Raise a Glass: Celebrating Women in the Spirits Industry

by
September 27, 2018

The spirits industry looks quite different today than it did even a decade ago. Women are spirits educators, writers, buyers, bartenders, bar owners, brand ambassadors, brand managers, brand owners, distillery managers and even distillery owners. In fact, in just the last few years, the number of female master distillers and blenders has exploded. Women no longer just consume spirits, we make them.

In recognition of women’s efforts and successes in the spirits industry, I put together a small collection of fine spirits, all made by women. Let’s all raise a glass!

WHISKEY

Compass Box Hedonism, The Muse
Jill Boyd, whisky maker

Launched on March 8, 2018 in celebration of International Women’s Day, this limited edition release displays the woman who was featured on their initial Hedonism release nearly two decades prior. That was the first time a woman was featured on a scotch whisky bottle. The Muse was created with the assistance of Jill Boyd, the first female whisky maker in the company’s history, who joined the team in January 2017.

Also of note is the ABV. Bottled at 53.3% ABV, this number reflects the percentage of women in the Compass Box business today.  Suggested retail price (SRP) $275.

Spirits Industry Women: Jill BoydJill Boyd / Photo Credit: Compass Box

Dewar’s 25 Year
Stephanie MacLeod, master blender

This bottling was created by John Dewar & Sons master blender, Stephanie MacLeod. She is the first female to hold this title in the company’s history, and only the seventh person overall. To create this whiskey MacLeod blended malt and grain whiskies which were aged at least 25 years. Next, the whisky was placed into oak casks to marry for a time. Lastly, the whisky was transferred to freshly-emptied Royal Brackla single malt barrels to finish the maturation process. The whisky was first made available for global travel retail in October 2017 and rolled out to other key global markets shortly afterwards. SRP $225.

Spirits Industry Women: Stephanie MacLeodStephanie MacLeod / Photo Credit: Dewar’s

BenRiach 21 Year
Rachel Barrie, whisky maker

As of early 2017 Rachel Barrie is the whisky maker for BenRiach Distillery Company, which sees BenRiach, Glenglassaugh and GlenDronach under its umbrella. Prior to that she was the master blender for the Morrison Bowmore Distillers, and before that she worked at Glenmorangie. In other words, she is experienced.

Despite her short time with BenRiach, she has already had her hand in several whiskies for the group. Blended by Barrie, this 21 year consists of whiskies which aged in four different types of casks: bourbon, virgin American oak, Pedro Ximenez sherry, and red wine. This is an unpeated whisky bottled at 46% ABV. Released December 2017. SRP $168.

Spirits Industry Women: Rachel BarrieRachel Barrie / Photo Credit: BenRiach

Johnnie Walker Blenders’ Batch Wine Cask Blend
Aimée Gibson, blender

Created by Johnnie Walker blender Aimée Gibson, this release blends whiskies aged in wine casks which were filled over 10 years ago. It incorporates whisky distilled at both Cameronbridge and Clynelish. Bottled at 40% ABV, it was released to global markets in September 2017. SRP $29.99.

Spirits Industry Women: Aimée GibsonAimée Gibson / Photo Credit: Johnnie Walker

RUM

Appleton Estate Joy Anniversary Blend
Joy Spence, master blender

Joy Spence joined Appleton Estate in 1981 as chief chemist, and in 1997 became the first woman to hold the position of master blender in the spirits industry. This Anniversary Blend was released in March of 2017 in celebration of her 20th anniversary in that position. This is a 25 year-old rum, which includes some 35 year-old rum in the blend. Also of note, the bottling includes two rums of significance to Spence: rum from her first year with Appleton (1981) and rum from her favorite marque of pot-still rum. SRP $250.

Spirits Industry Women: Joy SpenceJoy Spence / Photo Credit: Appleton Estate

Ron Zacapa Centenario Rum XO
Lorena Vásquez, master blender

Lorena Vásquez first joined Zacapa in 1991, working in the quality control department. She is given credit for improving the brand’s solera system and she developed both Zacapa 23 and the lesser known XO. This rum is aged in a solera system using a variety of barrels ranging in age from 6-23 years, utilizing ex-bourbon, ex-oloroso sherry, and ex-Pedro Ximenez sherry casks. Lastly, the rum is finished its maturation in ex-cognac barrels for an additional year. SRP $100.

Spirits Industry Women: Lorena VásquezLorena Vásquez / Photo Credit: Ron Zacapa

BRANDY

Macchu Pisco
Melanie Asher, master distiller & blender

Founded in 2005, the Macchu Pisco company is the first export pisco company to be launched by a woman. La Diablada and Nusta are also made here, but you should start with the namesake pisco. Distilled using only non-aromatic quebranta grapes, it rests from 3 months to up to a year in non-wood containers before bottling. Approximately 10 pounds of grapes go into making each bottle. SRP $25.

Spirits Industry Women: Melanie AsherMelanie Asher / Photo Credit: Macchu Pisco

TEQUILA

Volcán De Mi Tierra Cristalino Tequila
Anna María Romero Mena, master distiller

Using only Tequila Valley (Lowlands) agave, the production for the tequila is overseen by master distiller Anna María Romero Mena. It’s made from a blend of añejo tequila, which ages in former whisky casks and extra añejo tequila, which aged in former Cognac barrels. After aging, the liquid remains separated while the color is removed. Before blending, the añejo and extra añejo tequilas are finished with a cask wash in the barrel they were aged in. Meaning “land of the volcano”, this tequila is a joint venture between Moët Hennessy and the Gallardo family. Released May 2017 in select US markets. SRP $70.

Spirits Industry Women: Anna María Romero MenaAnna María Romero Mena / Photo Credit: Volcán

GIN

Hendrick’s Gin
Lesley Gracie, master distiller

Lesley Gracie joined William Grant & Sons in 1988 and has been employed there ever since. In 1999, she created Hendrick’s Gin along with the late Charles Gordon. This Scottish rose and cucumber flavored gin became an instant classic. In addition to her duties overseeing the gin’s production, which includes sourcing the botanicals, she also heads the New Liquid Development Team. SRP $35.

Spirits Industry Women: Lesley GracieLesley Gracie / Photo Credit: Hendrick’s Gin

VODKA

Hangar 1 Rosé Vodka
Caley Shoemaker, head distiller

Hangar 1, based in California, makes several flavored vodkas, but we’re recommending their latest Rosé offering. Created by Caley Shoemaker, head distiller, this release uses real California rosé wine to flavor their classic vodka, made from Midwest grains and wine grapes. SRP $32.

Spirits Industry Women: Caley ShoemakerCaley Shoemaker / Photo Credit: Hangar 1

Of course, we hope you know that this is just a drop in the bucket. In fact, there are many more we could list. Not to mention all the spirits that are still forthcoming. Announcements naming women to blender and distiller positions are popping up all the time; and we can’t wait to see what they create. Congratulations, ladies!


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