Whisky and women

Whisky has been a boy’s club for decades but, reflecting changing attitudes worldwide, Whisky Auctioneer has announced the first-ever auction dedicated to shining a spotlight on and raising funds for female-led distilleries

Food and Drink 26 Mar 2024

Of all the arbitrary things to be excluded from because of gender, whisky (or any drink, for that matter) is one of the more ludicrous. But there’s no denying that the world of whisky has been a boy’s club for decades. When one imagines the average whisky drinker, it’s a man that springs to mind; whether it’s a shaggy Ernest Hemingway, boozing his way around Europe, or Don Draper, pouring himself a drop of hard liquor after a long day of womanising and repressing childhood trauma.

But like many things once thought of as ‘not for girls’, the whisky industry has seen some major (albeit gradual) changes. The facts and figures speak for themselves. According to research by The Future Laboratory, 37 per cent of whisky consumers in the US are female, while almost a third in the UK are women. As for the industry itself, there are currently 183 female-owned, operated or led distilleries in the world (at least among those included in the Distilling Women map), with the majority of these being based in the States. Because it’s not just about shining a spotlight on the consumer but also the people making waves in the industry.

At the tail-end of this year’s Women’s History Month, Whisky Auctioneer is hosting what it dubs the ‘world’s first auction dedicated to recognising the achievements and contributions of women in the [whisky] sector’. The inaugural auction, running from 29 March to 8 April 2024, takes the form of the Demeter Collection. Named after the Greek goddess of grain, harvest and agriculture, the Demeter Collection will highlight unique and exquisite whiskies crafted and inspired by some of the industry’s most talented women. What’s more, it will also raise funds for OurWhisky Foundation, a one-of-its-kind, not-for-profit organisation supporting professional women in whisky. Highlights of the auction will include the limited-edition Dalmore 44 Year Old, celebrating whisky maker Margaret Nicol’s 50th anniversary, and the Cooper King Inaugural Release, the only bottle from cask number one to be made available to non-founding members from the young British distillery.

Becky Paskin, founder of the OurWhisky Foundation, describes the goddess Demeter as one of the ‘lesser known of the Olympians… despite her important role within Greek mythology’.

Becky Paskin, founder of the OurWhisky Foundation

‘Just like Demeter’s sidelining in pop culture, women’s contributions to whisky have been vastly under-recognised,’ she explains. ‘Through the Demeter Collection, we want to honour the grain goddess and tell the untold stories of women in whisky, while raising much-needed funds to enable the OurWhisky Foundation to support, recognise and empower future generations of women in the industry.’

‘Historically, our industry has lacked diversity, and that’s something we’re determined to change,’ adds Joe Wilson, head curator and spirits specialist at Whisky Auctioneer. ‘To that end, we have been delighted to witness the incredible achievements of the OurWhisky Foundation, and are thrilled to host this auction and shine a spotlight on the stories of women within our industry. The Demeter Collection is an exciting group of one-of-a-kind and collectible bottlings from very diverse distilleries. Our hope is that this auction will not only catch the attention of enthusiasts and collectors worldwide to raise important funds for The OurWhisky Foundation, but also inspire current and future generations of women in whisky.’


The Demeter Collection auction takes place 29 March-8 April 2024. Register your interest here; whiskyauctioneer.com, ourwhiskyfoundation.org