INTERNATIONAL WOMEN'S DAY WITH LIQUOR LOOT
With International Women's Day steadily approaching, we thought this was the perfect opportunity to sit down with some successful, strong (AND homegrown) business women in the distilling industry, to gain their advice and (most importantly) chat all things gin and whisky!
In honour of IWD, Liquor Loot is spotlighting female distillers making their mark in the Aussie Gin and Whisky industries, with their special edition International Women's Day Gin Tasting Pack and Whiskey Tasting Pack featuring diverse gins and whiskies created by Australian female distillers.
As a female team ourselves here at TLSE, we appreciate the importance of empowering one another and supporting other women in business, so when we saw that Liquor Loot was doing something special for International Women's Day - we couldn't wait to hear more about it.
We sat down with female distillers Suzy Brett and Carlie Dyer to pick their brains about everything from their favourite spirits, to what it's like to be a female business owner in a predominantly male industry. Keep reading to learn about what it's like to run a distillery, being a business owner, and most importantly what a day as a woman in business looks like.
Suzy Brett, Spring Bay Distillery
[TLSE] What’s your favourite thing about being an owner of Spring Bay Distillery?
[Suzy] There are so many highlights for me it really is hard to choose a favourite! I love doing tastings with whisky and gin lovers and having them enjoy the experience. It’s even better when you introduce people the first time to whisky and gin to explain our process and they love it. That’s one of the reasons I am so pleased to have the opportunity to partner with Whisky Loot as part of their International Women’s Day Pack as it enables people to trial our whisky and experience it fully whilst at home.
What’s your favourite Spring Bay spirit?
Our sherry cask is our most awarded whisky and one of my personal favourites. It embodies strong character and complexity. My Grandmother, who was a very strong and inspiring role model, often enjoyed a pre-dinner sherry. This whisky also reminds me of her, so it seems somehow appropriate that I chose it to be in the Whisky Loot International Women’s Day pack.
What’s it like being a female distiller in an industry predominantly occupied by males?
I would like to think that I am treated equally and rarely do I come across major issues, women are well represented in the Tasmanian spirit scene.
What makes Spring Bay spirits special?
We try and use the best possible ingredients that we can source and use the best available casks to produce the best possible whisky. Individual barrels are sampled and scored by our tasting panel before making it into the bottle. All of our spirits are mixed with our locally sourced rainwater, giving us the spirit of the east coast. Everything is very hands on and small scale, and we try to always do our best. We never take for granted the beautiful location that we work in doing something we are passionate about - wherever we can, we will use Tasmanian.
What inspired you and Cam to start a Distillery
We both have a shared passion for single malt whisky and the east coast of Tasmania. A desire to create drove us to the idea of making whisky. We were inspired by the founders of the Tasmanian whisky scene and felt that it was possible to make excellent coastal whisky. We were lucky to be surrounded by very supportive experienced people who helped make the dream possible.
What something you wished you had known when you first started your journey of creating your own spirits brand?
I wish we had known that people would actually want to buy our whisky. We would have laid a lot more barrels down! It would have been wise to put a large barrel of whisky down at the start of our journey to have a whisky as old as the distillery to be part of our heritage.
Are there any strong women who continue to inspire you?
I am continually inspired by women all the time. For me, this is not static and is very fluid. Often, I will read about amazing innovative things women are doing, but it is also the women I am surrounded by who follow their dreams and go for it!
What is the hardest challenge you have faced as a business owner?
Deciding to take a completely different career path and back myself, you need to be brave! Having the confidence to continue to invest in the distillery particularly in these challenging times.
Carlie Dyer, Starward Distillery
[TLSE] Can you tell us a little bit about what being a Production Distiller entails?
[Carlie] Every day is different, and the role can be quite broad - from brewing the wash, distillation, working with our barrels and blending and experimenting (my favourite part!). We work closely as a team here at Starward, we all come from very different backgrounds, so our skills are very complementary to one another.
As a Melbourne based Distillery, what are some of the key differences between distilleries from other (more remote) locations?
Our modern whiskies speak to the place they’re made. Melbourne is Australia’s food capital; we are surrounded by some of Australia’s great wine regions and we have a plethora of great restaurants and bars on our doorstep.
Melbourne’s four-seasons-in-one-day weather also has a huge influence on our whisky. The varying temperatures allow our spirit to expand and contract within our red wine barrels, helping to aid extraction and build complex flavours. It’s what makes our whiskies so uniquely Melbourne and it’s why we really couldn’t make them anywhere else.
Our urban working distillery is also located just a stone’s throw from the CBD. It’s very easy to visit our distillery to learn about what goes on behind the scenes in making our award-winning whiskies.
If you had to describe Starward’s Whisky in 3 words, what would they be?
New world. Creative. Approachable.
What’s your favourite Whisky?
It’s hard to go past Starward Fortis, it’s a bold whisky with a sweet aroma of raspberry compote and toffee, with a full-bodied palate of spiced dark berries, toasted coconut and vanilla bean. I worked closely with the team on blending this whisky and I’m proud of what we achieved with this expression.
That’s really why I chose it to be part of the Whisky Loot International Women’s Day pack. Australian distilling has this new world persona and with it comes natural progression - not only the way we produce spirits, but also inclusivity. Whisky Loot is a great platform to share experience in the distilling world and I hope it encourages more women to take an interest. Starward Fortis is big and bold in flavour, which is representative of this movement!
What’s it like being a female distiller in an industry predominantly occupied by men?
Starward is very gender inclusive, so for me my gender hasn't affected my role or progression. Sadly though, I know this isn’t the case for everyone in the industry.
I think gender balance in the workplace is so important. When I first joined the team, there were two females to 15 guys in our production team, but we now have female leaders right across the business, including our logistics, packaging, finance and hospitality teams.
There are some incredible female leaders that I look up to in the industry, including Kathleen Davies, founder of NipOfCourage, Australia’s first spirits distribution company and wholesaler in Australia that is female owned. Kathleen is a huge supporter of female distillers, she created the network, Women of Australian Distilling, to provide a platform to connect females within the industry.
If you could give your teenage self some advice, what would it be?
Don't study something because you feel that you have to and give yourself the time to find your own path. Travel often.
What does a typical day look like for you working at Starward?
First thing in the morning we spend time reviewing our barrels to select the best whisky for the current blend we’re working on. It’s quite a long process and tasting whisky at 7AM can be confronting, so we take plenty of breaks. My favourite place in the distillery is our lab, so following the morning barrel review you can usually find me tinkering away on liquid analysis and small experiments.
Are there any strong women you’ve looked up to in your life thus far?
Absolutely – and there are quite a few on my list! The two that spring immediately to mind are Margaret Hamilton and Dr. Rachel Barrie. Margaret was a computer scientist who worked for NASA in the 60s, she wrote the code for the Apollo programs. Dr. Barrie is a world-renowned Master Blender who leads the charge at three incredible distilleries, Glendronach, Benriach, and Glenglassaugh. It’s inspiring to see a female leader with such influence on our industry.
So, treat yourself to some tasty spirits and support these strong women in business while doing so - happy sipping!
WORDS | Brittany Ross
IMAGERY | Liquor Loot