Liquor On The Mountain: Whiskey Women


It’s that time of the year again: the time where Alex Vega picks a bunch of whiskey and we host an all queerdo whiskey tasting on this here A-Camp mountain. It’s also that time of year when I encourage you all to join us at home—grab a handful of queerdo friends and go in on some whiskey together. Get a bunch of glencairn glasses and, as a group, taste and make notes and talk and laugh. Even if you’re historically not a whiskey person, there’s something for everyone to take note of. Getting together and doing this means you can pool your money on more expensive whiskeys than you might be able to alone, and it also fosters a community of queerdos. Plus hosting cool get-togethers in your living room is awesome and this historically boys’ club hobby is then reclaimed for our bodies, which do deserve some luxurious treats once in a while!

Speaking of historically, this year’s tasting is based off the book Whiskey Women: The Untold Story of How Women Saved Bourbon, Scotch and Irish Whiskey. Alas, the book itself is written by a man, but this well-informed gent is giving credit where credit is due. All the whiskeys we’re tasting this year are either currently piloted by women or have been sometime in the past. Also unlike years past, they’re all big enough brands that everyone should be able to follow along at home.

Bushmills 16-Year

Though Bushmills predates its registration in 1784, that’s when it became official-official. The distillery was registered by a man named Hugh Anderson, but in 1865, Ellen Jane took over ownership. Though the Master Distiller is currently a dude, back in 2010 it was Helen Mulholland. In fact, at the time Whiskey Women was published, it was the only company with an all-women tasting panel, so we can say with confidence they’ve got a long-standing tradition of women in upper positions. Plus if you wanna get literary, Bushmills is mentioned in Ulysses.

Cardhu Single Malt

via Aries

via Aries

Cardhu has a history of being saved and run by women, even if there were men’s names presented as at the helm. Though technically history says John Cumming’s name was on the convictions for distilling without a license and, later, on the license itself, local and family lore says it was all his wife’s doing. So thank you, Helen Cumming, for breaking a lot of rules. The distillery passed to her son, Lewis, and later her daughter in law, Elizabeth. She’s the one who sold the distillery to John Walker in 1893 (yep, that’s Johnnie Walker). Though 70% of Cardu’s whiskey goes into the Johnnie Walker blended whiskeys of today, the distillery still operates under its original name and 30% is put out as Cardhu single malt. I cannot WAIT to try this one.

Laphroaig Cairdeas

According to Alex Vega, the mastermind behind our whiskey selections, “Bessie Williamson, known as the First Lady of Scotch, was hired at Laphroaig as a secretary in 1934 and inherited the distillery from the previous owner in 1954. She had a knack for marketing and anticipated the coming trend (and taste) for single malt scotches and to position the Laphroaig product, and by extension other Islay malts, to the American market. (Previously, Laphroaig had been a blended Scotch.) The Scotch Whisky Association named Williamson as its American spokesperson from 1961 to 1964.” The Cairdeas is a special edition single malt crafted each year to celebrate friendship (cairdeas in gaelic). This makes it perfect to taste with your queer squad, and probably I will cry when we taste this on the mountain, because friendship to the max.

Brenne Ten

Brenne Whisky, owned by Alison Patel, has been an Autostraddle favorite since they sponsored one of our whiskey tastings a couple years ago. It was a favorite on that day—so many Straddlers went back into the world and asked their local purveyors of spirits to carry Brenne whiskey. Not only is Patel pretty cool (she blogs at The Whisky Woman) but Brenne is DELICIOUS—approachable enough for even the newest whisky enthusiast, and unique enough for a more experienced taster. It really is for everyone. Well back in September, Patel announced the launching of Brenne Ten, a ten year version of our old favorite. So naturally we’ve gotta try it.

Maker’s 46

Maker’s Mark was started by Marge Samuels and her husband in the 1950s. Marge was the developer and designer of the red wax-dipped bottle we all know and love today. Marge was also responsible for getting the distillery recognized as an official historic landmark in 1980, the first distillery to be labeled as such. We’ll be tasting Maker’s 46, which is aged a bit longer than standard in barrels containing French oak staves.

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A.E. Osworth

A.E. Osworth is part-time Faculty at The New School, where they teach undergraduates the art of digital storytelling. Their novel, We Are Watching Eliza Bright, about a game developer dealing with harassment (and narrated collectively by a fictional subreddit), is forthcoming from Grand Central Publishing (April 2021) and is available for pre-order now. They have an eight-year freelancing career and you can find their work on Autostraddle (where they used to be the Geekery Editor), Guernica, Quartz, Electric Lit, Paper Darts, Mashable, and drDoctor, among others.

A.E. has written 542 articles for us.



    Laphroaig is one of my favourites, let me know how this one compares to the 10 year old :D

  2. The only one I tried was Cardhu and I like it! I want to try Bushmill but it makes me think of a mill powered by bushes…but not the plant kind of bushes.

  3. also also! wigle whiskey based out of pittsburgh is a craft distillery co-owned and operated by a badass lady name meredith. (unfortunately it’s hard to get your hands on wigle outside of PA :()

  4. Black Bush for me. A truly unique and amazing flavour. I’ve been lucky enough to have been given a bottle for every major event in my life since my twenty first birthday. That’s one hell of a lot of a very special tipple.

  5. God, this sounds so petty and meaningless,and I apologise for the ocd, but it’s a massive peeve of mine, so I’m just gonna come out with it…

    Scottish = whisky
    Irish = whiskey

    Phew. Now that’s done with. I’ll have a proper read whilst having a dram of 8 year Glen Garioch.

    • My older brother is an alcohol snob with CIA degree and he insists whiskey is American and whisky is for Scottish and Irish. I think he’s probably full of it and maybe the reason in US English we spell whiskey is the influence of Irish immigrants.

      But uh yes Americans we spell it whiskey most often because that’s how we spell things.
      See program versus programme the dropping of “u” and use of “z” instead of “s” in the lion’s share of words.
      No conflation of Irish whiskey or Scottish whisky is intended.

      • You can feel smug knowing your brother is only half right, the Irish definitely spell it whiskey. I’m not a whisky snob though. I’m just Scottish, and therefore borderline alcoholic.

        But, don’t even get me started on the American English lack of ‘u’ and the replacement of ‘s’!

        *silently despairs*

        • He is the smuggest of smug so I will enjoy this. I live in a place (in)famous for letting people consume and buy alcohol 24/7 just about anyway. Folks from the dry regions are shocked we’re not all borderline alcoholics.

          Will it help your despair if you consider AmE a different dialect? Because that’s what it is.

          As an amusing aside I’ve had enough exposure to UK English that in writing I add “u” and use “s” instead of the standard “z”. Lost a point in a Spanish course because I spelled colores as coloures. Plus supposedly the “u” is due too the French influence of the Normans and I’m of Cajun and Colonial Louisiana French heritage so it could be joke-argued my spelling is not being subjugated by the King’s English but it is being re-subjugated my secret Frenchieness.

          • Well that’s ironic as in Scotland they’ve introduced time restrictions to try and combat alcoholism. Clearly not recognising that a true alcoholic would stock up beforehand..

            By ‘dry region’ do you mean an area that doesn’t sell at all?! Cause that blows my mind.

            Yeah, I’m gonna have to use that as a way to accept it. Other than when writing, I have to admit that I don’t use Queen’s English. My local dialect is called Doric, which is a mixture of Scots, Gaelic and Viking.

            Secret Frenchiness. Love it

            (I feel I should add a disclaimer that not all Scottish are actual alcoholics. As a country we just have a drinking culture which can give this impression)

      • This caused a fuss in the NY Times once. Their style guide said to stick to the American spelling even when talking about Scotch, which angered many Scottish people and whisk(e)y snobs alike. Not sure if they ended up changing it.

        If a Scottish publication was writing about American or Irish whiskey, would they typically add the e?

        • Microsoft word accepts both don’t know if that’s better or worse than the suggestion of eggsheads from the New York Times.

        • Goodness did it really?! I have to stress, I’m not angry about the spelling in anyway, it’s just a pet peeve of mine that I noticed because the spelling changed so many times in the article

          Well, I’d like to think they’d use the official spelling of the brand. But probably not!

          Wait, AMERICAN whisky?! What is this heathen concoction that you speak of?! ;)

  6. I’ve been to the Bushmills factory in Ireland(it was a stop on a tour of Giants Causeway), and made fan out of. I tried a shot of the 20 year, and it was very good(why I switched from Jameson). This was back in like 2012, so it’s great to know they had women in charge.

    Looks like there is more whiskey to add to the list!

  7. Ahhhh I love whiskey so I’ll definitely have to check some of these out sometime soon!!

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  9. Cardhu is delicious and has a great story, but unfortunately is now one of the many Scottish distilleries bought up by the Diageo corporation (along with Bushmills). Same with Laphroaig and Maker’s, both now owned by Beam. I’d add most things from Auchentoshan to this list – super smooth scotch, and managed by a badass lady blender.

  10. Took a sample of Glenglassaugh Torfa, as I’d never had anything from the distillery and I’m a geek, like that. I was pleasantly surprised by it and so ordered a bottle of the Revival. Sadly, a sulphurous edge rendered it barely good enough to be added to tea and that’s been that for over a year.

    Took a sample of this, as I couldn’t resist the PX label (a wonderful thing, particularly with peated whiskies) but still wasn’t expecting a lot.

    However, it’s really good. Love the espresso & chilli-chocolate finish – reminds me of the Dalmore 12, possibly my favourite ‘budget’ single malt.
    ruou martell

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