How Reece Sims shares her love of the water of life
When Reece Sims graduated from the University of Victoria, in 2009, with a Bachelor of Commerce, she thought she might go on to become a lawyer. Instead, after tenures in marketing for the fashion and architecture industries, a part-time bartending job at a Vancouver pub led to a multifaceted career in which she shares her love of spirits, wine and beer. Under the name the Whiskey Muse, Sims provides accessible education about “the water of life” to curious consumers (especially women) in their 20s and 30s—a demographic typically overlooked by distillers in favour of deep-pocketed older men. Most recently, she launched Stave+Still, a whisky-themed jewelry collection.
“After graduating, I was working as a fashion marketing assistant at the Bay Centre [a shopping mall in downtown Victoria]. After a few years, I thought, ‘Is this it—I’m an adult and I work my full-time job and live in the city I grew up in?’ On a whim, I decided to move to Vancouver at the end of 2012. Literally the day before I arrived, I got two job offers and then I transitioned into architecture marketing, of which I had no experience. I eventually left the company because I wanted to be a [self-employed] consultant. I thought I knew everything at 25.
“I needed a way to make some consistent income, so I got a weekend job at The Blarney Stone—my first bartending job. It was great. When I’d moved to Vancouver, one of my girlfriends and I would always go out and drink scotch because we thought it looked impressive, and [the Blarney Stone] had a huge selection of whisky. I thought, ‘How do I learn more about this?’ And having come from a marketing background, I thought, ‘In bartending, how do I brand myself as something unique and different, so I can get more experience and be more knowledgeable behind the bar?’ And also do something fun—I get to teach people about spirits. How cool is that? You get to teach people about something that’s very social and make it educational.
I started Whiskey Muse in 2016. For me, it was a way to differentiate myself as a bartender but also hold myself accountable to learning as much about whiskey as possible.
“I started Whiskey Muse in 2016. For me, it was a way to differentiate myself as a bartender but also hold myself accountable to learning as much about whiskey as possible and becoming an expert in it. Education is really important: I’ve done my WSET [Wine & Spirit Education Trust] levels 2 and 3; I’ve gone to Moonshine University in Louisville, Kentucky, and taken their Executive Bourbon Steward certification; I went to the Irish Whiskey Academy [in Cork, Ireland]; I’ve gone to Boston and done a rum-distilling course.
“When people first get into spirits such as whisky, there’s a level of intimidation with tasting and learning. My goal has always been, instead of providing too much information or a lot of very technical information, which I personally really like to learn about, I want to distill that down—pun intended—into smaller, bite-size pieces that are more approachable. Some of the ways I’ve done that is simple cocktail recipes, creating infographics that are shareable, and making analogies to pop culture, so it’s creating triggers in your mind to help you remember.
“There are tons of whiskies that are anywhere from $20 to $20,000. For me, I try to focus on bottles that are under $300, because I want to recommend things where people will, number one, be able to afford them, and number two, they’ll want to continue to purchase them instead of it being a one-time buy. That’s going to help the brand by creating loyalty and have people in their 20s continue to drink it over their lifetime.”
Follow Reece Sims’ adventures in spirits at whiskeymuse.com.
—as told to Michael White