It can seem hard to believe, that women played a role in the fame of Irish whiskey, but don’t be so shocked; as the saying goes: behind everything good there is a woman. On a day like International Women's Day, it makes even more sense for the woman's role in Irish whiskey innovation to be mentioned. One such notable woman was Ellen Jane Corrigan whose husband was James McColgan the founder of Bushmills Distillery in 1860. After the event of his death, his wife took over the business, as it was left to her in his will. In this time, it was uncommon for a woman to work, let alone be a managing director of a whisky distillery. With her knack for good business ideas, she introduced electricity to the distillery and brought Irish whiskey to the international stage and the Distillery soon grew. One of her key ideas, attributing to the fame of Bushmills and Irish whiskey, was her purchasing of a steamship to deliver the product to the states. She was also a key figure who fight in the courts for a law cementing the Irish whiskey purity.
Today there are several women in the whiskey business in Ireland.
Louise McGuane, the founder from Chapel Gate Whiskey. She is a Drinks Industry Veteran, but a Farmer's Daughter at Heart. This way it was obvious that she is resurrecting the Lost Art of Irish Whiskey Bonding, on the family farm in County Clare. Ellen Jane was fighting for the Irish whiskey purity. Louise is fighting for clarity. Now you can see on the bottle label, the age of the youngest whiskey in your bottle, but it is not allowed that all the components from your blend are disclosure. This is the opposite of other products like chocolate or cornflakes. When we see what the mix of spirits in your bottle is, this will better explain why this special brand is more expensive than the other of one.
Bushmills Distillery once again has women in front. This time it is Helen Mulholland, that after celebrating 25th year at Bushmills, she is the first female master blender in Ireland. Ellen Jane’s business skills help Bushmills to survive the bad times. Now Helen shapes the future of the distillery and Irish Whiskey. Helen was, in 2019, the first woman to ever be inducted into the Whiskey Hall of Fame. Congratulation.
Fiona Boyd-Armstrong is the only women Co-Founder of a Distillery. She found and manages Rademon Estate Distillery, Downpatrick, County Down. 20 years ago, as Ireland hat been forgotten as the Whiskey Mecca, she had the idea to open a Gin Distillery. This was because she like gin and she found, like me, the distilling process and the Irish distilling history fascinating. She needed to put the idea on hold, as who would support young women with big ideas? Years later with the support of her husband and family, she opened her Gin Distillery. In the last 5 years, they start to produce Spirits for whiskey which is matured in their own warehouse.
Nicola McDonnell is the General Manager of the Irish Whiskey Museum. Work at the Museum means that she is not directly involute in whiskey production. Certainly, her work provides the connoisseur and tourist with the possibility to learn more about Irish whiskey history and whiskey-making process. At the end of the tour, after having learnt about Irish whiskey, the wonderful the possibility exist to test the whiskey and so she ensures that every day, more and more people are falling in love with Irish Whiskey
This way I think than, on the International Women Day, I propose a toast with a glass of the good drink to the great woman in the past, now and future.