2021 felt like a decade but also seemed over in the blink of an eye. I think we were all hopeful that COVID would soon be behind us but instead found ourselves locked into the COVID time warp.
I was extremely fortunate to continue to do what I love — write about whiskey. I took on the responsibility of being President of the Bourbon Women Association in January of 2021, as well, and started a new series on their blog called “Meet the Makers.” I started this series out of frustration that so many people kept asking me what it was like working in a male-dominated industry, mainly because the women in this industry are often invisible. Readership of the Bourbon Women site tripled in 2021.
I continued to be the Content Editor of American Whiskey Magazine, I continued to edit Bourbon Veach, I continued to be a columnist at Whisky Magazine, and I continued as a Visiting Professor at Alcohol Professor. Below are some of my favorite stories of 2021 across all these outlets.
- A Natural Nose for Whiskey – Whisky Magazine — This is easily my favorite piece I did in 2021. I pored over scientific studies, interviewed scientists, and then tied my findings to real womens’ careers. Did you know that there’s scientific proof that women make better whiskey tasters than men?
- Meet The Makers – Elmer Lucille Allen — After more than a decade in the Bourbon business I just learned about Colonel Allen earlier this year. She was a trailblazing chemist, the first Black chemist Brown-Forman ever hired in 1966. She retired in 1997 but her story is finally getting the attention it deserves. I truly loved every conversation with her.
- Distillery Dogs – American Whiskey Mag — I wish I could take credit for this idea, but it actually came from Laura Peet, a perfect example of how PR is supposed to work. She knew I loved dogs and knew a distillery that had a great story and the rest is history. This story was so well-received I will be doing it again yearly!
- American Whiskey and Cigar Pairings – Alcohol Professor — I have taught several virtual classes on this topic over the last year, and I love watching people’s eyes light up when they realize how enjoyable and un-complicated pairing whiskeys with cigars can be.
- Single-Use Bourbon Barrels and Sustainability – Whisky Magazine — It seems like every time the issue of sutainability comes up in the context of Bourbon someone in the room says when will they start being able to use Bourbon barrels a second time, it’s so wasteful. Most people are blissfully unaware of the generations of additional lifetimes once-used Bourbon barrels take on after they have yielded their first batch of Amber liquid. It definitely not “one and done.”
- At Altitude With Laws Whiskey House – American Whiskey Magazine — It’s hard to get to know new folks when you can’t spend time with them in person, but after a nice Zoom chat with Al Laws a few months back I knew his story would be entertaining. Learning to make whiskey at altitude was a challenge, complete with explosions and shoveling pudding.
- Buffalo Trace Supporting Local Black History – American Whiskey Mag — I’ve known Freddie Johnson for the better part of a decade now and every time I head toward Frankfort my kids tell me to say hi to Mr. Freddie for them. This story is so meaningful to me because he was able to leverage his position in the Bourbon industry to help his community and Buffalo Trace was willing to help support his cause through the creation and sale of Freddie’s Soda.
- Evan Williams Debuts Square 6 Bourbon – American Whiskey Mag — Evan Williams was the first place to invite me on a press tour shortly after its opening, so watching the first bottling come out was especially meaningful to me. Retired Artisnal Distiller Charlie Downs, who gave me that first tour, even came out of retirement to help roll that first barrel down the street. Here’s the video I took while chasing them down Main Street back in May.
- Destination Whiskey – American Whiskey Mag — We all thought the pandemic would be over soon now that there was a vaccine, but unfortunately that didn’t pan out. But the good news is that most of these bars are still around and you can still get a fantastic drink on this ultimate nationwide pub crawl!
- Picking CommUNITY Barrels For The LEE Initiative – LouGirl502.com — I was fortunate enough to help pick two barrels for this project this year, one as a journalist and one as the President of the Bourbon Women Association. This project helped to feed hospitality workers and their families throughout the pandemic and is continuing with its original mission of empowering women in the hospitality industry.
Photos Courtesy of Maggie Kimberl