout West London including Mayfair and its many prestigious establishments.

Prior to working in the wholesale sector, Daryl managed a number of well-known bars around London, as well as being a professional DJ having involvement with some of the top-notch promoted nights, where he could be seen rubbing shoulders with the jet-set DJ crowd.

With a creative flare for mixing his drinks and tunes, sometimes both at once, he’s never too far away from anyone of London’s classy establishments. When he’s not swooning around the West End, he’s fully committed to supporting his son’s passion for all things footy and can be seen (and heard) on most Saturday mornings, supporting the talented Edmonton Eagles team.

Toby Aird

Toby Aird

Business Development Manager - East London & South

Toby has spent his entire adult life in the drinks industry in some form or another, be it in the Europe or the USA. He comes from a bartending background, having worked in leading bars across the UK, Arizona, and the west coast of America.

After realising his passion for all things drinks, he took all the skills he developed behind the bar to use them every day as a Business Development Manager with Speciality Brands, responsible for account management and brand development.

East London is Toby's playground and you will be sure to find him sampling anything weird and wonderful in one of its many world class venues. When he's not tasting, live music and Mexican food are top of his list of priorities, closely followed by a keen interest in restoring motorcycles, snowboarding and surfing. These aren’t always possible in Hackney, so trips to either the beach or to the mountains are often on the cards.

Giorgio Bava

Giorgio Bava

Brand Manager

Giorgio is quintessentialy Italian. When he's not at the Opera, you can find him al fresco, drinking vermouth, talking loudly about food and design. 

Coming directly from the wine world, Giorgio took the position of Brand Manager in 2017, bringing his energy and creativity to the amazing brands in Speciality Brands' portfolio.

Thanks to a passion for wine and spirits that can be traced back for centuries in his family history, he spent his teen-age working in wineries, restaurants and hotels around the world. After years of business and marketing studies, he decided to come back to his passions, and for two years he worked for a leading wine importer in London.

He's proud owner of a vast collection of pocket squares, and a 1956 Vespa "Struzzo" - spending most of his holidays trying to restore it.

Lorcan O'Duffy

Lorcan O'Duffy

Events & Digital Manager

Lorcan (or as Jon calls him "Little Big Man") is the man behind a host of events and activations at Speciality Brands. Coming from a Drinks Marketing background Lorcan has looked after such brands as Red Bull, Laphroaig & Auchentoshan before stepping into the role at Speciality Brands. 

Bringing fresh ideas and an experiential outlook towards events, Lorcan is utilising the skills he previosuly gained to help bring the Speciality Brands portfolio to the key players in the UK Drinks Industry and the ever present consumers. All this whilst also making sure our Digital presence is up to date by controlling the social channels and website.

When not sampling the latest cocktails around town - he's partial to a Boulevardier - you can find Lorcan out on the paddock for his local rugby club avoiding too much running or saying "every time sir!" at the match on TV.

Victoria Winter

Victoria Winter

Customer Service Executive

As a classically trained singer, a career in Spirits seemed the most logical choice for Victoria. Having started at Majestic in 2014, Victoria developed a passion for wine and quickly discovered how exciting the drinks’ industry was. Having worked through the ranks at Majestic, Victoria moved to OW Loeb where she worked as a Customer Service Assistant and developed a strong interest in the logistics side of the business.

Upon leaving OW Loeb, Victoria joined the Speciality Brands team in October 2017 and is the newest addition to the team, regularly keeping the account managers in tow and providing all the logistical solutions in the busy orders department as well as general customer service. Coming from a wine background, her current tipple is Vintage Champagne but is slowly developing her taste in interesting gins and exciting rums.

You’ll find Victoria busting an aria around the office so you’ll be able to hear her before you see her.