By Kat McDaniel, Principal at MEDiAHEAD
In August, I went to Lexington, Kentucky for the nation’s ONLY female whiskey consumer conference. The Bourbon Women National SIPosium showcases and celebrates whiskey education and industry trends to 400+ women from across the nation.
There were exciting excursions, seminars about mixing whiskey cocktails, history and unique experiences like going to the contemporary art museum and designing whiskey labels with experts in that field.
Women account for 40% of all whiskey sales in the United States.
Alex Castle, Master Distiller and Senior Vice President told one of the most inspiring stories of the conference – she had graduated with a degree in chemical engineering, but had to start at the very bottom, rolling barrels, to get into the distillery business.
The men, who owned all of the distilleries at that time, fought having a woman in the room. Even though she had her degree in engineering, she felt every day that she was going to be fired because she kept telling them that what when they were constructing the stills, they were not doing it right.
Another story I loved was about a woman distiller in that lived high on a mountain called Black Rock in the Appalachians in the early 1800’s.
All the women distilled whiskey from leftover fruit, rye and corn, and there were over 15,000 distilleries spread across the US. She would see the Whiskey Tax men coming down the river and would run up a red flag over her house. This would alert the women to dismantle their stills and hide them in the woods. They would cover themselves in flour and start baking, because the smell of whiskey distilling in close to the smell of baking bread. They never got caught!
Meet and Greet with Bill Samuels, Maker’s Mark
We were also lucky enough to tour and meet with Bill Samuels – his mother and father started Maker’s Mark. She had a great presence behind her husband and was responsible for all the marketing, including the distinctive shape of the bottle and the red wax.
North Kansas City Woman Distiller
We have a woman distiller right here in North Kansas City – Benay Shannon is the Co-Founder and Co-Owner of Restless Spirits Distilling Company. She went from teaching high school chemistry to making beverage alcohol for a living, sort of like Walter White but clean and legal. Her current best-seller is a gin, but she’s got an Irish Whiskey and is aging an American Single Malt.
Check out the organization at www.BourbonWomen.org