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26th

Jan

A Man’s Drink?... by Steph

After being in the Wine & Spirit business for 6 years, I am growing quite used to the raised eyebrows and the odd muttering under breath regarding my love and passion for whisky. Now I enjoy the acceptance and recognition from the opposite sex when they make comments such as “you have changed my opinion on women whisky drinkers” and “you surprised me on your knowledge of whisky...” albeit with this one often ending in “...for a young lady”.

I may not look like your “average whisky drinker”; whatever one looks like, but I am pleased that more women are being introduced to the wonderful world of whisky, and I aim to smash the preconception that whisky is a man’s drink.

Like many, my first whisk(e)y love was, Jack Daniels, which shocked a lot of my peers, as whilst everyone was reaching for the Lambrini, I spent long periods of time searching the spirit aisles for something different. My first single malt love was Lagavulin 16yo. Safe to say I was hooked from there.

Tomatin 30yo

One of my fondest memories of whisky is sampling Tomatin 30yo at 10:30am when a supplier graced a store I was managing at the time with a surprise visit. The nose of this dram was alluring; bursting with tropical fruits and sponge cake, immediately taking me back in time to Food Technology in High School. After about 10 failed attempts to make a pineapple upside down cake, I succeeded! The sense of achievement was incredible (Simple things eh?). Both the finished cake and the whisky’s unforgettable flavours were confirmed on the palate.

pineapple upside down cake

Whisky offers an individual and personal experience. Rather than searching for fruit flavours, such as in wines. Whisky tasting for me can be a trip down memory lane. When sampling a whisky, you can become quite nostalgic; when taking your first whiff of a whisky, your brain can link the scent with a memory, such as my first camping trip sat by a bonfire, after fishing with my Granddad, or Christmas Day with the family. Just nosing the whisky tells you what the whisky is offering; the tasting part is simply to confirm what your nose has already told you.

Along with still enjoying discovering new drams, I've found myself being allured by beer.

Nearly 4 thousand years before whisky was distilled, Sumerian women invented beer.

ninkasi

Beer was used during religious rituals, for medicine and simply as a beverage. Women would drink beer at funerals, and would sing songs to the goddess, Ninkasi, Enki; “the lord of wisdom’s” daughter.  She was worshiped as beer was safer to drink.

An Egyptian woman created the alembic still around 3 AD, a prototype of the stills used today.

alembic still

The Egyptian goddess, Hathor, the “inventress of brewing” and the “mistress of intoxication” was blamed for extreme intoxication in Egypt resulting in the Egyptian politicians attempting to implement their own Prohibition, closing down beer stores, hitting the retailers hard, not necessarily the women making the brews.

Medieval women worked in Apothecaries, distilling anything from rose water to potatoes. They called these early distillations aqua vitae, or Uisce Beatha, both meaning “Water of Life”.

The word whisky was not a commonly used word until the 1800’s, which may explain why women in whisky was not talked about or recognised in whisky history, and tequila, rum and brandy were often mistaken for whisky.

Whisky was once the lady’s staple beverage for guests. In the 1700’s and 1800’s, Scottish and American women mixed whisky with tea and sugar in punch bowls, while Irish women used Irish moonshine, to keep their families healthy. Women enjoyed whisky all the way through prohibition up to the late 1950’s.

Women in whisky history have faced some battles; Scottish aqua vitae makers were accused of witchcraft, and the Greeks and Romans forbade women to make wine or drink alcohol. Whilst the Greeks believed that wine should only be drank by the highest ranks of people, the Romans took a more gruesome approach to women and alcohol; if a woman was even seen near alcohol, they would be punished by death. The Romans were then conquered by German barbarians, who allowed their women to drink and make beer. Ironic?

In the middle ages, women were important figures in society regarding beer, it was even said that women were better brewers than men!

Women in London during the mid 1400’s counted for 30% of brewers, and were nicknamed “Ale-Wives” or “Brewster Wives”.

And as we all know, Whisky is, put simply, distilled beer!

Big whisky names like Laphroiag, Dalmore, Johnny walker and Bushmills would not be here today if it wasn't for women in whisky history.

Important Women in Whisk(e)y

Nearly a third of UK whisky drinkers are women!

Have a read of this article from the Drinks Business, featuring Bessie Williamson, Elizabeth Cumming and Amy Seton, to name but a few, of the most influential women in whisky.

http://www.thedrinksbusiness.com/2014/05/top-women-in-whisky/

bessie williamson - laphroaigelizabeth cumming

So, I think it is safe to say, Whisky is not a man’s drink, and I ask all the ladies out there to keep trying whisky! I believe there is a whisky out there for everyone; you simply have to find it.

For more advice on starting your journey into whisky, stay tuned for more blogs.

Sláinte! And remember, drink responsibly.

Steph

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