In recognition of International Women’s Day (IWD), we’re celebrating a multitude of women from around the world, including Scotland, Ireland and Australia, who are making their mark in the very much male-dominated spirits industry.
This year's #IWD2022 theme is #BreakTheBias, and in the spirits industry remarkable and exciting innovations are being made every day by trailblazing women.
Today we’re shining a spotlight on six women who’ve partnered with us to create some incredible whiskies for our members.
Cara Gilbert (Tobermory / Ledaig - Scotland)
One of the world's youngest distillery managers now heads up the 200+ year-old Tobermory Distillery. At only 28 years old, Cara Gilbert is now responsible for production of more than a million litres of whisky and gin each year at the facility alongside the distillery’s female Master Blender, Julieann Fernandez. With degrees in Biological Science, and a masters degree in Brewing and Distilling, Cara, who previously led the distilling process as assistant manager at Bunnahabhain, now runs Tobermory distillery which also makes our much loved peated Ledaig variant. Even more noteworthy is just how quickly Cara has taken to the career change, with less than five years since she first started working in the spirits sector. TWL is the Australian importer and distributor of Bunnahabhain, Deanston and Tobermory/Ledaig. Cara looks after a number of amazing whiskies for us, some of our favourites include the recently launched to the Australian market Tobermory 17 Year Old 2004 Oloroso Cask and the Ledaig Sinclair Rioja Cask Finish.
Helen Mulholland (Bushmills - Ireland)
Another legend in the whisky world is renowned master blender, Helen Mulholland who has just recently finished up her 26+ years at Bushmills Irish Whiskey. Her most notable achievements include being the first female Master Blender in Irish Whiskey history. In 2018, Helen became the first woman to be inducted into the International Whisky Magazine Hall of Fame and has recently become the first woman to receive a Chairman’s Award for her outstanding contribution to the development of the Irish whiskey industry. TWL is incredibly proud to have worked with Helen and her team at Bushmills for our special bottling of the Bushmills 2008 Causeway Collection 13 Year Old Douro Wine Cask Finish, bottled exclusively for the Australian market. Our bottle sports her signature of approval on the label and is possibly one of the very last Bushmills releases to be selected and signed by her. Succeeding Helen Mulholland is another rising female star in the whisky world, Alex Thomas was recently announced as the new Master Blender of Bushmills.
Kristy Booth-Lark (Killara - Tasmania)
With distilling in her blood (her parents are Bill and Lyn Lark who founded the modern Australian spirits industry) Kristy is one of only a few second-generation Australian distilleries who are leading the way. Having previously worked as general manager for Lark Distillery, Kristy went on to found Killara distillery in 2016 and it is one of the few distilleries world-wide to be fully owned and operated by a woman. Last year TWL partnered with Kristy to bottled a single cask Killara whisky Cask #KD13 Tawny cask that went on to win a gold medal at the International Wine & Spirits Comp in London.
Jane Overeem (left), with Nicky Harris (right)
Jane Overeem (Overeem Whisky - Tasmania)
Jane is another second-generation distiller and owner in the Australian whisky scene. Whilst her father Casey founded Overeem distillery, the distillery has been passed down to Jane and her husband Mark, and there is no slowing them down. They’ve also brought on another full time distiller to keep up with production demand, Nicky Harris. Together Jane and Nicky are producing some of our favourite whiskies in Australia currently (and we've been fans of theirs for a very long time). Of course in partnership we bottled multiple batches of the crazy-in-demand Overeem Floc shots for our members, with maybe a cheeky batch #3 in the works for a release later in 2022. We can’t wait! This is just another great story of innovation and forward thinking that makes the whisky industry evolve and grow.
Suzy Brett (Spring Bay - Tasmania)
Established in 2015 by Suzy and Cam Brett, Spring Bay Distillery is an award-winning craft distillery on Tasmania’s pristine east coast. It’s the realisation of a lifelong dream come true for founders & distillers Cam & Suzy Brett. Think Aussie bush meets the sea as the best way to describe this delicious distillery located just 500 meters from the ocean. Suzy’s distillery design takes full advantage of its picturesque, rugged coastline, known for its amazing climate (already world famous for producing some of Australia's finest seafood and cool climate wines). This climate massively influences Spring Bay's terroir, where most afternoons sea mist drifts up the valley and falls on the roof of the distillery, later collected when the rain falls. This sea salt imprints a unique profile to the water which is both soft and sweet, used to distill the new make spirit that goes into making Spring Bay single malt whisky. We’ve been incredibly lucky to have worked very closely with Suzy and Cam these past years, bottling some amazing whiskies together including our WLA Bourbon cask, Virgin Oak Cask and most recently our Christmas limited edition PX cask which sold out in 30 seconds. A testament to the quality of whisky they’re making down there.
Dr. Rachel Barrie (Glendronach, BenRiach, Glenglassaugh - Scotland)
Originally trained as a chemist, Dr. Rachel Barrie has now been in the whisky industry for over 29 years. Starting her career as a researcher under the eye of legendary whisky figure Dr. Jim Swan, she then worked at Glenmorangie, Ardbeg, and Bowmore before moving to American whiskey powerhouse Brown Forman in 2017 to work as a master blender, charged with handling whisky creation across their then recently-acquired Scottish distilleries - GlenDronach, Benriach, and Glenglassaugh. Rachel was paramount in helping TWL select our special single cask bottling of Glendronach 1993 26yo Cask #392, along with a few other special projects still in the works.
BONUS: Margo Jamieson (Westward Whiskey - USA)
A special mention for Margo Jamieson, who single handedly has been behind the launch of Westward Whiskey to the Australian market - their first international market outside of their home market of the USA. Margo has decades of experience launching multiple consumer food and beverage brands in the Australian market. The spirits industry is highly competitive, yet Margo has not only launched an amazing core range locally but worked with TWL and a number of other key whisky players to bring some Australian exclusive Westward bottlings down under. We’re incredibly proud of the Westward Stout single cask we recently launched, a huge part in thanks to the tireless efforts of Margo who dedicates herself entirely to customer satisfaction and brand experience.
Raise a glass!
These are just a few stories of the many incredible women working in all levels of the whisky industry. Every day incredible work is achieved by women leading the charge in our industry to bring us dram good whisky! From distillers, to bartenders, retailers and even logistics. Tonight pour yourself a dram and let’s celebrate these trailblazers for their incredible contribution to our industry and the spirit we love.