Two people holding GlencairnsTwo people holding Glencairns

Celebrating the women behind your whisky

March 06, 2024
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This International Women’s Day, we’re raising a glass to some of the wonderful women behind the Club’s recent whiskies — and to women who enjoy a dram.

Fun fact: we just did the maths, and two in three of this year's Whiskies of the Month were made by women whiskymakers. 

”Women deserve credit for helping build this industry,” Fred Minnick, author of Whiskey Women: The Untold Story of How Women Saved Bourbon, Scotch & Irish Whiskey, told Whisky Magazine.

”Women have been making and drinking whiskey for a very long time. First, without Sumerian women inventing beer and Mesopotamian women inventing early distillation techniques, we may not have whiskey!”

In fact, the modern still as we know it was thanks the alchemist Maria the Jewess who is credited for inventing many types of stills and reflux condensers. 

Long passed is the stereotype that whisky is only shared between Mad Men-esque older white men or tweed-clad intellectuals. The whisky industry is changing, and so are whisky drinkers.

Two people holding a Glancairn Two people holding a Glancairn

"The modern whisky drinker can’t be stereotyped by gender, affluence or age,” says The Whisky Club’s Co-founder Emily Ashbolt Cason. 

Since 2010, there’s been a 15% increase in whisky consumption by women, who now represent 35% of whisky drinkers.

Here at the Club, we can attest to the rise in women whisky drinkers — membership includes the highest number of female whisky drinkers of any other whisky community in the country. Just like a good whisky, the industry needs a good balance. And the Club is proud of our diverse, whisky-loving team. 

While the modern whiskymaking world has been the domain of men, the industry has seen a swell of women involved in all aspects of whiskymaking. But rather than making a debut in the industry, some argue that rather, women are making a comeback. 

How the whisky world is celebrating International Women’s Day

The Lakes Distillery has announced a limited-edition single malt, Isadora, to be released on International Women’s Day. Just 900 individually-numbered bottles will be released as part of the Whiskymaker’s Editions series created by whiskymaker Sarah Burgess.

The distillery will launch a charitable prize draw to win bottle number one of Isadora, and will aid OurWhisky Foundation, a not-for profit that advocates inclusivity and diversity in the whisky industry.

Whisky Auctioneer announced it will host the world’s first auction dedicated to women in whisky in partnership with OurWhisky Foundation, kicking off at the end of this month. All proceeds will be donated to OurWhisky Foundation. The 18 whiskies that will be up for auction are part of the Demeter Collection, which celebrates the past and present women in whisky.

Cardhu Distillery in Speyside has created a 12-year-old whisky matured in ex-wine casks coinciding with an event on International Women's Day to celebrate the pioneering women of Cardhu distillery.

Celebrating the women behind your whisky

Join us in raising a dram to these wonderful whiskymakers who’ve crafted some of the Club’s recent whiskies. 

Dr Rachel Barrie – BenRiach, The GlenDronach and Glenglassaugh

The good doctor is an absolute Club favourite. And anyone who’s ever shared a dram with her knows her passion and enthusiasm for all things whisky is contagious. 

”After graduating in 1991, I stumbled across a job at the university careers service for a Research Scientist at the Scotch Whisky Research Institute. This was the start of my journey working in the world of whisky,” she told the Club back in 2019.

”On developing a passion for wood maturation and distillery flavour research, I quickly moved into whisky-making, becoming a Scotch Whisky Master Blender in 2003.”

Dr Barrie has gathered more than 30 years in the industry, and in 2018, she was the first woman to be inducted into the Whisky Hall of Fame. 

Dr Barrie is the hands behind BenRiach, The GlenDronach and Glenglassaugh and is responsible for bring the Club deadset favourites like the Glenglassaugh 12 Year Old Pedro Ximénez Cask Matured, The GlenDronach Cask Strength Batch 12, The GlenDronach 1993 Oloroso Single Cask, 2023’s Whisky of the YearThe GlenDronach Cask Strength Batch 11 and Benriach The Sixteen. And that’s just to name a few of the whiskies we’ve brought the Club with out long-time friend, Dr Barrie. 

Dr Rachel Barrie looking at whisky in a glassDr Rachel Barrie looking at whisky in a glass

Jane Overeem – Overeem

Jane Overeem is Aussie whisky royalty, and part of the founding Aussie whisky families. Since Overeem was founded in 2007, Jane has been heavily involved in all aspects of whiskymaking. 

In the early Overeem years, she worked closely with her father, Casey Overeem, in distillation. And in 2011, she took up the role of Sales and Marketing Manager. In 2021, Jane was awarded Distillery Manager of the Year by Whisky Magazines Icon’s of Whisky. 

Overeem’s first whisky release was in 2012, and after building a local and international following, Case retired and sold the business to Lark Distillery Pty Ltd — which was then taken over by Australian Whisky Holdings company. 

Jane continued to work as the brand ambassador for Overeem distillery and in 2017, Jane and husband Mark founded Sawford Distillery and a brand called White Label that produced contract-distilled whisky.

Then, a plot twist came in 2020. Jane and Mark announced they had bought back the distillery from Australian Whisky Holdings company where the couple continue to make whisky like the family did in the early days. 

Over the years, Jane’s brought the Club some Aussie classics like the Sherry Matured and Sherry Finished, the instant sell-out Tokay Cask and the first ever Overeem PX Sherry Cask.

Jane Overeem holding a bottle of whiskyJane Overeem holding a bottle of whisky

Sarah Burgess – The Lakes Distillery

Burgess, an an eighth generation Speysider and Aberlour native, is a whisky industry veteran with more than 25 years' experience. For two decades, Burgess managed the Oban, Glenkinchie and Clynelish distilleries for drinks juggernaut, Diageo. From there, she took up the reigns of lead whiskymaker for one of the most revered distilleries on the planet — the mighty Macallan. 

Burgess made whisky at The Macallan for close to five years, where she helped develop The Macallan Genesis — a collaboration with internationally acclaimed architects Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners celebrating the distillery’s whiskymaking process; The Macallan Edition No. 5 — a collaboration with the Pantone Color Institute that celebrates The Macallan’s commitment to natural colour; and The Macallan Sir Peter Blake— a limited release to commemorate Sir Peter Blake’s visit to The Macallan Estate on the legendary River Spey.

In January 2023, Burgess was appointed whiskymaker for the Lakes Distillery, taking over the helm from Dhavall Gandhi. 

You can thank her for bringing the Club The Lakes Whiskymaker’s Editions: Voyage and The Lakes The Whiskymaker’s Reserve No. 5.

Sarah Burgess looking at whiskySarah Burgess looking at whisky

Alex Thomas – Bushmills

As a youngster, Master Blender Alex Thomas lived a stone’s throw from Bushmills. “It was always a dream of mine to work with the world’s oldest licensed whiskey distillery that was almost on my doorstep,” she told the Club. 

Thomas joined the Bushmills team in 2004 and qualified as a distiller and blender in 2012. When she began her career at Bushmills, she worked alongside the much respected master distiller, Colum Egan, in maturation and distillation. 

She’s spent 20 years honing her craft at the world’s oldest licensed whiskey distillery. 

Alex was appointed Master Blender for Bushmills Irish Whiskey in 2021, taking the helm from Helen Mulholland, a position she held for close to 30 years. 

The Club’s Bushmills 2012 Burgundy Cask was a whiskey particularly close to Helen’s heart – it was the first whiskey she’d overseen from its inception.

More recently, the Club released the Bushmills 30 Year Old. We’ve also released the legendary Heritage Casks series that sent the international auction market wild, including the Bushmills 2006 Marsala Cask, Bushmills 2011 Banyuls Cask and the Bushmills Burgundy Cask.

Alex Thomas holding a glass of whiskyAlex Thomas holding a glass of whisky

Join us in raising a dram to all these whiskymakers. We can’t wait to work together again to bring Australia even more incredible whiskies. Heads up, next month we’ll be bringing you an Aussie whisky from an Aussie female whiskymaker. Who do you think it’s going to be?

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