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When I decided to pursue a career in whiskey, I knew it might be an uphill battle. The spirits industry has a competitive edge and being a female in a male dominated space, I knew I needed to be ready to take on the competition. I never set out to be the first female ambassador for The Macallan Single Malt Scotch, but as I pursued my career with unrelenting passion and knowledge, I was able to land my dream job in 2016.
Today, one of the biggest challenges I face in my role is changing the fundamental stereotypes in society that have developed overtime and are now ingrained in our culture. For many years, whiskey advertising was solely targeted towards a male audience and it was widely assumed that men were at the forefront of whiskey drinkers. However, throughout my career this has steadily changed as more women have expressed their curiosity and interest in whiskey.
Not only are more women entering the spirits industry professionally, but there is also a rise in female whiskey drinkers. This is supported by female led groups like 'Women Who Whisky' and 'Women of the Vine' that break down barriers within the male dominated alcohol industry.
As the number of female led whiskey brands grow, it gives women the chance to learn and develop their passion within a like-minded community which then paves the way for women to pursue a career within this category.
My own journey started in 2006, when I moved from London, England to Louisville, KY. As the birthplace of bourbon, it was hard not to embrace the Kentucky's indigenous brown spirit and the culture established around it. I learned to drink and appreciate whiskey in a society where it was almost rude not to. Thanks, Kentucky.
As my passion grew, I became fascinated with the history, heritage and tradition and was eager to learn more. Originally born in Scotland, my family has a deep-rooted love for Scotch so it wasn't long before I discovered and fell in love with the amber nectar of my homeland.
When entering the industry I was inspired to see so many strong, intelligent women leading the way. Today, I am proud to say I am part of this movement to revolutionize the industry, by making whiskey more accessible to women and by empowering them with the knowledge and confidence to push back on antiquated stereotypes. It's exciting to see the culture of whiskey changing before my eyes. Throughout my time in this business, I have continued to see more women who have never tried whisky before attending events as they are eager to learn more and experience whiskey in a new way.
The stereotype that women are less informed about whiskey than men is, surprisingly, still an obstacle that I continue to battle. When I first began working in the whiskey world, it was immediately apparent that I had to work harder to prove myself. I wanted to be an expert, which meant dedicating myself to absorbing every bit of information I could. I started with learning how to differentiate one whiskey expression from another using the color, tasting notes and smell. I researched what made each whiskey truly unique - where they matured their whiskey? How they matured it? What was the process? What was the difference between a whiskey that matured in sherry casks versus American bourbon casks? The more I learned, the more my confidence grew. The stories behind the whiskey and process of how the spirit is made is truly magical, but it wasn't until I started working in the industry that I could really see the craft, dedication and relentless obsession to quality that goes into creating the most admired Single Malt Scotch Whisky in the world.
Through my role I'm able to share a depth of knowledge that will help educate both men & women while dispelling the notion of whisky being 'a man's drink' and that is something I really enjoy.
Recruiting new consumers into the whiskey category, particularly women, comes with its own challenges, not because they're intimidated by whisky, but because they're also intimidated by men who tell them they don't know what they're doing.
One strategy I love that makes whiskey more approachable is to pair it with something familiar. Most people don't know this, but whiskey actually pairs better with cheese than wine does. This takes a well-known occasion - wine and cheese - and puts a whiskey spin on it.
Whiskey and cheese works so well because whiskey has a higher alcohol content than wine, which allows for the rich characteristics of the spirit to bring out the bold flavors of the cheese. Flavor profiles that often get overlooked when pairing with wine or beer, shine through when paired with whiskey. And it's simple! Anyone could set this up at home for a gathering. It's also subjective, so you don't have to be an expert to pick your favorite pairs.
Finding new avenues and experiences to introduce whiskey to any consumer that's standoffish is a struggle. But empowering people, especially women, to feel comfortable going up to a bar and ordering a whiskey is truly what makes me love the work I do. My job affords me the opportunity to share knowledge, despite being a female in a male-dominated space, and allows for me to champion other women, both in the industry and outside the industry looking to break in.
We need to be the change we want to see. We are continuing to see more and more women establish themselves as leaders within the category and if the advice I can share about my journey and the obstacles I've faced can help encourage other women to join in, than that's all I can ask for. I am truly proud of how far I've been able to come in the industry and will continue to push not only my fellow females to think bigger but will challenge society to as well.