Seattle bartenders Jamie Buckman (Bastille) and Bridget Maloney (The Sexton) love whiskey. Their passion is evident in the group they started last year, Women Who Love Whiskey, which was created to bring women together around the table to discuss what’s in their glass. Since their first event 10 months ago, the group has grown to around 100 members, with a mix of industry pros and consumers joining the fun.
As part of Eater Cocktail Week, we sat down with the leaders of the pack to discuss the group’s growth, their favorite whiskey drinks, and what they plan to do next.
What inspired you to start Women Who Love Whiskey when you did?
Bridget: I went to Camp Runamok and there were more women than men in my session. I loved being around so many talented and smart women who wanted to learn, and I wanted to bring that back to Seattle.
Once you had that idea, how did you start things off?
Bridget: We had an event at Rob Roy and didn’t really know what to expect. But even though there were a ton of competing events that day, it was a huge success. So many brands donated products and education, and we raised money for Jubilee Women’s Center.
Now, brands, local distributors, and brand ambassadors have reached out to us offering great access to their products and we’ve built great relationships.
Which events have been your favorites?
Jamie: Martin, from Highland Park came to town and he is one of my favorite presenters. His humor is uncanny, his knowledge unparalleled, and his support of not only his brands but the whisky community as a whole is both amazing and inspiring. He led us through a blind tasting of 14 different scotches (both single malts and blends) that really helped some people find a new appreciation not only of brands that they'd had preconceived notions about, but their own palates as well.
Bridget: The Manhattan project with Hudson Whiskey and Carpano, where we made Manhattans from different vermouths from the Carpano line, and from different expressions of whiskey from the Hudson line, to taste the difference one drink can have from different mash bills or vermouths.
The Seattle Times wrote about you in May. Since then, what’s changed?
Bridget: We gotten a lot of exposure, and people found out who we are. The group has really expanded to not just industry people, but beginners to the spirit as well. We talk about how to have events that will serve bartenders and newbies too, and how to grow in a way that is sustainable and productive for everyone. Our membership has more than doubled.
So, you’re expanding membership here. Any thoughts about expanding into other cities?
Jamie: We're hoping to help expand our society to other cities. We're already working with a few to set up additional chapters, much in a similar way the WSBG (Washington State Bartenders Guild) is a chapter of the USBG. We want to make sure that everyone has access to the support and education that these whiskey companies are so happy to provide and that still so many people don't have readily available. Trying to help build the community as a whole and create more comradery within the industry is a success we've already seen here in Seattle. I can't think of anything better than having that expand from city to city.
Bridget: Portland, of course, is one that makes sense; New Orleans is definitely on the list. On a business level, we would love to teach classes to consumers who want to increase their own education at private events. We would also love to move in the direction of consulting on a higher level.
As it grows, do you have any fears that it might get (sorry) watered down?
Bridget: One of my biggest fears is that there are so many places this can go, and we want to take it to every place it’s capable of going, but it’s hard to know how to make sure it gets as big as it can be. We know it’s a great organization for women, and we’ve already seen how it makes a big impact on women’s lives.
Why did you pick whiskey for the subject of this group?
Bridget: It’s where a lot of our knowledge area lies. Studying whiskey styles and companies in America is an area of our history that is so full of interesting stories. Whiskey — bourbon, specifically — and American histories intertwine in really incredible ways. And the families who make bourbon are intertwined, and not in a competitive way. They’ve grown up together and grown in business together, and they’re all connected by a passion for bourbon. And the same is true with Scotland, elsewhere… Plus, there’s a whiskey for everyone.
What’s your favorite whiskey drink?
Bridget: It’s kind of boring, but an Old Fashioned. I just make it with a sugar cube, a couple dashes of bitters, orange rind, a splash of soda. It gets a soft muddle. I prefer mine to be made with rye, specifically Rittenhouse. It’s such a simple drink that can be messed up in so many ways, but can also have so many interesting variations.
Do you have a favorite whiskey?
Jamie: No such thing. That's like asking who your favorite friend is. Everyone is in your life for a different reason. Some friends are perfect when you need a laugh, others when you need a good cry. Whiskey is the same way. Its personalities are so vast that I don't feel as though there's one go-to dram for every occasion.
How do people get involved?
Bridget: If people want to join they can e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. We use our Facebook page quite a bit so if someone is interested they should join the FB group to stay up to date on all of our events.