The whisky industry has historically been male-dominated, but in recent years, there has been a significant increase in the number of women working in all areas of the industry, from production and distilling to marketing and brand management.
Women have been involved in whisky production for centuries, from the women who worked as maltsters and mashers in early distilleries to modern-day master distillers and blenders. In fact, some of the most famous whisky brands in the world have been created by women, such as Helen Cumming, who founded Cardhu distillery in Scotland in 1811, and Bessie Williamson, who managed Laphroaig distillery on the island of Islay from the 1950s to the 1970s.
Today, there are many women working in the whisky industry, including distillers, blenders, brand ambassadors, and marketers. Some notable examples include Rachel Barrie, the master blender for BenRiach, GlenDronach, and Glenglassaugh distilleries; Heather Greene, a whisky consultant and author; and Dr. Kirstie McCallum, the master blender for Distell International, which owns Bunnahabhain, Deanston, and Tobermory distilleries. There is also Annabel Thomas, the Founder and CEO of Nc’nean.
Despite the progress made, there is still a long way to go to achieve gender equality in the whisky industry. Many women still face discrimination and bias, and there are still relatively few women in top leadership positions. However, the increasing visibility of women in the industry is helping to break down stereotypes and encourage more women to consider careers in whisky production and related fields.
Women In The Whisky Industry
There are many women who have made significant contributions to the whisky world, both historically and in the present day. Here are a few notable examples:
- Helen Cumming was a Scottish whisky distiller and co-founder of the Cardhu Distillery, who played a key role in establishing the brand's reputation as a high-quality single malt Scotch and paved the way for other female distillers and whisky makers to follow in her footsteps.
- Bessie Williamson is credited for helping to make Laphroaig a significant participant in the whiskey business during her tenure as manager of the distillery on the Island of Islay from 1954 to 1972.
- Rachel Barrie, who has worked for a number of distilleries and blending companies, including Glenmorangie, Bowmore, and Morrison Bowmore, is the first female master blender of a Scotch whiskey firm.
- Author, consultant, and well-known whiskey instructor Heather Greene has over ten years of experience in the field. She is the author of "Whiskey Distilled: A Populist Guide to the Water of Life" and has participated in a number of campaigns to raise awareness of and educate people about whiskey.
- Master blender Dr. Kirstie McCallum has worked with a number of distilleries, including Balblair and Bunnahabhain. She is renowned for paying close attention to every last detail and for producing whiskies with taste profiles that are both rich and subtle.
- Annabel Thomas is the creator and CEO of Nc'nean Distillery, which uses sustainable and ecologically friendly practices to make organic single malt whiskey. She is a strong proponent of more diversity and sustainability in the sector.
- Stephanie Macleod is a prominent whisky blender and master blender known for her expertise in creating and blending complex and nuanced whiskies and her commitment to diversity and inclusion in the whisky industry.
These women are only a small sampling of the several other accomplished and powerful women who have left their mark on the whiskey industry.
About Helen Cumming
The Cardhu Distillery in Speyside, Scotland, was co-founded by Scottish whiskey maker Helen Cumming. She founded the distillery in 1824 alongside her husband, John Cumming, and the two collaborated to create and promote their single malt Scotch whiskey.
Helen was well-known for her proficiency in all facets of whiskey production, from malting and mashing to distillation and aging, and she was a crucial contributor to the Cardhu Distillery's success. She was also active in the promotion and sale of Cardhu whiskey, and she played a significant role in building the brand's recognition as a premium single malt Scotch.
Given that the whiskey business at the time Helen worked in was predominantly male, her achievements were particularly notable. She cleared the road for other female distillers and whiskey producers to follow in her footsteps as a trailblazer for women in the business.
Today, the Cardhu Distillery is still in business and makes fine single malt Scotch whiskies that are appreciated by whiskey connoisseurs all over the world. Helen Cumming was a pioneer in the whisky business as well as a reputable distiller and entrepreneur.
About Bessie Williamson
Bessie Williamson (1910–1983) was a trailblazing female in the Scotch whiskey industry. Her position as managing director of the Laphroaig Distillery on the island of Islay, one of the most renowned and admired Scotch whiskey companies in the world, is what makes her most well-known.
Scottish native Williamson, who was born in Glasgow, began her career as a nurse before joining the whisky business in 1934 as a secretary at Laphroaig Distillery. Before taking over as manager in 1954, she swiftly progressed through the ranks to become the distillery's assistant manager in 1950.
Williamson was a skillful and forceful leader who was instrumental in making Laphroaig a significant participant in the whisky business. The distillery flourished under her direction, earning praise and honors for its characteristic peaty flavor.
Williamson's innovative effort in introducing Laphroaig to the US market was one of her most important contributions to the whiskey industry. Early on, she saw the potential of the US market and worked assiduously to build the Laphroaig brand there. This helped to secure its position as a significant participant in the worldwide whiskey market.
In a time when women are underrepresented in the workforce, it is important to recognize the contributions of women in the workplace. After retiring in 1972, she kept working in the field until her death in 1983. She continues to inspire many and has a lasting reputation as a leading woman in the whisky business.
About Rachel Barrie
In the whiskey industry, Rachel Barrie is well-known for her skill as a master mixer. She has over 27 years of experience in the whiskey business and has contributed to the manufacture of some of the most renowned whiskies in the world.
Working as a research scientist at the Scotch Whisky Research Institute, Barrie started her career in the whiskey business in 1991. Afterwards, she worked as a mixer for Morrison Bowmore Distillers (now a division of Beam Suntory), where she worked on the Bowmore, Auchentoshan, and Glen Garioch brands.
At the distilleries controlled by the Brown-Forman Corporation, BenRiach, GlenDronach, and Glenglassaugh, Barrie was named master blender in 2017. She is in charge of managing all aspects of the single malt whisky production for the brands, from choosing barrels to developing new expressions.
Barrie is considered as one of the top specialists in the field and has received various honors for her contributions. She has also received recognition for her work in the sector, including induction into the esteemed organization known as Keepers of the Quaich, which celebrates people who have made noteworthy contributions to the whiskey sector.
In addition to her employment as a master blender, Barrie is a fervent supporter of the business and actively participates in several campaigns to advertise Scotch whisky all over the world. She is also in demand as a speaker and has contributed her knowledge and thoughts at several gatherings and conferences.
About Heather Greene
In the whiskey industry, Heather Greene is a well-known personality who is respected for her skills as an author, consultant, and instructor. She has more than ten years of experience in the whiskey business and has participated in a number of campaigns to raise awareness of and educate consumers about whisky.
As the sommelier and head of whiskey education at The Flatiron Room in New York City, Greene started her career in the whisky business. She eventually went on to become the first woman to serve whiskey at the renowned Le Bernardin restaurant, which is owned by LVMH.
"Whiskey Distilled: A Populist Guide to the Water of Life," Greene's debut book, was released in 2013 and received positive reviews for its approachable and entertaining whiskey instruction. The book has been frequently cited by whiskey fans and business experts after winning several accolades.
As the director of whiskey education at The Flatiron Room's Whiskey School, Greene has also been involved in a number of projects to market and teach people about whisky, including co-founding the Whiskey Marketing School, a program for whiskey brand ambassadors.
In addition to her job in the whiskey industry, Greene is a fervent supporter of diversity and gender equality. As a mentor for the Women's Distillery Guild, an organization that assists women in the spirits sector, she has participated in several projects to encourage and promote women in the industry.
All things considered, Greene's work has had a big influence on the whiskey business, both in terms of promoting and teaching people about whisky and pushing for more diversity and inclusion.
About Dr. Kirstie McCallum
The whiskey industry holds Dr. Kirstie McCallum in high regard for her skill as a master mixer. She has been a part of the production of some of the most renowned whiskies in the world for more than 15 years.
Inver House Distillers hired McCallum as a quality control analyst in 2004 to start her career in the whiskey business. Later, she rose to the position of distillery manager at Balblair Distillery, where she was in charge of all elements of production. At Distell International, which owns the distilleries Bunnahabhain, Deanston, and Tobermory, she has also served as a master blender.
McCallum is in charge of monitoring the production of the single malt whiskies for the companies, from choosing barrels to coming up with new expressions. She is renowned for paying close attention to every last detail and for producing whiskies with taste profiles that are both rich and subtle.
McCallum is a fervent supporter of the whiskey industry and has taken part in several campaigns to raise awareness of and educate consumers about whisky. She frequently speaks at gatherings and conferences and is well-known for her knowledge and perceptions.
Together with her role as a master blender, McCallum is a strong proponent of more inclusion and diversity in the whiskey sector. She has advocated for the inclusion of more women and people of color in the business and has taken part in several campaigns to assist and advance marginalized groups.
Overall, McCallum's contributions to the whiskey business have been enormous, both in terms of the whiskies she has produced and her support for more diversity and inclusion.
About Annabel Thomas
As the creator and CEO of the Scottish whiskey distillery Nc'nean, which focuses on sustainability and innovation, Annabel Thomas is a well-known personality in the spirits industry. She also speaks out strongly in favor of more diversity and sustainability in the sector.
As a brand manager at Diageo, Thomas started her career in the drinks sector, working on brands like Guinness and Smirnoff. Afterwards, she worked for a number of other liquor firms, including the upscale tequila brand Patrón.
Thomas established Nc'nean Distillery in 2013, taking its name from a local lake. This distillery uses sustainable and ecologically friendly practices to create organic single malt whiskey. The distillery employs organic Scotland barley and nearby spring water and is powered by renewable energy.
Thomas is a strong proponent of more diversity and sustainability in the sector. She has advocated for the need for more environmentally friendly methods of producing spirits and has taken part in several campaigns to advance sustainability in the sector.
Thomas is also a fervent supporter of more inclusion and diversity in the sector. She has advocated for the inclusion of more women and people of color in leadership roles and has taken part in a number of programs to help and advance underrepresented groups.
The creative and sustainable techniques Thomas implemented at Nc'nean Distillery and her advocacy for more diversity and inclusion have all had a significant influence on the spirits sector.
About Stephanie Macleod
Scotland-based Stephanie Macleod is a well-known whiskey mixer and master blender. She is presently the Master Blender at John Dewar & Sons, where she is in charge of developing and mixing some of the most well-known whiskies in the world, including Dewar's blended Scotch whiskey. She has more than 20 years of expertise in the field.
In 1998, Macleod started working in the whiskey sector as a Quality Control Analyst for the Glenmorangie Corporation. She advanced fast through the ranks and was appointed master blender of Glenmorangie in 2007 before transferring to her present position at John Dewar & Sons in 2019.
For her skill as a blender, Macleod has received several honors, including the Master Blender of the Year trophy at the 2020 International Whisky Competition. She is renowned for her skill in mixing intricate and subtle whiskies as well as her creative approach to making whiskey.
A strong supporter of diversity and inclusion in the whiskey business in addition to her job as a blender, Macleod has made public statements about the need for more women and people of color to be represented in the industry.
Overall, Stephanie Macleod is a highly regarded and significant player in the whiskey blending industry who is renowned for her knowledge, creative thinking, and dedication to diversity and inclusion.
Women Writers, Bloggers, and Editors
Several female whiskey writers, bloggers, and editors have significant positions in the industry. These are a few noteworthy instances:
Becky Paskin is a journalist and editor who specializes in writing about whiskey. She has contributed to magazines including Whisky Advocate, Imbibe, and The Spirits Industry. She is also a founding member of OurWhisky, an initiative to advance inclusion and diversity in the whiskey sector.
Drinks writer and editor Alice Lascelles has contributed to the Financial Times, Imbibe, and The Guardian, among other publications. Ten Cocktails: The Art of Convivial Drinking, another book by her, is also available.
Susannah Skiver Barton - Barton is a whiskey writer and editor who has written for magazines such as Whisky Advocate, Wine Enthusiast, and PUNCH. She co-hosts the podcast "The Spirit Guide Society" as well.
Writer and consultant Johanne McInnis has contributed to publications including Whisky Advocate and the Canadian Whisky Awards. Also, she is the creator of the whiskey review, tasting note, and business news website Whisky Lassie.
Food and drink author Rachel McCormack has contributed to newspapers including The Telegraph and The Guardian. She is also the author of "Chasing the Dram: Discovering the Spirit of Whisky," a book that examines the background and traditions of Scottish whiskey.
About Becky Paskin
Famous whisky journalist, editor, and presenter Becky Paskin is renowned for her efforts advancing inclusion and diversity in the whisky business. She has contributed articles to journals including Whisky Advocate, Imbibe, and The Spirits Business and served as a judge at a number of whisky events.
An initiative called OurWhisky, which aims to encourage inclusiveness and diversity in the whiskey business, was co-founded by Paskin. OurWhisky aims to promote greater inclusion and representation at all levels of the industry while also bringing attention to the contributions made by women and other underrepresented groups.
Paskin is a presenter and judge at whiskey events all around the world in addition to her work as a writer and an advocate for diversity in the whisky business. She has served as a judge for contests like the World Whiskies Awards and the International Spirits Competition as well as presented tastings and events for companies like Diageo, Glenfiddich, and The Macallan.
Becky Paskin is a reputable voice in the whiskey industry who is renowned for her knowledge, support of diversity and inclusion, and entertaining presentations and events.
About Alice Lascelles
A well-known drinks author and editor located in London, UK, is Alice Lascelles. She is well renowned for her knowledge of the world of spirits, especially whiskey, and has written for a number of publications, including the Financial Times, Imbibe, and The Guardian.
For her writing, Lascelles has received several honors, including the Fortnum & Mason Drink Writer of the Year award in 2016. The author of "Ten Cocktails: The Art of Convivial Drinking," which examines the background and culture of the cocktail, she has also contributed to works on spirits and cocktails.
In addition to her writing, Lascelles is a popular lecturer and presenter at conferences and events including alcohol. She has served as a presenter for events and tastings for companies like Johnnie Walker and Glenfiddich, as well as a guest on several radio and television shows.
In the field of drinks journalism, Alice Lascelles is regarded and influential and is renowned for her knowledge, compelling writing, and entertaining presentations.
About Susannah Skiver Barton
A well-known whiskey author, editor, and consultant living in New York City is Susannah Skiver Barton. She is well renowned for her knowledge of the world of spirits, particularly whiskey, and has written for a number of magazines, including Whisky Advocate, Wine Enthusiast, and PUNCH.
In addition, Barton co-hosts the Spirit Guide Society podcast, which features conversations with tastemakers and industry insiders to explore the world of spirits and cocktails. She also has judged at a number of spirits contests and is a regular speaker and panelist at conferences and events centered around whiskey.
For her work, Barton has received several honors, including the 2018 Tales of the Cocktail Spirited Award for Best Cocktail and Spirits Writer. She has also been recognized as one of the "Imbibe 75" influencers in the beverage industry by Imbibe Magazine.
Essentially, Susannah Skiver Barton is a reputable and significant voice in the whiskey journalism community, recognized for her knowledge, engrossing writing style, and insightful observations on the sector.
About Johanne McInnis
The Whisky Lassie, also known as Johanne McInnis, is a well-known whiskey author, consultant, and educator from Montreal, Canada. She has written for a number of publications, including Whisky Magazine, Distiller Magazine, and Canadian Whisky, and is well recognized for her enthusiasm for and knowledge of the whiskey industry.
McInnis has also presented events and tastings for companies including The Macallan, Glenfiddich, and Highland Park. He is a well-liked speaker and presenter at conferences and events devoted to whiskey. She is also a member of the elite group of whiskey industry experts known as the Keepers of the Quaich and a qualified sommelier.
McInnis founded the whiskey education and consultancy business Whisky & Words in addition to her job as a writer and presenter. The business provides a range of services, such as employee training, corporate events, and private tastings.
Altogether, Johanne McInnis is a renowned and significant player in the whiskey world, known for her knowledge, captivating presentations, and fervent support for the sector.
About Rachel McCormack
A well-known food and drink presenter, broadcaster, and writer from the UK is named Rachel McCormack. She is renowned for her culinary prowess in traditional Spanish and Scottish fare as well as her love of whiskey.
McCormack has contributed articles to a number of publications, including as The Guardian, The Financial Times, and The Scotsman. He has also served as a guest on a number of radio and television shows, such as The Food Programme on BBC Radio 4 and Sunday Brunch on Channel 4.
Together with her writing and broadcasting work, McCormack is a well-known speaker and presenter at festivals and events celebrating food and drink. She has also conducted tastings and events for companies including The Balvenie and Lagavulin.
For her writing on Spanish cuisine and culture, McCormack was honored with the 2018 Fortnum & Mason Food and Drink Writer of the Year award.
In the realm of food and drink journalism, Rachel McCormack is a well-liked and significant figure who is renowned for her knowledge, engrossing writing, and entertaining presentations.