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Whisky welcomes female influence

Scotland’s Isle of Arran Distillers is one of the most recent whisky brands to appoint a female ambassador.

Keiko Manni with Louisa Young and Sueko Yamada at the Isle of Arran distillery

Keiko Manni, spirits block leader for Tokyo’s prestigious department store, Isetan, was given the title when she visited the Scottish distillery with her colleague Sueko Yamada, who runs Isetan’s in-store spirits bar. Between them, the two women are credited as a driving force behind the brand’s sales in Japan.

This ambassadorial role is just one example of the influential role many women are playing in the development of the traditionally male-dominated whisky sector.

Louisa Young, senior brand manager at Isle of Arran Distillers, said: “Our export sales to Asia are significant and Japan is a key market for us. Keiko and Sueko have long been champions of our wonderful range of single malts so we were delighted to host them as our guests on this trip organised by our Japanese distributor Whisk-e.”

Young continued: “It is great to see that the role of females within the whisky industry has increased on a global level and they are more than making their mark in highly regarded, influential positions.”

Annabel Meikle, sensory whisky creator at Glenmorangie, recently suggested that women have the natural ability to pick up on subtle aromas that make them ideal for working with whisky.

Meikle said, “I used to say there wasn’t any truth in the theory; it was that women were better at describing tastes. But now there is scientific proof that females have a better sense of smell for evolutionary reasons, for example ewes looking for their babies need a stronger sense of smell so maybe there’s something in it.”

A number of whisky producers now have female distillers, including Rachel Barrie, master blender at Morrison Bowmore; Gillian Macdonald, distiller at Welsh whisky firm Penderyn; and Mhairi McDonald, production manager at Glenglassaugh distillery.

With women now responsible for buying 65-70% of the alcohol consumed at home, they are an important part of the drinks market that spirits producers need to acknowledge.

Major whisky brands are looking for ways to broaden the appeal of their products, including the introduction of sweeter brown-spirits. Gruppo Campari’s Wild Turkey American Honey, Jim Beam’s Red Stag Black Cherry-flavoured bourbon, Brown-Forman’s Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Honey Liqueur and The Macallan Amber Whisky Liqueur were all made with female consumers in mind.

Gruppo Campari America launched the Women & Whisky group in 2010 to attract women to the spirit who might be put off by its male connotations. Women & Whisky hosts women-only events that include tastings and talks that take place across America

In 2011, Alan Shayne, president of The Scotch Malt Whisky Society of America, said women make up 13% of its members, compared to just 2% when the society started 18 years ago.

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