Thursday, April 10, 2014

Spirit of Speyside reveals - International Women of Whisky Day for 2014 Festival

You know... Back in November of 2013 as I drove to a whisky dinner being hosted by Martine Nouet I felt like I was at a crossroads. Many things had happened over the course of the summer & I was struggling with where I "stood" when it came to whisky & me. As I entered the hotel room and poured myself a bath, I texted Graham and said: "I don't even want to go to this event now" I utterly felt defeated and couldn't even explain why but I put on my best face and went. About 20 minutes into the evening Martine took a few moments and did something that shocked me: She introduced me to the attendees. May not sound like much but for me it was the kick in the pants I so desperately needed. That night was the beginning of the end of doubt as to where I was going and although I may feel sometimes like I still have no idea where the road leads, I'm confident that it's bringing me exactly where I'm suppose to be.  

Everything seemed to naturally fall in place after that. Chance encounters led to new friendships & concrete projects. I often take the time to thank Martine for being a role model for so many of us trying to break into this field and I will never let her forget how important she. The giants:  Rachel, Ann, Angela, Martine and so many more are where they are because of their passion, love & dedication. We, the next generation of whisky women, look forward to doing them proud and continuing the ground work for those that will come after us. 

Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival declares May 3, 2014 - International Women in Whisky Day 

Spirit of Speyside is proud to introduce the first ever International Women of Whisky Day on May 3, 2014 to recognise the growing number of women working in the industry and sipping Scotland’s national drink.  

It wasn't that long ago that 20% of whisky drinkers were women, the number has doubled with numbers reaching up to 40% in some countries.   With that comes a growing number of women taking on key roles in the industry, from production managers to brand ambassadors. 

Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival chairman James Campbell hopes that whisky drinkers will mark the day no matter where they are in the world and adds:  “It seems fitting that Speyside should be the focus for the very first International Women in Whisky Day, since it is home to Cardhu which was founded by Helen Cumming in 1824. To this day it is still the only malt whisky distillery pioneered by a woman.”

The Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival takes place in Scotland’s most prolific whisky producing region from May 1 to 5, and will host a day-long programme on Saturday May 3. It takes place at The Aberlour Hotel in Aberlour and will be complemented by other events led by women during the five day Festival.

IWOWD kicks off with Introduction to the Sensipedia of Whisky with Johanne McInnis, a Canadian whisky writer and judge known as Whisky Lassie. She will be teaching people how each of the five senses can be used to appreciate and enjoy Scotch.

Another Canadian – Alwynne Gwilt – will be leading a whisky and chocolate pairing session. Alwynne, also known as Miss Whisky and now based in London, is the current Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival International Ambassador of the Year in recognition of her efforts to educate people about Scotch whisky.

Renowned whisky writer Annabel Meikle will be shedding light on tasting notes by exploring the language of whisky, explaining where the aromas come from. Participants will then be tasked with creating their own tasting note after a blind taste test. In addition to writing about whisky, Annabel has her own consultancy, The Whisky Belle.

Master blender Angela D’Orazio from Mackmyra Distillery in Sweden will be introducing revellers to the unique whisky expression at her event. She will be sharing the story behind the distillery, her rise as one of the whisky women of her generation and a few fantastic drams. 

Ann Miller is international brand ambassador for Chivas Brothers and is also one of the directors of the Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival. She will be contributing to the programme by running a guided walk – the James Fleming Trail – looking at the story of the man who founded Aberlour Distillery, and a tasting which deconstructs Aberlour’s double cask maturation.  She says, “International Women of Whisky Day is a fantastic way to recognise the contribution made to the industry by women not just in Scotland but all over the world.  

"It will also help to underline the opportunities that exist to develop a career in the whisky industry, which is no longer the once male-dominated place that it used to be. It is essential that we encourage new blood – whether female or male – into the Scotch whisky industry to ensure it continues to go from strength to strength."

“The programme taking place at Aberlour is one of the most anticipated events of the Festival – each of the women participating is an authority of whisky in her own right and although these events are hosted by women, they are not just for women, but for everyone.”

“The inspiration for this day came in part from the enormous influence of whisky writer and expert Martine Nouet, who has been a regular participant of the Festival for over a decade. She has led a range of not to be missed events over many years and this year Martine will host a number of events at Glen Rothes Distillery.”

A Twitter hashtag has been set up for International Women in Whisky Day - #IWOWD. There are events led by women taking place throughout the Festival, including distillery tours and whisky tutoring.

The Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival, which is now in its 15th year, takes place at venues across the region and boasts a programme of over 30 events. A signature event for Homecoming 2014, it will start Whisky Month – a four week national celebration of Scotland’s world class food and drink.

It will also launch a brand new event this year – The Spirit of Speyside Sessions – which aims to put to spotlight on the area’s traditional music heritage with concerts and ceilidhs being staged in venues closely linked to the whisky industry.

Tickets for all events in the 2014 Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival programme, including the roving judging sessions, can be bought via the website – The Festival is also active on social media – and @spirit_speyside on Twitter

It is with the greatest anticipation that I look forward to the road and where it will lead me.  All I know is... for now, it's looking really great and the company I keep is pretty awesome too. 



  1. Amazing, Johanne! I so wish I could attend the whole program. You're going to knock their socks off!

    1. Thank you madame! I'm taking it on the road next year, working on having International Women of Whisky day in New York or Kentucky... I will let you know, may need help if in NYC... ;)