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In the Spirit: Whiskey & Women.

International Women’s Day may have been in March, but the accomplishments of strong women should be celebrated every day.  Let’s talk about women empowerment in an industry you would not initially imagine it thriving so well in.

The whiskey industry!

History will always say drinking or distilling bourbon was only for Gentlemen. What if I told you in the 1990’s fifteen percent of whiskey drank came from women, rising to thirty-seven percent today? Not only are the ladies drinking bourbon, they are enjoying it and we also have women running and in fact Master Distillers or Assistant Distillers. Just to give you an idea of how powerful women have become in the bourbon world, here are a couple big names you may already know.

Marianne Evan: Favorite Cocktail is the Old Fashioned and is the Master Distiller for Castle and Key. 

In 2016 Marianne became the first female Master Distiller in Kentucky sense before Prohibition.  Castle and Key is very new to the game of bourbon and may be difficult to find on the shelves just yet but worth the wait.

Elizabeth McCall: Favorite Cocktail is the Mint Julep and is the Assistant Master Distiller for Woodford Reserve

joining the ranks for one of the Countries youngest female distillers in the US.  Woodford can be found almost anywhere and pairs well with grilled fruits, ice cream and your favorite BBQ recipes.

Valerie Colella: Favorite Cocktail is the Old Fashioned, currently the Digital Director of Smooth Ambler,

formerly their Tasting Room and Retail Manager.  Valerie has helped many of Drambler’s (Her Word) in selecting a private barrel in the tasting room of the Rickhouse. Born and raised in Brooklyn, New York and joining the Smooth Ambler family in 2014, she now calls West Virginia home. On the weekends you can find her educating the masses on continuous column distillation. Being able to be a part of something that highlights the beauty and caliber of West Virginia is as important to Val as sharing that story with first-time visitors and routine patrons.  Smooth Ambler will also pairs very well with your BBQ favorites.

Victoria Eady Butler: The great-great-granddaughter to Nearest Green, the man who taught Jack Daniels

everything there is to know about distilling and was the first African American Master Distiller. Victoria was a part of the Department of Justice and left her career there to carry on her family’s legacy and became a Master Blender. She has won many awards and her blends have become very reputable in the whiskey community.

Ladies have been a part of the distillation process for many years. They have been performing most of the manual labor needed to produce liquor for the better part of history. As far back as 4000 B.C., a female alchemist, Maria Hebraea, built an early distilling apparatus, known as the alembic still, to make spirits including whiskey and moonshine.  We at The Greenbrier are proud to say we have the absolute pleasure to work alongside and celebrate women in an industry thought only for men. Two of our private barrel selects have had a female touch in choosing the amazing flavor notes we want to showcase in our whiskies.

As far back as 4000 B.C., a female alchemist, Maria Hebraea, built an early distilling apparatus…

Let us all tip our hats and clink our rocks glass to applaud these incredible ladies and many more like them. 

In honor of their accomplishments, enjoy some fine whiskey this summer!  A lot of the time whiskey is overlooked during the hottest part of the year for clear liquors, white wines, and pale ales, but it actually makes a fantastic summer drink.  From bourbon lemonades and whiskey peach teas to just having it on the rocks or neat, whiskey can be a great refreshing summer drink. There is nothing better than sitting around the fire with your loved ones, sharing memories of old times and a good bottle of whiskey.

Paired with your favorite summer grub only enhances the experience.  Oysters in the summer are a huge hit! Try them with a Mint Julep for a bright flavor combination.  Spicy wings combined with a bourbon and ginger beer. The sweet and tangy flavors will go perfectly with the spiciness of the wings. Try a piece of pecan pie with a whiskey sour. Pecan pie can be somewhat heavy at times but combined with the bold fresh flavors in a whiskey sour they will complement each other to create a fantastic pairing.  So, sit down with some of your closest ladies whether they be friends, family, or your significant other and celebrate what women are doing in the amazing whiskey industry. Let their hard work and innovation inspire you to try new things!

Oysters in the summer are a huge hit! Try them with a Mint Julep for a bright flavor combination.

Cheers to you all, drink responsibly, and have fun.

– Mike Deskins. Beverage Director at The Greenbrier. Hashtag Lewisburg City Paper #131. May 2021.

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HashtagWV Art & Entertainment is a high-quality print and digital multimedia platform for all things West Virginia and the greater Appalachian region. The editorial focus is local music, unique shopping, the arts, events, theatre, and food and drinks.