Take a look at famous names in whiskey history and it doesn’t take long to notice a pattern: Jim, Jack and Johnnie to name a few. The spirits industry has long been dominated by iconic men immortalized by the bottles that bear their names. Here at RackHouse, we believe the best spirits have a story that is as diverse and unique as the people that drink them. Which is why we’re excited to see women distillers and blenders stepping up and turning the industry into a more interesting field. March is Women’s History Month and we’re celebrating the contributions of women making their mark on the world of whiskey. These are the female distillers who are shattering the myth that whiskey is only a man’s business.
Victoria Eady Butler
It doesn’t get anymore iconic than the work of Victoria Eady Butler, who is the great-great-granddaughter of Nathan “Nearest” Green, the first-ever Black master distiller who mentored the Jack Daniel in the art of whiskey making. Green, who was enslaved until 1865, was a highly skilled whiskey-maker and indispensable advisor for Jack Daniel’s now internationally recognized whiskey business. Butler left a career in the Department of Justice to carry on the family legacy and became the first known Black female Master Blender in the American spirits industry. Butler now serves as master blender for Uncle Nearest Premium Whiskey in Nashville, Tennessee alongside co-founder, CEO and historian Fawn Weaver. Prior to her work at Uncle Nearest, Butler didn’t have any background in distilling but her batches have gone on to win numerous awards and earn a reputation for excellence.
When considering women in whiskey, you’ll hear Nicole Austin’s name pop up as a champion for both bourbon and Tennessee whiskey. She originally had her heart set on becoming an environmental lawyer but a chance encounter with whiskey while on a date sparked a passion that she couldn’t ignore. She’s now one of the top figures in distilling in the U.S. and is master distiller of Tennessee’s George Dickel Whiskey. In her first distillery job at King’s County Distillery, she produced a rye whiskey that went on to win Double Gold at the 2015 World Spirits Competition in San Francisco. It’s safe to say that she’s made a name for herself when it comes to innovation and elevating female voices in the whiskey industry.
Marianne Eaves’ name is synonymous with Kentucky whiskey and there’s a good reason why: in 2015, she became Kentucky’s first female master distiller since prohibition at the Frankfort-based Castle & Key Distillery. Her career is the direct result of a background and interest in another predominantly male field, chemical engineering. "To give you an idea, in my class of 50 or so there were about 12 women," she explains. "In these science and technology fields, it's still skewed towards men, so going into the workforce in the first place there's just more men going after those jobs." As Eaves continues to make a name for herself, she sees the glass ceiling changing in the whiskey world. “I think in every industry women are having more opportunities,” she added. She used her expertise in chemistry and as a Kentucky bourbon and whiskey maker to create some of the most renowned brands in the state.
As the youngest female master distiller in the United States, Molly Troupe is attempting to infuse a vibrant, fresh approach to whiskey making. She is a master distiller for Freelance Spirits, a distillery in Portland, Oregon that is one of the few wholly women-owned and operated distilleries in the world. Troupe earned an undergraduate degree in chemistry and a graduate degree in distilling and brewing. Her unique infusion process gives Freelance spirits a signature freshness and prominent flavors. The whiskey world is waiting to see what Troupe comes up with next.If you want to support women in whiskey and the small craft distilleries who aren’t afraid to experiment, check out RackHouse Whiskey Club. RackHouse previously featured Maddie Kelly from 2bar Spirits and the husband and wife duos from both Whistling Andy and King's Family. RackHouse scours the U.S. looking for the best craft distilleries with the most interesting stories to curate a unique subscription box filled with full-sized bottles of hard-to-find small batch whiskey. We’re building a community of premium craft whiskey drinkers. And you’re invited! Join us!