The world of whisky and distilling has long been dominated by men, but there are some talented women who are making a name for themselves in the industry. In honor of Women’s History Month, which is celebrated every March, we will showcase some of the industry’s most talented female whiskey distillers. Keep reading to learn more about distilling as a career and take a closer look at the profiles of some top female distillers who are worth watching.
Female Whiskey Distillers that are Making Moves in the Industry
Here are just four women who are behind some of the industry’s most beloved brands and distilleries.
Dr. Barrie is a trained chemist, but growing up near the Glendronach distillery led her to a career in whisky that has now spanned almost three decades. She is commonly known as Scotland’s First Lady of Whisky and has the distinction of having worked at some of the country’s most revered distilleries and the Scotch Whisky Research Institute. Today, she is one of just a few Master Blenders and is in charge of The GlenDronach, BenRiach and Glenglassaugh distilleries.
Victoria Eady Butler just happens to be the great-great-granddaughter of Nathan “Nearest” Greene who is the first Black Master Distiller and the expert responsible for teaching Jack Daniels. Butler is relatively new to the whiskey distilleries, but she has learned the ropes quickly and is already racking up awards. She left her career at the Department of Justice in 2019 to work as a Master Blender at the family business: Uncle Nearest Premium Whiskey, located in Nashville, Tennessee. As the first female Master Blender, she is passionate about the industry and making sure that her ancestor gets the credit and recognition he deserves for his contributions.
After graduating with a degree in environmental engineering, Nicole Austin had a clear vision for her future. She was going to be an environmental advocate who single-handedly took down polluters. However, her day job of working on a waste management infrastructure wasn’t quite meeting her expectations. That is when she had a chance encounter with whiskey that would take her on a path that included time at Kings Country Distillery and Cascade Hollow. Today, she is the Master Distiller at George Dickel Whiskey and along the way she has introduced new innovations, become a champion in both Tennessee Whiskey and Bourbon and created a rye whiskey that won Double Gold at the 2015 World Spirits Competition.
Many distillers come to the industry through a family member, but Eaves actually started by using her degree in chemical engineering to work as a process engineer at Brown-Forman. From there, she took an interest in refining flavors and worked under a master distiller before becoming the first female bourbon master distiller in Kentucky and taking over as the master distiller role at Castle & Key Distillery. She worked hard to turn the company around before departing in 2019. Now, she is working as a consultant and helping existing distilleries improve their products and processes. Eaves is also working on establishing a mentoring program to help connect women who are interested in becoming distillers with the training and resources they need. Her next big idea is a mobile laboratory that she can take with her as she travels the country with her partner.
Tips for New Whiskey Distillers
While starting a new business can come with all sorts of costs, becoming a whiskey distiller is relatively affordable. The main requirement is a Craft Distiller’s License. A new application for distillers that will produce less than 100,000 gallons per year costs $600. Once the application has been approved, there is an annual renewal fee of $300.
Distillers who are starting out, either by being hired by a distillery or starting their own, can expect to make around 56,000 per year. Of course, exact salaries will vary widely based on the company, location, individual experience and other factors. Working at a more established distillery with a solid reputation can provide a big bump in pay while starting at an independent craft distillery will inevitably come with a lower pay scale. No matter where whiskey distillers start, the career comes with plenty of earning potential and room for growth. It also doesn’t hurt that it is a fun job.
Advancements in technology have also made the job easier than ever before. Here’s why distillery software is necessary for both new and seasoned distillers.
Women in Whiskey
Female whiskey distillers are making major contributions to the industry and helping bring more women into the fold. While the four women mentioned above have enjoyed major successes, there are many more like them that are opening independent whiskey distilleries, introducing new flavors and revolutionizing distillery processes. All these women deserve to be celebrated throughout March and the rest of the year.
How much do whiskey distillers make?
On average, a distiller can expect to make around $56,000 per year. That number can be higher or lower depending on experience, the size and location of the distillery and many other factors.
How much does a whiskey license cost?
The application for a whiskey license costs $600. There is also an annual renewal fee of $300.
How many whiskey distilleries are there in the United States?
As of 2017, there were 2,000 whiskey distilleries across the country with at least one in each state.
Who are some talented female whiskey distillers?
There is a long list of talented female whiskey distillers, but a few worth noting are Dr. Rachel Barrie, Victoria Eady Butler, Nicole Austine and Marianne Eaves.
Is it whiskey or whisky?
The spelling of whisk(e)y depends on the country of origin. Whisky (no e) refers to Scottish, Canadian, or Japanese grain spirits. Whiskey (with an e) refers to grain spirits distilled in Ireland and the United States.