Espey & Associates
Born in Livingstone, Zambia in 1943 and educated in Cape Town, South Africa, James transferred to London in 1977 where he met his wife Celia and went on to have two daughters, Caroline, known as “Beanie”, and Jessica.
James has over 50 years in the F&B trade, starting in the grocery trade before moving into the liquor industry and, in latter years, becoming a consultant, mentor and a non-executive director of a variety of companies including AG Barr, Fuller Smith & Turner and Church & Co.
A passionate brand builder, with global experience, James was instrumental in the creation and success of world-leading brands such Malibu, the classic malts, Johnnie Walker Blue Label and Chivas regal 18, amongst others.
In 1988 he was instrumental in the creation of the Keepers of the Quaich, Scotland’s leading whisky society, which honours those who make a contribution to this great industry and chairman at the turn of the century. In June 2013 awarded an OBE for services to the whisky industry in the Queen’s birthday honours list.
In 2008 he launched The Last Drop Distillers, curators of some of the world’s most remarkable aged spirits, which today is owned by us spirits firm Sazerac. James remains the company’s president and global ambassador.
Eldest daughter of James and Celia, the ‘apple did not fall far from the tree’. Beanie has pursued a 15 year career in luxury products and drinks marketing, beginning at leading winery, Gonzales Byass, in the south of Spain where her love of the wine and spirits world was first nurtured.
Returning from 6-months at Gonzalez Byass to complete her degree in Spanish and Italian at Oxford University, Beanie then took up a place on the coveted L’Oreal graduate management programme. Across two stints in London and Hong Kong, Beanie worked for L’Oreal for a total of 6 years, in their luxury products division. Anticipating an eventual return to the wine and spirits world, Beanie completed her WSET levels 2 and 3 at that time.
In between her London and Hong Kong postings, Beanie spent 2 years as group brand manager at luxury fashion and parfum house Chanel, where she managed uk and travel retail for the fragrance division.
Leaving behind the ‘corporate world’, Beanie co-founded a boutique marketing & design agency Made based in Hong Kong in 2011 looking after drinks industry giants, before returning to London in 2014 to take-up her place as joint managing director of her father’s company The Last Drop Distillers. Beanie oversaw the sale of that business to us spirits firm Sazerac in 2016, and remains a strategic consultant to the brand.
Today Beanie is a partner at Espey & Associates, as well as co-founder of next generation sherry brand Xeco Wines, which is the realisation of a 15-year dream since her early time in Spain.
Chrissie, long time friend and PA to James Espey, heralds from Australia where she worked for Royal Doulton & Sungravure. Chrissie moved to the UK in 1975 and worked for the likes of Young & Rubicam, Hill & Knowlton and Shandwick before taking some time out when her son was born.
In 1998, James set up James Espey & associates, bringing Chrissie on board as his PA, providing constant support throughout the past 22 years and counting. Together they operated in a number of areas and including building The Last Drop and starting up Mimecast, through to the next exciting phase of becoming Espey & Associates.
Ben Howkins is a veteran of the international wine industry. The youngest person to be awarded the Vintners’ Scholarship, he spent several decades in marketing management at IDV, the powerhouse behind Diageo. Ben then became a director of Taylor’s Port, co founded Royal Tokaji, set up Waddesdon Wine Cellars under the guidance of Lord Rothschild, became a director of Last Drop Distillers and an advisor to Xeco. He is a past trustee of WSET and a liveryman of the Vintners Company. Ben has written three books on wine. The latest, Sherry, ‘Maligned, Misunderstood, Magnificent!’ published in 2019 by the Academie du Vin library has been much acclaimed.