Here on the Whiskey Rebellion Trail, we’re no strangers to women and their impact on whiskey. Today we’re taking a deep dive into how a group of ladies impacted the industry – from packaging to the first recipes for some of the finest spirits to date. Feminine energy is in full force in the industry, so we’re breaking down some highlights in a list of top women in whiskey and their accomplishments. Check it out!
Whiskey Women in History
1.Marjorie Samuels – Wife of Maker’s Mark founder, Bill Samuels, presented her husband with the first design for the Maker’s Mark bottle. The red wax at the top and the white hand-torn label were both Marjorie’s ideas. This simple approach revolutionized the way Maker’s Mark packaged whisky. Better yet, it became a cornerstone of their brand.
2.Catherine Spears Frye Carpenter – Catherine is often credited with the first recipes for whiskey sour mash and whiskey sweet mash. The proof of her huge contribution to whiskey is proven with recipe cards donated to the Kentucky Historical Society via The Carpenter Papers. There is some speculation about Catherine writing the cards herself, but the common theory is that the recipe belongs to her!
3.Mary Jane Blair – When her husband died in 1907, Mary Jane inherited his shares of the family-owned distillery. She then proceeded to buy out his parents and rename the distillery after herself. The distillery grew to a 9,000 barrel-a-year operation under her care with her son Nicholas’ assistance. Blair’s reign ended in 1919 when Prohibition was passed into law.
4.Pauline Morton Sabin – The Women’s Organization for National Prohibition Reform started in 1929 when Pauline began to spread her message. Pauline’s argument for reform was that the government should not have a place in telling women what was best for their children. She argued that state regulations would be better than federal laws when it came to crafted spirits. Her argument helped turn the tide.
More to Know
Interestingly enough, when Prohibition finally was repealed in 1933, distilled spirits weren’t marketed to women. Spirits were associated with prostitution, and that didn’t change for a long time. In 1987 when a trade group, the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States, lifted a ban on advertising directly to women, it seemed things were changing. But the change didn’t happen until the 1990s when Crown Royal ran a television spot targeted towards women, the first company to do so.
Modern-Day Whiskey Women
We’re glad it’s only improved from there! We can’t imagine life without the women owned and led distilleries on the trail. Check out the three below and order a spirit (or two) to taste their work and celebrate women and their impact on whiskey!
- Republic Restoratives Craft Distillery – This DC brand prides itself on being women owned and led, as well as having been founded by friends and funded by the community
- Tenth Ward Distilling – Monica Pearce founded the distillery in Maryland, and today they crank out some of the most delicious spirits (with amazing label artwork)
- Wigle Whiskey – Wigle is family owned and operated with Meredith Meyer Grelli taking a key role in direction and operations. Here’s a great feature story about how she feels about the pandemic and whiskey business.
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