Celebrating Woman-Made Spirits
March is Women’s History Month, and while it’s always the right time to celebrate women, we wanted to let you know about some exciting women-made new arrivals, a few of our favorite trailblazers, and one company that is making our industry proud.
Globally, women continue to occupy for the most part the lower levels in the workforce, with only 10% of companies having gender-balanced boards and 6% having gender-balanced executive teams. More so than many other workplaces, the production, distribution, sales, and marketing of alcohol has been a male dominated endeavor. Equileap is a data and research organization working to accelerate gender equality in the workplace by examining 19 unique criteria, including the pay gap, parental leave, sexual harassment policies, and the executive makeup of more than 3500 companies. In 2019, their annual ranking placed Diageo as the top performing company in the world! If that name doesn’t ring a bell, you may be more familiar with some of their brands, such as Bulleit, Johnnie Walker, and Tanqueray. This is a fantastic accomplishment, and we’re excited for them to be setting an example for our industry and beyond. Diageo has also introduced their Craftswomen Program to highlight some of the amazing work their female distillers and blenders do within the spirit giant's portfolio, such as Nicole Austin of Cascade Hollow Distillery, who created Whisky Advocate’s #1 whiskey of 2019 with the George Dickel Bottled in Bond release. Today, we’re excited to announce two new releases from their talented women makers: the Jane Walker 10 Year Blended Malt Scotch Whisky, and the new Bulleit Bourbon Blenders Select No. 001.
Nearly half of Johnnie Walker's 12-strong blending team are women, and the role of putting together this Jane Walker release fell primarily to Emma Walker. The heart of the blend is single malt from Cardhu, a nearly 200 year old distillery in the heart of Speyside that flourished under the leadership of another pioneering woman, Elizabeth Cumming. Emma's background is in chemistry, with a Masters in Chemistry at Edinburgh University, and a PhD in Organic Chemistry at the University of Sheffield. At Diageo she has worked within the whisky team, managed quality labs, and as a trainee malt distillery manager. Emma combines her extensive scientific research and spirits industry background with a precise palette and understanding of flavor, bringing to life this well-rounded and smooth whisky, featuring notes of ripe orchard fruit and white peaches, which develop into hints of baked apple and sweet cream, with a lingering dark chocolate finish.
Created by Bulleit Blender Eboni Major, Bulleit Bourbon Blenders’ Select No. 001 is a very special bottling that features the thoughtful mingling of three out of the ten whiskey types used to make the original Bulleit Bourbon. (10 unique bourbon recipes may ring a bell for bourbon fans, the distillery known to be the original source of Bulleit whiskey also happens to be well-regarded for blending their recipes into limited edition small batch releases.) This offering showcases Eboni’s rich understanding of how the progression of aromas and balance of complimentary flavors elevate the sensory experience. The exceptional blend includes distinct notes of vanilla bean, honey, dried fruit and toasted oak, as well as a smooth finish with a lingering of sweet cream and fruit wine decadence. The bourbons that make up this blend were all aged a minimum of 9 years, and the whiskey has been bottled at 100 proof.
La Gritona Tequila is distilled and produced by Melly Barajas Cardenas. Her journey with tequila started about 20 years ago when she opened her own distillery, Raza Azteca. When hiring, she posted for both men and women to apply, but most of the applicants were women and her company is mostly run by women to this day. Currently, only 8% of the master distillers in Mexico are women. What makes Melly's tequila so special is the time she dedicates to making sure it is perfect. She set out to craft a tequila that reminded her of what her grandparents would drink. Rather than using industrial machines, she uses masonry ovens made from the same soil where the blue agave is planted. The cooking and resting process takes about 2 days, and she lets the fermentation happen naturally over one week. The finished product is bottled in recycled glass and has the flavor profile of bright, vegetal and well rounded agave.
Distillerie Neisson in Martinique was founded in 1931 by Adrien Neisson and his brother Jean Hildevert Pamphile Neisson. In 1986, the distillery was entrusted to Jean's sister, but the management proved challenging and the family business found itself in decline. Upon her aunt's death in 1995, Claudine Vernant-Neisson inherited the distillery. Claudine had graduated from the University of Medicine of Paris, working there as a doctor before moving to Martinique, where she worked on HIV research and treatment until her new career came calling. “Some people get married twice. I had two professions.” Claudine rebuilt the distillery and set it upon its current path, wrangling new investments and facing off against much larger producers, determined to preserve her workers jobs. Claudine's tenacity, respect for the environment, and commitment to small-scale production laid the foundation for the distilleries renaissance. And today Neisson is known for both innovation and tradition. "The key to a good rum is the freshness of the cane: it must have its feet in the ground and its head in the mill."
Fanny Fougerat is a fourth generation distiller. Her family had been selling to the big houses that dominate Cognac; but she is the first in her family to bottle her own cognac. She farms 30 hectares of Ugni Blanc, primarily in Borderies but also in Fin Bois. For those Cognac nerds out there, Borderies needs no introduction: it is the smallest cru and highly sought after, a plateau of clay and limestone soil that offers ideal sun exposure, good drainage and allows for deep root development. Fanny is making terroir-driven Cognac, showcasing the unique nature of her area, each harvest, each distillation and each barrel. Her Cognac is never blended; every bottle is labelled with barrel number and bottle number, and she doesn't add sugar or caramel. While she may have had a foot in the door being born into a family of winemakers and distillers, she’s stepped out on her own and is making serious waves in the world of Cognac.