Susan and Carla from the Bourbon Women’s Organization talk to us about whiskey and women
Susan Reigler and Carla Carlton, both board members of Bourbon Women, have also had quite interesting careers as writers focusing on Bourbon (see Susan’s book on Kentucky Bourbon and Carla’s bourbon blog and of course, whiskey lovers. We already know that writers love whiskey, right?
We were lucky enough to have a few words with Susan and Carla to learn a bit more about their organization and what they’re up to. Here’s what we talked about!
TC: You both live in Kentucky, do you think this a big reason why you like whiskey so much?
SR: Growing up in Louisville, where one third of the world’s bourbon is made, meant that I hardly thought it exotic. It is as much of the local culture as horse racing. While my father taught me to play chess and read the Daily Racing Form when I was five years old (It seems I spent every Saturday of my childhood at Churchill Downs), I promise I did not start sampling bourbon until I was over 21.
CC: Living in Kentucky, the capital of the bourbon world, certainly doesn’t hurt! My grandmother worked on the bottling line for a Louisville distiller in the 1930s, my grandfather grew his own mint to make a julep every Derby Day, my mother bakes with bourbon – perhaps it’s in the blood.
TC: You’re doing a great job with Bourbon Women – how did your group begin?
SR: Former Brown-Forman Master Taster, Peggy Noe Stevens, founded Bourbon Women. As a known bourbon writer, I was invited to the first organizational meeting. The idea to invite professional women to network over a glass of bourbon seemed a very fine idea. A year later, I was invited to join the board of directors.
CC: The Bourbon Women Association was begun by Peggy Noe Stevens, a former Brown-Forman employee who is the world’s first designated master taster. As a bourbon enthusiast, journalist and blogger (www.thebourbonbabe.com), I was invited to the inaugural event at the Governor’s Mansion and became a charter member; I joined the board about sixth months later.
TC: What do you most like about whiskey in terms of flavor, smell, color…?
SR: I enjoy the bourbons that have plenty of fruit underlying the vanilla and caramel, and also enjoy spice notes. I am not a big fan of the herbal/grassy/oaky bourbons. On the other hand, the bourbon should not be a sugar bomb. Balance is the key. I also enjoy the high proof bourbons with a little water, which shows off their complexity by revealing various layers of flavor.
CC: I particularly like bourbons that balance the sweet aromatic flavors (vanilla, caramel) with a dash of spice and have a nice long finish. I also enjoy rye whiskey. I’m not a big fan of overaged bourbons, as many of them pick up too much bitter tannic quality from the oak. (Of course, there are notable exceptions!) I also love the versatility of the spirit. You can enjoy it neat, in cocktails, in baking, in cooking, with chocolate – what’s not to like?
TC: What are the next events Bourbon Women is organizing?
SR: Many upcoming events in Louisville and beyond. New York in March. Chicago in April. Go to the Bourbon Women website for details.
CC: Bourbon Women will visit New York on March 20 and Chicago on April 23 as part of our “Bourbon Women Take Flight” series, which reaches out to those women who aren’t fortunate enough to live in Kentucky. We will also have a tasting and culinary event featuring an all-female cast of mixologists and chefs as part of the Kentucky Distillers’ Association’s “Kentucky Bourbon Affair” in May.
TC: Do you often offer whiskey as a gift? Do you like being offered whiskey as a gift?
SR: I give both bottles of bourbon and my bourbon books as bourbon as gifts. Often together. Always wonderful to receive any bourbon. Some will be better for cocktails, while others are fabulous for fireside sipping.
CC: I do enjoy giving bourbon and bourbon-related items (bourbon candies, monogrammed rocks glasses) as gifts, and I absolutely enjoy receiving it. One of the best Valentine’s gifts my husband ever gave me, in fact, was a dozen “Roses” – a bottle each of Four Roses’ Yellow Label, Single Barrel and Small Batch.
TC: Do you think more women should be educated in whiskey, in a responsible way of course?
SR: There is a long history of women as distillers and as whiskery drinkers. You don’t need any gender-specific body parts to enjoy bourbon or other whiskies. Everyone appreciates great flavors and elegant, well-made sippage, be it wine, beer, or whiskey. Cheers!
CC: I think many women are already enjoying bourbon and whiskey, either neat or in cocktails. It’s the whiskey industry that needs to be educated about that. That’s one of the main reasons the Bourbon Women Association was created.
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