Historically considered a ‘man’s world’, the whisky industry is finally redressing its gender imbalance with a new approach to marketing and a far more inclusive mindset. It is estimated that around 35% of whisky drinkers today are female and as more women discover the joys of drinking whisky, an increasing number are entering the industry professionally too.
From production and marketing to distilling and distribution, there are more women working across the whisky industry than ever before. And they’re not here to follow in any man’s footsteps, they’re doing things their way – innovating and pioneering change within an industry that has been stuck in the past for far too long. There are countless women shaking things up in the whisky world; let us introduce you to five who are leading the charge with their very own brands.
Table of Contents
Big Nose Kate
Inspired by the outlaw spirit of Doc Holliday’s feisty partner, Big Nose Kate Western Whiskey is a first-of-its-kind blend of straight American Rye Whiskey and American Single Malt. As co-founder and master blender behind the Santa Fe- based brand, Mel Heim is one of the first ever female head distillers and blenders west of the Mississippi, as well as one of the youngest. Another noteworthy ‘Mel’ in the team is actress Melissa McCarthy, who is “Chief Whiskey Drinker” and a partner in the business, along with husband Ben Falcone.
Made with malted barley grown in Cognac, Brenne is an organic single malt whisky and the world’s first to be aged in both French Limousin Oak barrels and Cognac casks. Owner and founder Allison Parc is a former ballerina who teamed up with a French master-distiller to turn her passion for whisky into an innovative brand which launched in her native New York in 2012.
Cardrona Single Malt Whisky is produced by an all-female distilling team with pure Alpine water sourced from the heart of Mount Cardrona, in New Zealand’s Southern Alps. Distillery founder Desiree Reid spent years researching distillation and the crafting of great spirits before selling her family’s farming business to launch Cardrona Distillery in 2013. Since then, her rich, sweet single malt has been lauded by whisky fans across the globe, even winning two prestigious World Whisky Awards – a great achievement for such a young whisky.
Inspired by the newfound tale of the first African-American distiller, Uncle Nearest is the fastest-growing independent American whiskey brand in history. It was founded by entrepreneur Fawn Weaver, the first black woman to run a major whiskey brand, who appointed the great great granddaughter of Uncle Nearest himself to oversee blending. The impressive Victoria Eady Butler was the first female ever to win Master Blender of the Year at Whisky Magazine’s American Icons of Whisky Awards in 2021. In 2022, she became the first person to receive the honour two years in a row.
As modern whiskey bonders, JJ Corry has a diverse library of Irish whiskey created by selecting interesting spirits from Ireland’s many distilleries then ageing and blending them to create unique flavours. Named for a local man who created Irish whiskey in the 1800s, J.J. Corry was actually founded by a woman. After two decades working in the drinks industry, Louise McGuane returned home in 2015, to resurrect the lost art of Irish Whiskey Bonding on her father’s farm in County Clare. Her rackhouse is now home to several hundred casks of sleeping Irish whiskey.