We put a call-out to the women in Australian distilling to give us an insight into who they are, and why they chose this industry, here’s some of their responses!
Head of Spirits and Operations Manger at The Catfish Bar, VIC
HOW MANY YEARS HAVE YOU BEEN IN THE INDUSTRY?
8 to 10 years.
WHAT SPARKED YOUR INTEREST IN THE INDUSTRY?
"I've been a hospitality professional for 18 years, and I'm highly passionate about drinks in general, but for the past 9 years of my career I've chosen to specialise in whisky and Australian craft spirits. My love of whisky began with an obsession with Scotland, but evolved from there. Whisky will always be my favourite child, not only due to personal taste, but due to the 'magic' of the spirit - the diversity of expressions that can be produced from just three simple ingredients: grain, water, yeast. For me, whisky is not just about the spirit, but about history, community, and culture. This ties into my passion for Australian craft - while Scotch whisky is now largely commercialised (with exceptions), ours is still a burgeoning industry. We are at the grassroots level, and who doesn't want to get involved in building history, community, and culture?"
YOUR MOST PROUD MOMENTS IN THE INDUSTRY?
"I'm always learning, so proud moments happen frequently! Becoming the Head of Spirits and then Operations Manager of one of my favourite bars - The Catfish - will always feel like achievement unlocked, and passing my WSET in Spirits with Distinction is a vindication of my years of study. Selling the country out of Glen Moray in my first year as BA is both a point of pride and a hindrance to my job! But more than anything I'm proud of the relationships that I have built and of my reputation in the industry."
WHAT HAVE YOU FOUND TO BE THE BIGGEST CHALLENGES IN THE INDUSTRY?
"It sounds banal, but the biggest challenge for me has been gender. Hospitality management is a male dominated field, and particularly in my early years I had to fight hard to gain and retain respect and positions of seniority. I was told I wasn't allowed in cellars because they were dangerous and dirty. I was told I couldn't be a manager because it wasn't safe for a woman to be alone in the venue at night. I was told women can't effectively deal with troublesome patrons. We still see women relegated to floor while men run the bar, which leaves us in the dust for career progression. The industry has come along way, but the micro-aggressions occur near daily. Whisky is even worse. While at the helm of one of Melbourne's whisky bars I was frequently challenged on whether I even drank the stuff, let alone knew anything about it. Whisky shows aren't much better, and social media groups are the worst - we can't even get people to stop addressing posts to the lads/gents."
WHAT WOULD YOU TELL SOMEONE THAT KNOWS NOTHING ABOUT AUSSIE CRAFT SPIRITS?
"That the industry as we know it today is younger than I am (again, with exceptions). That when I started in hospitality the only Australian examples you would see behind the bar were Bundaberg, or *maybe* St Agnes, but that we've expanded at a rate of 10+ distilleries per year on average. That not all Australian whiskies come from Tasmania, in fact we have whisky distilleries in every state (and my favourite is from SA). That might be more than one thing but I feel like they're related points."
WHAT IS SOMETHING THAT YOU WOULD WANT TO TELL YOUR YOUNGER SELF?
"That it's better to be yourself than to be liked, and often the latter will follow the former."
WHAT IS YOUR PARTY TRICK?
"Double joints. Most of them."
WHO HAS INSPIRED YOU THE MOST IN YOUR CAREER SO FAR?
"It varies depending on the area of the industry. In hospitality I have a network of amazing friends who inspire me daily. As a BA I look up to Jonathan Minihan for his knowledge and passion, and Georgie Mann for her energy and innovation. In whisky production I'm most interested in blending, and I've had great chats with Fleurieu's Angela Andrews and Starward's Carlie Dyer. Dr. Rachel Barrie is the person I'd most like to meet. Show me a badass woman in any area of this industry - someone who knows their shit and doesn't take shit about it - and I'll be inspired."