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Scotch Whisky: Celebrating the women leading the way

Sold in 180 countries around the world, 36 bottles of Scotch Whisky are shipped overseas every second, with exports valued at an incredible £3.8 billion.


Single malt Scotch Whisky proudly represents a diverse industry, with female voices shaping the culture. To celebrate International Whisky Day on 27 March, we spoke to some of the women leading the way, to find out what inspired them to join the world of whisky and how they see the industry changing for the future.

Jenna Murray – The Glenlivet Whisky Ambassador, United States



What brought you to the world of whisky?

I had the joy of being introduced to the hospitality industry early in life. I liked the idea of walking into work every day, not knowing what the night's service would bring. I loved learning all about whisky from behind the bar, sharing that love with the customers I served. I’ve been able to take that passion out into the world with my Whisky Ambassadorship.

What is the most exciting project you've worked on?

Launching The Glenlivet 14-Year-Old Cognac Cask. Touring the US from coast to coast, we focused on women who drink whisky, sampling Scotch-infused ice creams and working with fashion brands at Food and Wine festivals. It was a totally new approach to promoting Scotch and I was proud to be disrupting perceptions of the category.

Why do you think Scotch Whisky has such an incredible international appeal?

There are so many different flavours coming from all the different regions of Scotland there is never that moment when you feel like you've tried it all. There's always something new to explore.

How do you think more women could be encouraged to become involved in the whisky industry?

The best advice I could give is to find someone who enjoys whisky as much as you, who has found a niche in the business, and seek them out as mentor. I've worked to find my seat at the table, now it's time for me to pull up another chair to give someone else a seat too.

Patricia Dillion – Managing Director, Speyside Distillers



What brought you to the world of whisky?

My father was an avid whisky drinker and taught me all about the types of whiskies and regions. These became passions of mine, and it was a natural path I ended up taking later in my senior professional life.

What is the most exciting project you've worked on?

There have been too many to single one out, however if I had to choose, I would say our current new distillery project.

Why do you think Scotch Whisky has such an incredible international appeal?

Scotch whisky is a quality, crafted Scottish spirit, over 500 years old; consumers like to explore and discover this history along with the craft. When we host guests at our artisan Speyside Distillery, or greet them at festivals and events, they are intrigued by the wide range of tastes, aromas and cask finishes, and want to find out more about the craft, regions and Scotch as an industry.

How do you think more women could be encouraged to become involved in the whisky industry?

The Scotch Whisky industry launched a Diversity and Inclusivity Charter to create a welcoming workforce for people from all backgrounds. Developed by the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) and its members, it shows the industry's commitment to improving equal opportunity across the sector. As a leader of a Scotch Whisky Distillery Company and a representative on the SWA Council, I ensure that I play my part in promoting diversity and inclusivity, to encourage women and all people into our industry.

Diane Farrell – Senior Site Manager, Talisker Distillery



What brought you to the world of whisky?

Early in my Diageo career, I delivered the commemorative bottling for the new Johnnie Walker House in Seoul. During a staycation at the Gleneagles Hotel, I spotted one of the bottles taking centre stage in a display cabinet. The surge of pride I had in that moment was overwhelming, and I loved being able to talk about the story behind the bottle and why it was so special. I knew then that I loved the world of Scotch Whisky – every distillery and brand have their own unique story to tell. I am very proud to be part of the history of an iconic brand like Talisker.

What is the most exciting project you've worked on?

Hosting Diageo World Class in 2019, when the finalists visited us on the beautiful Isle of Skye. The 'Talisker Wild Spirit' competition celebrated the four elements of the wild, with finalists asked to produce a cocktail from a box of mystery ingredients. I was amazed at the array of cocktails. The energy was electric, and it was so much fun to be part of.


Why do you think Scotch Whisky has such an incredible international appeal?

It's an amalgamation of the idyllic locations where our distilleries are based, the remarkable quality of the spirit we produce using the natural resources available to us, and the stories and people behind our brands. I love meeting people from around the world who have travelled all the way to the Isle of Skye to visit the home of the Talisker brand. Passion is what drives our industry.

How do you think more women could be encouraged to become involved in the whisky industry?

There has been a significant effort over the years to make it a gender-balanced industry — and I see that trend continuing. I love that there are women working across all aspects of the industry – from the makers, to the bartenders, to the writers, to the consumers, and this acts as an inspiration for other women who are considering a career in whisky.

Dr Rachel Barrie – Master Blender, Brown-Forman



What brought you to the world of whisky?

I grew up close to distilleries in rural Aberdeenshire, and my father had a wonderful collection of single malt, which I learned to appreciate and understand. I entered the whisky world as a research scientist at the Scotch Whisky Research Institute, before moving into production. Now, as Master Blender, my focus is on understanding spirit character and flavour, mastering cask maturation, wood policy, and operational whisky supply, shaping portfolios through a balance of tradition and innovation to create excellence in single malt Scotch.

What is the most exciting project you've worked on?

Last year's launch of Benriach Speyside single malt Scotch Whisky. In the years prior, I explored three different styles of distillate, from the spirit off the still just entering the warehouses, to casks maturing for over 50 years. I experimented with dozens of different, eclectic and innovative casks. This exploration culminated in the launch of the new portfolio, with the Original and Smoky 10 and 12 year olds, a triple distilled expression, the Old and Rare range, a batch of cask bottlings, and speciality malts. Across the range, recipes came from maturation experiments, such as a combination of Marsala and Bourbon, Rum and Virgin oak, Sherry, Port and Madeira ...and more!

Why do you think Scotch Whisky has such an incredible international appeal?

It's down to three main ingredients: the character of the landscape, the people, and the expression of both in every Scotch whisky. The character of the landscape shapes the highest quality spirit, from the richest source of malted barley to cool, pure water and perfectly temperate maturation conditions in our warehouses, never far from the sea, giving exquisite complexity and unsurpassed quality. The warm and welcoming character of Scotland's people, from local distillery operators and visitor centre teams, to the growing number of Scotch ambassadors across the globe. Scotch Whisky has a tremendous reputation for quality, authenticity and character, which is valued and revered.


How do you think more women could be encouraged to become involved in the whisky industry?

The Scotch Whisky Association Diversity and Inclusivity Charter demonstrates a commitment to this goal. It's important that we communicate the variety of roles in the industry and the number of women in these roles, from operations and engineering, to hospitality, sales and more. Increasing awareness of the women employed in the industry will hopefully help encourage more to get involved!


Follow this link to step further into the story and discover what makes single malt Scotch Whisky so unique...

All views expressed in this blog are the views of the guest blogger and do not represent the views of the GREAT campaign.