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Women in Whisky on International Women’s Day


Women in Whisky on International Women’s Day

In a world where gender inequalities are still present across countless aspects of our lives, it’s important to challenge and address these issues every day of the year and in every way we can. However, today’s date, March 8th, has a special significance in history and allows us to raise awareness, create new opportunities for dialogue, celebrate what has been achieved and pinpoint what still needs to be done.

The whisky industry, despite being no stranger to gender stereotypes, has taken huge steps forward in the past decade. More and more women are not only becoming passionate about the liquid sunshine as drinkers but, most importantly, becoming involved in the production and taking up management roles. Whisky is very far from being only an “old man’s drink”!

What is fantastic is that the growth of this movement is helping inspire more women to come out and become leading voices in the whisky world.

So today, to celebrate International Women’s Day, we want to highlight some incredible and inspirational women that are rocking the whisky world.

1. Annabel Thomas – NcNean Distillery


Following her passion for whisky and the environment, Annabel Thomas left her job in London to pursue her dream of opening a sustainable distillery and founded NcNean, the first fully organic distillery in Scotland.

The distillery, which opened in 2012, has only recently released its first single malt – however, in the years building up to this accomplishment, Annabel and the team at NcNean have been a very active part in the debate on sustainability in the whisky industry.

Challenging the traditional vision of whisky, her work is a breath of fresh air and innovation within the whisky world.

2. Sarah Elsom – Cardrona Distillery


Coming from a winemaking background, Sarah Elsom is head distiller at Cardrona Distillery on the South Island of New Zealand.

Born in Dunedin, she travelled the world harvest by harvest before catching the opportunity to work for Cardrona in 2014. Although at first she was hired as a distillery hand, in five years she gravitated back into the world of production and now leads the (all female) distilling team.

3. Louise McGuane – J.J Corry


She left Ireland in the 90s and came back to become a leading voice in the Irish whisky industry. Coming back to her farm in Cooraclare after years working in the international luxury drinks scene, Lousie McGuane brought back whiskey bonding to Ireland, founding  J.J. Corry Irish Whiskey in 2016. Irish whiskey bonding, which involves purchasing whisky from different sources and blending them to create a unique house style, was a significant part of Irish whiskey history but the trade had been forgotten for over 50 years. She is also the only solo female founder in the Irish whiskey industry!

4. Laura Davies – Penderyn Distillery


Whisky came to Laura Davies almost by accident when, after graduating in forensic science she applied for a role as a technician (without knowing that whisky would be involved!). Since 2012, when she joined Penderyn Distillery, she has risen through the ranks within the distillery, working in a variety of roles, being trained by whisky legend Dr Jim Swan himself, and eventually becoming a head distiller.

Nowadays she leads an all-female distilling team that comprises herself, blender Aista Phillips and trainee Bethan Morgan, and is an ambassador for what is the first Welsh distillery in a century.

 5. Jill Boyd, Compass Box


Being a whisky maker for the independent bottler Compass Box, Jill Boyd started her whisky journey from a small pub in Elgin where she was introduced to the pillars of Scotch, after which she worked as a laboratory analyst with William Grant and Sons in Dufftown.

Today, she is the creative mind, nose and palate for one of the most eclectic and exciting blenders on the scene. Continuously challenging the norm with their experimentation, she plays a vital role in the creation of some of their award-winning blends.

Others to watch

Tracie Franklin (Spirited Tracie)

Whisky educator and apprentice distiller Tracie Franklin is an incredibly inspiring figure advocating for diversity in the industry.


Rachel Barrie

Rachel Barrie is Master Blender for Brown Forman and a prominent name in her field.


Our Whisky

Founded by whisky journalist Becky Paskin and brand ambassador Georgie Belle, Our Whisky campaigns to make the industry more inclusive and diverse.



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Finally, do you want to try some of the drams these ladies have contributed to creating? Then you can join our March Virtual Tasting, which celebrates the great women forging the whisky industry around the world. Proceeds from this set will go to The Drinks Trust and Bristol Women’s Voice.

Continue reading…

How to taste whisky at home


Slàinte mhath!

Federica Stefani
Whisky Writer & Jornalist