As the Whiskey Network continues to champion women in whiskey, shaping the global whiskey market in their day-to-day professional activities, this month we’re excited to feature Becky Paskin, Founder of OurWhisky Foundation. This non-profit was established to recognize, support and empower these women while promoting a supportive culture amongst the worldwide whiskey enthusiasts community.
Growing up on the south coast of England, in a small town near Brighton, known more for its seaside attraction of the pebble beach and marina, Becky wasn’t exposed to whiskey until she became an adult.
Her initial interest was in acting (fun fact: she once performed for the Queen in a grade school play), and at university focused on studying filmmaking and its storytelling aspect. Post graduation, she pivoted to journalism and ended up at Big Hospitality (now Restaurant Mag), a digital industry magazine focused on the bar and restaurant sector in the United Kingdom.
Having worked as a bartender and a restaurant manager during university, which required a cheesy dance routine to Mustang Sally, it was interesting for Becky to be on the editorial side of the industry. She ended up working freelance on food, drink, and travel projects. One of them included The World’s 50 Best Restaurants, a challenge as she was a vegetarian and couldn’t thoroughly enjoy the related dinners made by world-renowned chefs.
Becky then took a sabbatical, journeying across Australia, New Zealand, Asia, and America. Upon her return home, she was offered the job of Deputy Editor for The Spirits Business. It was here that she discovered her love for whiskey, especially Scotch. Its rich history spoke to her first love of background and storytelling. This was a print publication, and she was promoted to Editor after overhauling their website, establishing it as the world’s number two drinks website.
Then at a tasting, she was approached by Sukhinder Singh, co-founder and co-owner of The Whisky Exchange, the largest online retailer of whiskeys and fine spirits, to help launch the website, scotchwhisky.com .
However, as Becky’s career started to flourish, she started to realize that the stereotype of whiskey as only a ”man’s drink” was affecting not just her but other women in the industry. So in 2018, she teamed up with Georgie Bell, the then Global Malts Ambassador for Bacardi, to help launch the #OurWhisky social media campaign, breaking the traditional stereotype of a whiskey drinker across Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook.
The next step after the social media campaign to create awareness was action. Becky decided to act on their message by taking a bilateral approach to changing the whiskey industry through both the consumer community and the industry side.
The UK based OurWhisky monthly subscription was launched featuring samples sent for a live-streamed tasting, hosted by the whiskey makers. Packaging is recyclable or biodegradable and a percentage of profits are donated.
Then scotchwhisky.com had to shutter and Becky pivoted again to a majority of her efforts towards a charitable foundation.
The OurWhisky Foundation was launched to recognize, empower, and support women in whiskey through collaboration with the global whiskey community.
Georgie transitioned from day-to-day operations support to supporting the initiative through her promotion at Bacardi first to Head of Advocacy, then Global advocacy. Millie Milliken, an established hospitality veteran, stepped in as Head of Content and to head up their mentorship program.
Their mentorship program is the only one in the world open to all ages of global applicants, who identify as female or non-binary, pursuing a career or advancement in the whiskey profession. Each mentee is matched to a mentor who meets with them one-on-one, either in-person or virtually. There is no charge as the mentors donate their time.
This will be the third iteration. Becky stated that they take 50 candidates from a pool of 150+applicants from around the world from the US to Japan.
Their mentor roster is a global Who’s Who in Whiskey spanning founders, distillers, blenders, ambassadors, and bottle shop/bar owners of women AND men. The roster includes past Whiskey Network guests Elizabeth McCall (Master Distiller, Woodford Reserve), Louise McGuane (J.J. Corry), and Jackie Zykan (Master Blender, Hidden Barn Whiskey).
Their 2023 edition also includes new aspects such as
The Power Room: a confidence building short course from coach Lucy Cox (The Academe)
Additional sessions addressing topics such as personal branding and presentation skills
Establishment of a worldwide network of the mentees
One of their other unique projects is the The Modern Face of Whisky, a photography series created in partnership with producers, including Glenfiddich, Bacardi, Beam Suntory, Distill Ventures, The Glenlivet, Brown-Forman, Whyte & Mackay, Glenmorangie, Diageo, Heaven Hill and Edrington. This ongoing project provided free-to-use, unbranded stock photography depicting women and people of all genders, races, ages and sexualities, enjoying a variety of whiskies. These are free to use by media and content creators. (They only ask that you credit the photography and follow the guidelines.)
Becky’s Cocktail of Choice: Bobby Burns
- 1 Part Scotch
- 1 Part Sweet Vermouth
- 2-3 dashes of Bénédictine
- Garnish: Lemon twist or lemon peel
- Tools: Mixing glass (optional), barspoon
Glassware: Rocks or Old-Fashioned glass
Feel free to mix ingredients in a mixing glass then strain into the glass with a large ice cube or build in glass over ice then stir until chilled (about 15 seconds).
Garnish with twist or lemon peel (expressing oils if choosing the peel.)