Women in Whiskey: Celebrate International Women’s Day with the best Craft Whiskey in Ireland

On International Women’s Day, we take a look at how the whiskey industry is shaking off its old school image and becoming more inclusive. From female master distillers to drinkers, whiskey has become a spirit for all, to the benefit of both the drink and its fans.

The Craft Irish Whiskey Co.

On International Women’s Day, we take a look at how the whiskey industry is shaking off its old school image and becoming more inclusive. From female master distillers to drinkers, whiskey has become a spirit for all, to the benefit of both the drink and its fans. 

Picture a whiskey drinker and you may conjure up an image of a smoky gentleman’s club, leather high back chairs, and a man drinking from a crystal tumbler. Over the years, whiskey has become more associated with men than with women, from the distiller to the drinker. But those times are changing. Whiskey is becoming a drink for all, whether that’s in the crafting of the liquid gold or the drinking. As we look forward to International Women’s Day on 8th March 2023, we’re taking a look at the female whiskey distillers, critics, brand ambassadors and drinkers carving out a new path in this traditionally male dominated space. 

While women have always worked in and enjoyed whiskey, they’ve often been less visible. Now the industry is working to change that. From the Our Whisky Foundation to The Craft Irish Whiskey Co.’s Women in Whiskey campaign, the space is becoming more inclusive. And it’s paying off. Research from Distill Ventures has found that 35% of UK and US whisky drinkers are female, while women in the UK alone now drink 40 million more glasses of whisk(e)y a year than they did in 2010, a rise of 15%, and account for 70% of alcohol purchasing decisions in the household. But this isn’t reflected in the marketing where a study by Our Whisky found that women are still significantly underrepresented in social media whiskey marketing. 

Women in Whiskey

That lack of representation isn’t stopping female trailblazers from stamping their mark on the industry. Across the world, new craft whiskey brands are launching and in many cases, female whiskey distillers play key roles in those companies. Showing that when you combine women and whiskey, great things happen, many of these are revolutionising the industry for the better. 

Scotch Whisky Pioneers

Take Nc’Nean, founded by Annabel Thomas. This boutique Scottish distillery on the furthest reaches of Scotland’s west coast is a sustainability pioneer, using organic Scottish barley in a distillery powered by renewable energy, with a commitment to recycling that includes being the first Scotch to be bottled in a 100% recycled clear glass bottle. 

With two out of the three distillers being women, it’s no surprise that the inspiration for Nc’Nean lies in an ancient Gaelic goddess, Neachneohain. Known as the Queen of Spirits and a fierce protector of nature, her strength and independence made her unafraid to walk her own path, just as Nc’Nean has done. And it’s clear that this determination and willingness to break down barriers is working. The company’s inaugural bottle raised an incredible £41,004 at a charitable auction in October 2020, making it the most expensive inaugural release whisky sold at auction, resoundingly beating the previous world record of £10,000. When our own The Devil’s Keep took the world record a few months later after selling for $60,000, it was an incredible achievement to have gone up against such a special whisky. 

But it’s not just the new companies that are enjoying the benefits of this increased inclusivity. In 2019, Kirsteen Campbell became the first woman in The Macallan’s 200 year history to take on the position of The Macallan Master Whisky Maker. In fact, the team of six Whisky Makers includes three women. 

Travel back a hundred years and you discover that The Macallan’s most famous release was also created by a woman. The 1926 Macallan, known as the most expensive whiskey in the world before that title was taken by The Emerald Isle, was actually crafted by Janet Isabella Harbinson, also known as ‘Nettie’. As the daughter of Roderick Kemp, who owned The Macallan from 1892-1909, the distillery passed to her after his death. It was ably managed by her husband until his passing, at which point she had to make the decision to continue the business or sell up. Luckily for whisky fans the world over, she wasn’t a woman to turn down a challenge and successfully kept the business afloat, and created whisky history at the same time.

Irish Whiskey and Women

Of course, it’s not just Scotch that’s attracting women to work in and drink the spirit. The extraordinary growth in demand for Irish whiskey has seen more distilleries open and more job opportunities for all. As Helen Mulholland, Ireland’s first female master blender notes, when she started thirty years ago there were only three distilleries which left little space for anyone to enter the workforce, male or female. But with over 40 distilleries now operational in Ireland, the industry and its potential has expanded and seen far greater diversity in both its workforce and its offering. From Alex Thomas, Master Blender at Bushmills, to Katherine Condon from Irish Distillers, female distillers are behind some of the best craft whiskeys to have come out of Ireland recently.  

The Craft Irish Whiskey Co.: Women in Whiskey

By redefining the whiskey experience, The Craft Irish Whiskey Co. is aiming to make it more accessible to all, particularly those daunted by the common view of whiskey as overly strong. Our innovative glassware removes the ethanol vapour that creates the burning sensation, allowing the drinker to appreciate the layers of flavour. The Precision Pipette delivers the perfect amount of water to open up the whiskey, enhancing the richly complex notes and aromas. The whiskey takes on greater depth, with a rich, rounded sweetness, far removed from the overpowering spirit of days gone by.

Our sponsorship of the Champion of Women Awards in 2022 and our Women in Whiskey campaign aims to open up awareness of the industry and the drink as one that can be enjoyed by all. We’ll often find that each whiskey tasting we host will have a strong representation of women, proving that not only do women drink whiskey, they’re passionate about it and about learning more and expanding their experience of the spirit. 

As a company, The Craft Irish Whiskey Co. has always invested strongly in its staff, promoting a culture of inclusivity. All female staff are enrolled as members of the Women of the Vine & Spirits which provides access to weekly webinars, lectures, networking opportunities and regular industry updates to ensure inclusivity and promote diversity in the workplace. With women in key roles throughout the company, they’re a driving force behind the company’s growth. 

How to drink whiskey

Now there’s no such thing as a list of the best whiskey for women – the answer should be, whichever whiskey they like. Whether male or female, if you have taste buds, you’ll be able to appreciate a fine whiskey. But The Craft Irish Whiskey Co. has developed an experience around the whiskey that makes it more accessible to everyone, from beginner to connoisseur. 

That experience begins with the glass. For many, it’s the ethanol vapours that can be off-putting, burning the nose and preventing the more delicate notes from coming to the fore. Our patent-pending glass design works to reduce the ethanol vapours that reach the nose so the drinker can appreciate every layer of flavour. A revolutionary ‘Vortex Point’ at the base of the glass creates a tornado effect that swirls the ethanol molecules out to the sides of the glass where they can be trapped by the soda-lime glass. The bulb shape enhances this process, creating more wall space and aiding the tornado effect. A chicane-like curve then slows the vapours so they can be trapped by the glass on their journey upwards, before the divergent rim tips any that remain away from the nose, leaving just the rich, complex notes that time and the cask have imbued into the spirit. 

Likewise, adding a couple of droplets of water to whiskey creates a softening effect, while opening up layers of flavour that would otherwise have been trapped by spherical micelles. By breaking open those micelles, the full flavour profile is released, the ABV is slightly lowered, and the experience becomes both more accessible and more enjoyable. Whether your whiskey comes from your local supermarket or one of the more expensive brands, it deserves to be served and experienced with the care and attention generally afforded to wine. 

Toast with the best Irish whiskey on March 8th

We’ll be raising a toast on March 8th with a celebratory cocktail at Michelin-starred Hakkasan, Mayfair. Created in honour of International Women’s Day, this cocktail will be on the menu for the month. Alternatively, head to our website to find out where you can order a glass of our ultra-rare single malts, The Taoscán, The Brollach and The Devil’s Keep. This International Women’s Day, we hope you’ll all join us in raising a toast to the women blazing a path in the whiskey industry, whether that’s making it, writing about it, judging it or drinking it. Sláinte to the trailblazers!

Women in whiskey enjoying expensive whiskey brands