Seamus May is a copywriter at Liquor Loot, a custom curated, monthly subscription, gin and whisky tasting service.
1) To kick things off, could you tell us a little about your career background and current role?
Ever since I was little, I’ve been fascinated by spirits and cocktails.
As a child they seemed to me the height of adult sophistication, and I remember poring over the luridly coloured cocktail books (now, doubtless laughably outdated) in my grandparents’ house.
Since then, my career has perhaps taken an unusual route. One of my other great interests was literature, and I initially pursued academia, eventually completing a PhD on the Irish author James Joyce.
It was during my student years I first began working in bars in Liverpool and London, which shook any preconceived notions about the romance of bartending out of me. Around this time, I also began writing about whisky. Eventually, I was approached by a retailer, who suggested I make my hobby a profession, and I agreed!
My partner is Australian, and a move Down Under came in 2019. Following a lockdown-induced exile of 9 months back in the UK, I applied for the job at Liquor Loot in my hotel quarantine, back in November, 2020.
Technically, my position is “Spirits Marketing Coordinator” – but most of my job is spent writing. I am responsible for nearly all written content at Liquor Loot: and there is plenty of it! Education and storytelling is a huge part of what we do, with each spirit we carry needing tasting notes, descriptions and a backstory.
At Liquor Loot, we also try to provide as much “value-added content” for our subscribers as possible, which means blog articles, cocktail recipes, video scripts, newsletters, etc.
2) What does a day in the life look like for you? Can you take us through a recent workday?
Pre-lockdown, I’d usually get to the office between 9–9:30 AM. Sometimes earlier, if I get a lift in with our wonderful Customer Service Lead, Lauren, who I am very lucky to live around the corner from.
Otherwise, it’s a walk and a train ride for me – growing up in London followed by a somewhat itinerant couple of years means I’m still on my L-plates, something that horrifies the Aussies I know. But I value these walks greatly as a time to call friends and family back home, or just to clear the head.
Once at the office, it’s a case of priorities. Emails have a set time to go out, and we produce a lot of printed materials which have hard deadlines. Given the dynamic nature of our work, things can often change at short notice, and most days I am assigned a copy task to complete swiftly.
After I’ve got across these duties, I’ll handle the longer term projects: producing long-form blog copy, refreshing content on the website and assisting the Social team with copy for the month ahead. There’s also nearly always a new spirit to taste and write notes for – a tough job!
Then, if I can find time, I will research spirits and products – as I said earlier, education and accuracy are of paramount importance at Liquor Loot, so it’s crucial to get the details right. It also helps to create new angles and ways of framing a product.
For example: I recently discovered that a South African gin we carry has similar botanicals to a traditional regional healing tea. Little nuggets of information like this can make all the difference when it comes to connecting with customers.
Occasionally, we’ll have tasting panels where the team selects our next single barrel pick. Recently, we worked with Starward Distillery to bottle a delicious French oak red wine cask Whisky Loot exclusive single barrel. This is another hard part of the job!
Once I am home, I’ll often work on some freelance writing in the evening – not the best on the work-life balance front, but diversifying my writing is important to me.
3) Does your current role allow for flexible or remote working? If so, how does that fit into your life and routine?
To a certain extent, yes. Much of my job can be done remotely, but there’s no replacement for tasting whisky, so that requires me to be close at hand with glass in hand. We also have quite an ideas-driven office, and Zoom calls don’t quite replace the natural ebb and flow of conversation.
I’ll try to take one day working from home a week, particularly if there’s a big writing project that I know will absorb my focus for the day. Then, there are no distractions.
I tend to bounce around the house a little bit just for a change of scene – I’ve read that Charles Dickens had different desks dotted all over that he would move between during the day, and well, if it worked for him.
4) What does work-life balance mean to you and how do you work to achieve that goal?
My partner is currently studying medicine and on placement, meaning I only see her at weekends. I cherish what little time we have together, so it’s important to set aside work by Friday evening, which requires me methodically working through tasks throughout the week so I’m all done by the weekend. I’ll allow myself a “head’s up” on the week ahead on Sunday evenings though.
5) In the past 12 months, have you started or stopped any routines or habits to change your life?
After I completed the PhD in March 2020, the thought of reading anything longer than a takeaway menu filled me with dread, but I have gradually rediscovered my love of reading. These days I make sure to have some time each evening to sit with a book.
I enjoy reading, of course, and find it relaxing, but I think it’s also crucial for people in my line of work. There are few good writers who aren’t good readers.
6) Do you have any favourite books, podcasts or newsletters that you’d like to recommend?
A timely question!
I recently finished Who Gets To Be Smart, by Bri Lee, an eye-opening look at the vast inequalities at the heart of Australian education.
As for fiction, a novel that has lingered with me over the past few months is Megan Nolan’s Acts of Desperation, which details the history of a toxic relationship from the perspective of a young woman. Relentlessly honest, the style of this novel is somewhat similar to the excellent personal essays Megan writes for The New Statesman, and is thoroughly arresting.
I’d always have to put a word in for James Joyce, who is more accessible than his reputation suggests. Dubliners, particularly, is a masterful collection of short stories that remains acutely relevant to modern urban life, over a century after its publication.
Gimlet Media’s new podcast Crime Show might appear like just another true crime series, but it tells quirky, unusual stories (a recent episode focussed on the theft of Judy Garland’s ruby slippers) that are refreshing in this contested category.
Other than that, one of the things I miss most living in Australia is football (soccer) culture, and Irish sports podcast The Second Captains kept me in touch and amused during the Euros.
7) Are there any products, gadgets or apps that you can’t live without?
I’m a lifelong insomniac, and on the recommendation of my partner, recently downloaded a White Noise app. It has changed my life.
8) If you could read an interview about work-life balance by anyone, who would that be?
Jurgen Klopp, the manager of my beloved soccer team, Liverpool F.C.
How do you sleep? How do you manage the pressure? When do you draw the line on work? When are you going to buy another striker?!
9) Do you have any last thoughts on work, life or balance that you’d like to share with our readers?
There are few things more irritating than catch-all platitudes, but I will say: if you can, switch off your phone and go for a walk.
Before you go…
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