With the 8th of March signifying International Women's Day, I was expecting to attend a few female-heavy events throughout the month. I watched as women were celebrated in their fields of literature, art, music, cuisine, business and fashion but my favourite, unsurprisingly, was whisky.
The Glasgow-based and all round brilliant pub, The Pot Still, ran its third annual Women in Whisky Lunch at the beautiful Grand Central Hotel on March 11th.
Its organiser, Geraldine Murphy, knows a thing or two about whisky. She serves over 700 of them in The Pot Still, a location that has quickly become known as THE whisky destination in Glasgow.
Geraldine also runs the UK's first female-only whisky tasting in The Pot Still called The Whisky Girls; an event that's given many women the chance to experience whisky in a way not previously available to them.
It may be true that whisky was once firmly rooted in the world of men but women have been digging up the roots for some time. Geraldine herself has spoken of the confidence she's gained working in such a demanding industry and it's one that she is helping define for future female whisky lovers.
At the lunch I spoke with Rosemary Moon, the enthusiastic founder of Whisky for Women in Chichester. She focuses on running tastings for the older generation of whisky women and when I asked her how this age-group feel about trying unfamiliar styles, her answer delighted me:
My Whisky Women are really keen to try new expressions and completely understand the idea of seasonal whiskies to serve with seasonal foods. Their palettes have definitely developed over the two years of the club and they are now enjoying more complex whiskies. Only a few are keen on peated expressions but all will try them. Strong peat or smoke and acetone notes on the nose are real turn-offs. Marrying food and whisky is a perfect way of introducing new whisky styles.
I also spoke to Trine Berg, long-time employee of Royal Mile Whiskies in Edinburgh. As well as being an honest-to-god whisky fanatic, she's well versed in the habits of female whisky drinkers. I was curious about the changing attitudes of female tourists in the whisky-heavy location of the Royal Mile and Trine had a fantastic response:
In my experience, women seem to have adopted a keener interest in what whisky actually is, where it comes from, the history of it etc. Of course, you still have the wives coming in with their husbands shaking their heads, saying “I can’t stand the stuff”, “it’s my husband that likes it” and so on, but these are becoming fewer, and I find that very encouraging. It’s also interesting to see how it seems to be mainly men asking for a ‘woman’s whisky’ when they want something smooth to drink nowadays, whilst women have moved on to using more specific tasting notes.
There is still a way to go until women hold as many prestigious positions as men in the whisky industry but at The Pot Still's lunch, surrounded by so many inspiring women, I'd never felt so happy to call the whisky world my home.
Lara Williams 29.03.17