Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Petra Milde - Guest blog: The "women only" Sharing Angels Club

NOW!!!! Before you go and send me a bunch of hate mail stating it's reverse sexism... please hear me out because women are treated differently then men are in some whisky circles and that's our reality.... Not yours. It's still common practice for me to go to a whisky event and endure demeaning remarks, assumptions that I'm my husband's designated driver or that I'm nothing more than a wine drinker who is taking a walk on the wild side so will be offered whisky that won't offend or cause me to pass out in hysterics??!

Parity... I'm not even talking equality. We are asking for the right to have parity. The opportunity to attend, gain knowledge and continue our whisky journey without ridicule, abuse or harassment. So how do we do that? How do you build confidence if you feel like you know nothing, or if you find yourself at a bar and the guy behind it can't pronounce Auchentoshan but still denies you the benefit of the doubt that you love whisky and can pick your own damn dram without his unqualified help or opinions!?

I'm a huge proponent of having a women's only space or a women's only group for a few reasons. 

1. You are with a group of your peers.

2. You feel safe and are not judged because of where you are in your whisky journey.

3. By women, for women. I'm sorry but after what I've seen on some of the whisky forums and facebook groups - we need a space that is respectful toward women or where the administrators have the teeth to block the idiots that don't. 

4. Women, especially new whisky imbibers, need a space to explore, speak freely, ask questions without fear to help build their self confidence and knowledge base. You can't get that with old creepy guy wrapping his arm a little too tightly around your shoulders, spitting on you while he mumbles: "If it's not scotch, it's crap!"  Yah... that will make me want to come back to this club and drink more whisky!??

And simply said... The reality is Luddites still exists in our world. 

It's International Women's Day so I thought it might be nice to visit a club in Germany although still in their infancy are quickly growing in size and popularity because... It's a women only club.  

Petra, Margarete, and Julia

What happens when three women meet up for a private tasting on a warm summer evening in 2014? Well, they start to talk about the possibility of starting a tasting club of course!?

That's exactly what happened with Margarete Marie (whisky blogger), Julia Nourney (independent spirits consultant) and Petra Milde (author/whisky blogger) did. They had just experienced a fantastic evening of spirits (whiskies & gins) and all said: "This was so much fun, we should really do it again". They started to share some ideas and expressed how much of a shame it was that too few women they knew were getting to experience the special togetherness and sisterhood the three of them had felt that night. 

And... from necessity the three whisky ladies of invention created The Sharing Angels Club, for women only. The name didn't come right away. That materialized as a result of a discussion on a private Facebook page for women. Julia Nourney posted: "Being a new member I would like to ask the group if someone has a good idea for a short but memorable name for a group of female whisky tasters?" Many people responded but when all three saw The Sharing Angels Club, it was immediate and perfect. They knew they would face questions by people who might disagree about a women's only whisky club but in her own words Petra shares the following: 

Oh yes.... “That’s discrimination!” – We have often heard this cry of reproach since we started our private whisky group, The Sharing Angels.

Some men say it in a humorous way but some are quite serious and mean it in a kind of huffy manner. Well, most of us don’t really care and to be honest we sometimes (often…) enjoy seeing them experience what we women have been used to being subjected to for ages: 

Having to stand outside of the closed circle because of our gender. 

Don't get me wrong as we are not purposely trying to widen the divide between whisky drinking men and women!? Not at all! That is the furthest thing and never the intention of the Sharing Angels. It is truly to the contrary: We love mixed groups in bars and during whisky events because we enjoy sharing good drams with like minded men. 

The reality, however, is indeed often different: Women’s liberation and equality hasn’t really reached the whisky scene yet here in Germany. In my experience women at whisky tastings and events are still a small minority. But I digress because our club never took up women’s liberation as a cause and are far from considering ourselves whisky-suffragettes that want to fight for a female quota at whisky events. Our sole intention and goal is to encourage women to have fun, enjoy their drinks and talk about it without thinking: “HE can analyze and assess whisky much better than I can, I'm only a woman”. Our reply to that is quite: "No Ladies, he can’t do it better than you. He just does it louder and with much more self awareness, so... so what!?" 

That is our purpose and mission at the Sharing Angels group: It's a learning arena for women who might feel unsure or intimidated by the subject of whisky. We love to show them how easy it is to talk about the drink in one’s glass and that there is no right or wrong regarding any of it because in the end it's all about your own taste/experience.

And don't think for two seconds that the women in our club look for a "woman's" whisky. Do you want to know what we consider a woman's whisky?

Ardbeg, Dalwhinnie, Glenfarclas, Glenmorangie, Highland Park, Kavalan, Knob Creek, Lagavulin, Laphroaig, Macallan, Mackmyra, Säntis, Talisker, Tomatin or a Yamazaki and so many more! Are you getting what I mean? There is no such thing as a whisky for women. They are for everyone, male or female. It has nothing to do with gender and everything to do with some may or may not like. That's all. 

Our group started as a small contingency of women in Germany, then our Facebook group started to and is constantly growing (close to 200 now) and our Sharing Angels are everywhere! There are women working in the spirits business, some that have been enjoying whisky for ages or many that are just starting to discover the world of spirits. We share news and thoughts, have organized two online tastings, visited a distillery and there are many plans for more group events. 

For those women who are not part of Facebook (and there are some!) we actually built up a website to stay in contact and provide them with information, too. The site is not completed yet but will be soon. Our angels are spread all over Germany and some other countries as well. We make it a point at every whisky event to organize a small gathering to share a dram together in sisterhood and to get to know more whisky women. 

It’s always amazing and you can believe me: The Sharing Angels are becoming well-known and much-noticed in the Germany whisky scene. Our trademark is our lovely whisky button.  If you happen to see someone wearing a blue button it's because we have devised a way to show appreciation for our male friends/fans who support our club. Although we won't let any men join we certainly appreciate their efforts at letting people know they support our group. 

We are so thankful for people like Götz (Julia's husband) for creating our Logo, Frank (my husband) for hand-manufacturing our buttons and supplying us with delicious food during our foundation tasting. And all the importers and brand ambassadors that invited our group to visit and taste their spirits. We truly feel honored and supported in this wonderful time of whisky change."   

Thank you Petra. Her blog can be found at: www.meinwhisky.com

I can tell you things are changing. In my country, there is parity. Women are now close to 40% of the people that attend whisky events. And the days of having "booth bunnies" in high heels behind the tables are a thing of the long lost past. So... while the rest of the world catches up, please remember to not judge anyone, male or female as where they are in their journey. Help them along anyway you can because once, long ago or maybe not that long ago... you were a newbie too.

My newly elected prime minister, Justin Trudeau brought in 15 women into his 30 member cabinet back in November of 2015. 

When a journalist asked why 1/2 were women he simply replied: "Because it's 2015". Here's to all the women and men who support this idea, I and the next generation of whisky women all over the world sincerely thank you for it.

Thanks again to Petra Milde for her contribution. I hope some day to make it to Germany and imbibe with this lovely ladies group!



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