Commemorating International Women’s Day, celebrated every 8th of March, we are happy to highlight a few women behind our favourite Scotch. There’s no doubt women are still underrepresented in the spirits industry, but that’s changing rapidly.
Of course, holding any position in the Scotch business is well merited and impressive already. Still, some women have reached the industry’s pinnacle and now play the ever-important roles of Master Blenders and Operations Directors. These are the women in Scotch, or at least a few of them representing all we love about our favourite malts.
1. Rachel Barrie.
Rachel Barrie has sniffed more Scotch from cask than most of us combined. Ms Barrie has been the Master Blender at Morrison Bowmore since 2011 and held the same position in Glenmorangie before that, summing up to over 20 years of experience in the whisky business.
Scotch whisky is a symbol of British craftsmanship and tradition, durability and reliability. The origin of whisky began over 1000 years ago when distillation made the migration from mainland Europe into Scotland and Ireland via travelling monks. The Scottish and Irish monasteries, lacking the vineyards and gMs Barrie’s love for whisky goes back to her youth; her first position after graduating was a research scientist at The Scotch Whisky Research Institute. Rachel has been a Master Blender since 2003, without a doubt the most respected position in the industry, and she has helped to put Islay’s smoky malts on the map.
2. Dr Emma Walker.
When the esteemed Dr Jim Beveridge announced his retirement after 40 years as Master Blender at Johnnie Walker, the world of Scotch was shocked. Still, every uncertainty was appeased when the company announced Dr Emma Walker would take his place. Ms Walker, with no relation with the company’s founders, had been working at Diageo for 13 years, half of that at Johnnie Walker as part of Mr Beveridge’s team.
Emma received the official title of Master Blender in January 2022, which means the future is bright for the already well-positioned Blended Scotch brand. Ms Walker is the first woman to take on the role of Master Blender at Johnnie Walker in the company’s two hundred years of history.
3. Kirsteen Campbell.
Kirsteen Campbell made headlines when she was appointed Master Blender for The Famous Grouse in 2016, after holding the position at Cutty Sark. The whisky expert had lab-based roles in The Scotch Whisky Research Institute and Diageo before taking her first hands-on position in the Scotch Industry, but Kirsteen was far from done. In 2009, Ms Campbell became the Master Whisky Maker for The Macallan, perhaps the most coveted position in the industry — she is one of the most inspiring professionals in the world of Scotch.
4. Stephanie Macleod.
Ms Macleod is an award-winning Master Blender for Dewar’s; the International Whisky Competition (IWC) named her the 2019 Master Blender of the Year. With a degree in Food Science and experience as a sensory analyst for the University of Strathclyde, Stephanie joined Dewar’s in 1998, where her extraordinary sensory perception led her to climb the ranks to her current position.
It’s no surprise that Dewar’s most exciting malts hit the market under Ms Macleod’s lead. Dewar’s Double Double Range surely brought life to the historic distillery.
The Spirit Industry Needs More Women
The talented professionals above are just a drop in the bucket. Women in all positions in the Scotch industry are taking our favourite blends and malts to new heights. There’s no doubt we will remember these women and many others to follow for their contributions to Scotch, and they’ll continue to earn praise for their achievements and not for their gender. Happy International Women’s Day!