Although I only attended the luncheon at this year’s Bourbon Women SIPosium, held Aug. 25-28 in downtown Louisville, I felt every bit a part of the annual bourbon extravaganza that brings together women from all over the country to mingle, sip and learn more about their beloved brown spirit. The energy was high, the mood oozed with excitement, the speakers were inspiring and the samples runneth over throughout the entire event.
I kick myself every year that I don’t sign up to do more events during the SIPosium, which include classes, meals and excursions to distilleries. This year they even expanded the agenda to four days, and I spoke with some ladies who said they would be here all week if they could.
During the Welcome Lunch, hundreds of attendees gathered — myself included — to hear both Marianne Eaves (formerly of Woodford Reserve/Old Forester and Castle & Key, now with Sweetens Cove and Eaves Blind, to name a few) and Jackie Zykan (formerly of Old Forester, now with Hidden Barn) talk to the crowd that was filled with industry folks, whiskey fanatics and, of course, Bourbon Women (often those three are one in the same).
Eaves talked about her numerous consulting projects around the country and also about her decision to leave her job as master distiller of Castle & Key a few years back. Since then she’s started her own consulting business and also Eaves Blind, where people can join to taste samples of some of the things she’s working on.
She said many people questioned her sanity when she left the role as master distiller, but ultimately she had to follow her passion and march to the beat of her own drum.
“I discovered that so much more is happening in bourbon than just in Kentucky,” she said.
Speaking of following your own path, Keynote Speaker Zykan echoed that sentiment when she spoke to the room. She focused on her bourbon journey and where it has taken her, and she gave an inspiring pep talk on the importance of listening to yourself instead of society’s “shoulds.” In fact, she didn’t view her recent job change as a risk — it’s more of a calling.
“I’m a 5-foot-2 stack of mistakes,” she said about making the leap from master taster of Old Forester to starting a new brand with Hidden Barn. “I’ve never been happier in my entire life.”
To me, the luncheon was what I imagine the Oscars to be like. As I sat at my table awaiting the speakers, I was fan-girling out on all the talented industry women in the room.
From Sherrie Moore (formerly of Jack Daniel’s and Uncle Nearest) to Alex Castle (of Memphis’ Old Dominick Distillery) to Bourbon Women founder herself Peggy Noe Stevens, it was a who’s-who of the whiskey industry, and it was truly awesome that they were all badass women.