In the Male World of Whiskey, More Women Are Calling the Shots


But she recounted her frustration when, during a public event where Mr. Morris had highlighted her work, a retailer pushed past her to shake his hand.

“He glanced at me and said, ‘Oh, you’re that taster girl,’” she recalled. “Chris said, ‘No, she is our master taster.’ But the guy said it a second time, and Chris corrected him a second time.”

Ms. Eaves left Brown-Forman in 2015 for a start-up distillery, Castle & Key, where she was a partner and the master distiller — the first woman in Kentucky to hold that title since Prohibition — and in 2019 struck out on her own as a consultant. (Two other women have followed her in top spots at Brown-Forman: Elizabeth McCall, the assistant master distiller at Woodford Reserve, and Jackie Zykan, the master taster for Old Forester.)

Ms. Eaves has won plaudits for her recent work, developing ultrapremium whiskeys for brands like Sweetens Cove, which is backed by a group of sports stars including Peyton Manning and Andy Roddick.

Nevertheless, she still finds herself under the occasional sexist attack, especially from trolls online.

“At first it really got under my skin, but after a while, I stopped reading the comments,” she said. “I don’t feel I have to fight every battle. People follow me, I don’t have to justify myself every time someone challenges my accomplishments.”

But, she added, a lot has changed in the 12 years since she got into the business. Not only are more men open to learning about whiskey from a woman, but women also now make up an estimated 36 percent of American whiskey drinkers, according to 2020 data from the market research firm MRI-Simmons. The change is borne out by the success of groups like the Bourbon Women Association, founded by Peggy Noe Stevens, another former master taster at Woodford Reserve, which organize women-only tastings and distillery tours.



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