women in whiskey
Covering both the science of distilling and the history of women in whiskey is less like a boring lesson and more like a great conversation over whiskey.
In the beginning
It was a cold and rainy autumn day in Glasgow when I found myself in an Uber en route to Dalmuir. My plan had been to take the train from Charing Cross Station was thwarted by a torrential downpour. Upon arrival, I found out everyone else had cancelled their bookings; this turned out to be a treat since I would now be led on a “private tour” by Mahj, my tour guide.
Covering both the science of distilling and the history of Auchentoshan whisky, it felt less like a boring lesson and more like a great conversation over whiskey. Mahj was extremely knowledgeable and passionate and we chatted about the shared frustration of people’s perception that only men drink whiskey. For Mahj, there was an added another level of frustration as an industry professional.
And yet, it had only been a year since Beam Suntory had revealed their “Whiskey and Women” research project findings attributing 30% of their growth to women. You may be familiar with Mila Kunis as the face (quite literally) of the Jim Beam’s Make History™ ads, their first global campaign targeting the U.S., Australia, and Germany. This was the brainchild of Rebecca Messina, Senior Vice President and global Chief Marketing Officer for Beam Suntory.
Numerous articles usually mention the growth of U.S. female whiskey drinks as 15 percent in the 90’s to 37 percent today. And long before Mila, there was Margaret Thatcher, the Iron Lady herself, enjoying a Scotch & Soda at the bar in the House of Commons. (It was reputed that Bell’s was her favorite Scotch.) Female focused whiskey events abound and groups like Women Who Whiskey, founded in 2011 by Julia Ritz-Toffoli boasts 10,000 members in 26 chapters across the U.S., the U.K., Canada, Europe, and Africa.
But what about the Women IN Whiskey? As we launch this new column, we look forward to showcase the accomplishments that have helped to shape the whiskey industry and continue to do so today.
Two years before my Scotland trip on a cold and not rainy at all evening in New York City I attended the launch party for Fred Minnick’s book, Whiskey Women: The Untold Story of How Women Saved Bourbon, Scotch, and Irish Whiskey. His book was and remains the most comprehensive publication on the part played by women in the history of whiskey and is the main reference for the earlier content in this article along with Jack Sullivan’s Bottles, Booze, and Back Stories blog.
And since this is the beginning of this column, it feels appropriate to kick it off with a brief overview of Women in Whiskey History, from the beginning.
We hope that you enjoyed this historical journey of women in whiskey. Join us next month for women in the 21st century!