Lala Calls The Shots: Lala Alakija on Lagos’ Drinking Culture

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Lala Alakija is currently the Brand Ambassador Reserve Spirits at Guinness Nigeria PLC, a Diageo Company. She has worked with the company since 2019 and was also previously the founder of the Eko Cocktail club aimed at revolutionizing the Lagos cocktail scene. Her role in Diageo centers on her leading and shaping future luxury brands and driving advocacy across the company’s rich spirit portfolio, from Singleton, Johnnie Walker, Ciroc, Don Julio, Tanqueray 10, and more.

 How did you find your passion for whisky?

My journey into whisky started late in 2013. I was doing my masters at that time and I came across a bar in London called London Cocktail club. It was what you would describe as a bartender’s paradise, where you have the most fun and talented bartenders mixing the world’s greatest drinks to perfection. I became a member and I was always very intrigued when the bartenders mixed my drinks.

I started to read about the different types of whisky, understand how they were produced and their flavor profile. It was an awesome process and still is as this discovery led me to my career and I am loving every bit of it.

The first whisky you fell in love with?

Singleton converted me. The Singleton is at the heart of the flavor map. The taste is so unique; it is sweet, nutty, smooth and fruity.

What do you love most about your role?

What I love most about my role is that it connects so deeply and embraces my passion. From a young age, I realized I have a passion for creating memories and unleashing lasting happiness in people. I have learned to do this through experiences. I enjoy creating experiences for consumers- with a dram in hand!

Yes- I always enjoy talking and sharing nice drams and ideas with whisky lovers. That moment of connection is important to me and that is what really drives me.

Whisky is considered a man’s drink: Do you think perceptions about whisky are changing right now?

Definitely. The world is changing in so many ways and spirits consumption is definitely one of them. There was a time when women couldn’t go to the bar alone. Today women are challenging these conventions. We have witnessed the emergence of more women in the whisky industry, leading the spirit industry, and even women that own and manage distilleries. I also think the perception had to do with how whisky was marketed for a long time, it always showed men consuming “harsher” spirits such as whisky, bourbons, brandy, and women with the lighter wines, roses. But all of that has changed now as it’s about the consumer’s taste profile and preferences, whether male or female.

There’s also the growth of the bartending industry which is an industry that is approachable for both men and women. Bartenders are being so innovative now and figuring out great ways to mix brown spirits. For example, the global winner for world-class 2019 was a woman- Bannie Kang. Our Diageo global cocktailian is a woman- Lauren mote.

We must keep having these conversations, getting the word out there, and encouraging women that are driving the whisky category.

Do you think more women will embrace working with the whisky industry?

Definitely. It’s already happening. There’s a huge influx of women in the industry, we just need to make sure we keep getting the word out there. The more women see themselves represented, the more inspired they will be.

You spend a lot of time traveling: what’s one of your favorite places to visit?

I love London. It always feels like home to me, its diverse and it really has something for everyone. Great food, pubs glorious pubs/bars, shopping, the underground, art, history, culture, and just exceedingly good times.

Favorite place in Nigeria, Lagos. Its home, this is where it all happens for me. The hustle, the bustle but still finding a way to live and enjoy life with family and friends. Also, Lagos has an interesting nightlife, there really is something for everyone in Lagos nightlife. Never a dull moment in this city.

How do you enjoy your whisky?

In a cocktail. I am an advocate for whiskies that go against the contemporary idea of how to drink whisky. I want fun, creative, out of this world cocktails that also allows the flavors of the whisky to shine

You can take only three whiskies to an island – what would they be?

The Singleton 12 Year Old

The Singleton 12 Year Old

The Singleton 12 Year Old

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