International Women's Day: Ladies of Liquor

As we celebrate International Women's Day, we're shining a spotlight on remarkable women who have made an incredible impact in the world of liquor.
From the vineyards of Margaret River to the distilleries of Kentucky, these women have not only mastered their craft but have also paved the way for others to follow. As we delve into the stories of these extraordinary women, let's raise a glass to their resilience, creativity, and the undeniable mark they've left on our industry.

Virginia Willcock stands as a luminary in the world of Australian winemaking, recognised not only for her extensive accolades but also for her transformative influence on the industry. Born with a passion for the vines and soil, Virginia's journey from a small vineyard just north of Perth to the esteemed position of Chief Winemaker at Vasse Felix is a testament to her unwavering dedication and pursuit of excellence.
  • Chief Winemaker at Vasse Felix, Margaret River's founding wine estate.
  • Transformed Vasse Felix's winemaking style into a hands-off approach, producing premium wines.
  • Completed almost 30 grape harvests in the Margaret River region.
  • Won several prestigious winemaking awards.
  • Sought-after regional wine show judge.
  • Advocates for a natural expression in winemaking, acknowledging the uniqueness of each piece of ground and grape variety.
  • Believes her greatest wine is yet to be made, embodying a commitment to continuous growth and innovation in the industry.

Shop Vasse Felix.

Elizabeth McCall has been appointed as the Master Distiller of Woodford Reserve, marking the third in the bourbon brand’s 26-year history. Having trained for over a decade for this role, she will oversee quality control and innovation efforts, introducing new products to the market and leading the brand’s special releases. With an extensive background in the spirits industry and a commitment to innovation, McCall is poised to lead Woodford Reserve into the next generation of excellence.

  • Developed and implemented a liquid education program for Brown-Forman's partners overseas, focusing on proper nosing and tasting techniques.
  • Trained with Morris to become a master taster in 2014, later transitioning to a quality control specialist role for Woodford Reserve.
  • Promoted to Assistant Master Distiller for Woodford Reserve in 2018, working closely with Morris and undergoing comprehensive training across production facilities.
  • Focused on strategic planning and improvement of operational efficiency within the Woodford team after assuming the role of Master Distiller.
  • Instrumental in the expansion of Woodford Reserve's production capacity in 2021, overseeing the installation of new equipment and facilities.
  • Prepared for the release of Woodford Reserve's first products bearing her signature as Master Distiller, including the 2023 Master's Collection and Distillery Series releases.
  • Demonstrated a hands-on approach to leadership, emphasising collaboration and leveraging team strengths.
  • Overcame imposter syndrome to assert herself in decision-making processes and uphold the brand's integrity, despite challenges and pressure.
  • Pioneered a progressive approach to maternity leave in the whisky industry, continuing to work throughout her pregnancy with the full support of Brown-Forman, setting an important precedent for gender equality in the workplace.

Shop Woodford Reserve.

Dr. Rachel Barrie, originally trained as a chemist, has amassed over 28 years of experience in the whisky industry. Beginning her journey as a researcher under the tutelage of renowned whisky expert Dr. Jim Swan, she subsequently held positions at esteemed distilleries such as Glenmorangie, Ardbeg, and Bowmore. In 2017, she joined Brown-Forman as a master blender, tasked with overseeing whisky creation for their portfolio of acquired distilleries including GlenDronach, Benriach, and Glenglassaugh.

  • In 2017, she joined Brown-Forman as a master blender, where she was tasked with overseeing whisky creation across their recently-acquired distilleries of GlenDronach, Benriach, and Glenglassaugh.
  • Dr. Barrie spearheaded the relaunch of Benriach's entire core range, showcasing her vision and expertise as a master blender.
  • Dr. Barrie reshaped the portfolio to encompass the different distilling styles and eclectic casks, amplifying the richness of character and flavour.
  • She introduced new expressions such as the Benriach 10 year old, described as "The patisserie of Speyside," and the Smoky Ten and Smoky Twelve, which offer unique and complex flavour profiles.
  • Dr. Barrie's dedication to her craft and her ability to blend tradition with innovation have firmly established Benriach as a leading whisky brand with a distinct identity.

Shop Benriach.

Kristy Lark-Booth, a prominent figure in the Australian spirits industry, has distilling in her blood. As the daughter of Bill and Lyn Lark, who are renowned for founding the Australian spirits industry, Kristy's passion for distilling runs deep.

In 2016, Kristy founded Killara Distillery, setting a significant milestone as one of the few distilleries worldwide owned and operated by a female. Killara Distillery quickly gained recognition for its exceptional Single Malt Whiskey, Apothecary Gin, and Tasmanian Vodka.

  • Founded Killara Distillery in 2016, distinguishing it as one of the few distilleries worldwide owned and operated by a female.
  • Awarded a prestigious Churchill Fellowship in late 2019, providing her with the opportunity to study Medicinal Gardens and plant cultivation for distillation overseas for 10 weeks starting in March 2020.
  • Founded the Australian Women in Distilling Association (AWDA) in 2017, aiming to promote gender diversity and support women pursuing careers in distilling.
  • Instrumental in organising a four-day distillers course at Old Kempton Distillery through AWDA, offering women invaluable opportunities to learn about distilling and the business behind the scenes.
  • Advocates for diversity in the distilling industry, recognising the impact of women in shaping and contributing to the industry's growth and innovation.

Today, Alana holds the title of Innovation Brewer, tasked with conceptualising new beer ideas and translating them into reality. Her role involves creating trial batches on her Grainfather before they become one-off or Rare Breeds. Notably, Pulped Fiction, a blood orange IPA, designed by Alana, clinched the Australian International Beer Awards trophy for Best IPA, marking a significant achievement in her brewing career.

  • Innovation Brewer at Mountain Goat, contributing to the creation of new and exciting beer concepts.
  • Key figure in the development of Pulped Fiction, awarded Best IPA at the Australian International Beer Awards.
  • Recognised for her dedication and innovation in the brewing industry.
  • Expertise in logistics and operations management before transitioning to brewing.
  • Demonstrated a passion for craft beer, leading to a successful career shift.

Shop Mountain Goat.

As we toast to these extraordinary women on International Women's Day, let's not only celebrate their individual achievements but also recognise the collective impact they've had on their industries. May their stories continue to inspire and pave the way for more women to excel, innovate, and make their mark in the world of beverages. Cheers to resilience, creativity, and the undeniable legacy of these exceptional women.

This blog was inspired by the articles linked below. If you would like to read more about these exceptional women, we suggest visiting visiting these links.

Virginia Willcock - Australian Wine

Elizabeth McCall - Whisky Magazine & Brown-Forman

Dr. Rachel Barrie - Master of Malt

Kristy Lark-Booth - Cask World

Alana Rees - Drinks Adventure

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