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The Key Players Leading the Female Bourbon Movement

Who said Bourbon was just for men? In the 1990s, only about 15 percent of whiskey drinkers were women. Now, women make up 37 percent of the whiskey-drinking population in the United States with celebrities like Lady Gaga and Rihanna expressing their love for whiskey! Locally, we have our own bourbon-related celebrities that are leading the female bourbon movement and showing just why this local delicacy is most definitely a girl’s best friend.


Marianne Eaves: World’s First Female Master Distiller

Barnes applied her passion for science, math and bourbon to become Kentucky’s first female Master Distiller. After working with Brown-Forman as an intern, she was swiftly offered a full-time position upon graduation; only cementing her love for the bourbon industry. After impressing such a reputable company with her enthusiasm and work ethic, she soon became the world’s first female Master Distiller. Eventually, she left the company to help launch a new bourbon company, Castle & Key. Here, she aided in their preparation to launch the brand and continues to experiment in creating new liquors.


Peggy Stevens: World’s First Master Bourbon Taster

Stevens began her career working for the Hyatt Hotels Corporation. Following this success, she went on to work for Brown-Forman as a lead in travel and event planning. In thriving in this position, Stevens developed a love for the organization and the industry and became the world’s first Master Bourbon Taster. Not the worst title in the world. Not one to dwell, Stevens wanted to share her expertise and experiences with women, considering the male-dominated nature of the industry. In 2011, she founded Bourbon Women, an association which prides itself in creating an environment for women who are passionate about bourbon to gather and develop relationships. Through the years, the organization has grown to include over 400 women from over 20 states and three countries as a result of Steven’s persistence and vision.


Susan Reigler, Former President of the Bourbon Women Association & Author

Reigler is a Louisville native and an Executive Bourbon Steward. She began her career working for the Louisville Courier Journal as a restaurant critic and beverage writer. Now, Reigler pursues her passion for bourbon as she conducts tastings, gives talks, and hosts conferences. She has even written four bourbon-based books, including the Kentucky Bourbon Cocktail Book. As a former biology professor, Reigler likes to incorporate the science of bourbon into her writings and talks in the hopes of further educating those in the industry.


Melissa Happel, Owner of Me Care Body Line

One of our own. Happel is the proud owner of Xhale Salon Spa in Louisville, Kentucky and Wild Rose Spa in Palm Springs, California. After 25 years of spa industry experience, Happel decided to incorporate her love for Kentucky Bourbon into her spa practices. As a result, she developed Me Care Body Line who proudly produce high-quality body products with a unique twist.


Our Bluegrass Bourbon Body Scrub and the Bourbon Bliss variations of our product are infused with authentic Kentucky Bourbon! As a result of Happel’s love for Kentucky and all things bourbon, she successfully developed a one-of-a-kind collection of body products that is taking the Bluegrass State by storm. We bet you thought bourbon was just for drinking, right?


Evidently, women are continuing to mark their territory within the bourbon industry; projecting new ideas, passions and a distinct element of sophistication. Having these influential characters at the forefront of this movement is sure to drive continued growth and inspire the next generation of bourbon-loving females to enter such a flourishing industry. Are you next?


- KRISTEN HEUING

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