A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Kentucky-based author Fred Minnick raises
a glass to women of whiskey with new book


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Fred Minnick turns the spotlight on forgotten women who were integral to the survival and development of whiskey throughout history. (Photo courtesy Kentucky Derby Museum)


 

By Elizabeth Adams
KyForward correspondent
 

Women have served cocktails from behind bars, bootlegged liquor behind closed doors and led behind-the-scenes operations for distilleries around the world. So, Kentucky-based writer Fred Minnick thought it was about time to put them in their rightful place – at the forefront of the whiskey business.
 

In his latest book, Whiskey Women: The Untold Story of How Women Saved Bourbon, Scotch and Irish Whiskey, the Louisville resident turns the spotlight on forgotten women who were integral to the survival and development of whiskey throughout history. The new book chronicles the stories of women who invented beer and distillation, owned whiskey brands, managed bootlegging operations, and plotted out the future of the industry through marketing and management.
 

Minnick started researching women in whiskey history in 2010 after attending a meeting of the Bourbon Women, an organization in Kentucky devoted to women bourbon enthusiasts. During the meeting, he discovered that many women were leading boardrooms, spearheading distillery operations and championing marketing efforts.
 

1Whiskey Women Cover

In the process of writing the book, he collected even more evidence of women’s influence on the development of whiskey through research and more than 50 interviews with whiskey women.
 

“I wasn’t just surprised, I was shocked at how influential women were in so many fashions,” Minnick said.
 

The book tells stories of women who secretly supplied whiskey to historical figures such as gangster Al Capone during Prohibition. With fun facts about whiskey’s journey, the book spans from women who were “alcohol keepers” in ancient cultures to modern-day whiskey makers.
 

The book includes the stories of Margie Samuels, who introduced the iconic red wax seal and bottling method for Maker’s Mark Distillery, as well as Willett Distillery owner Britt Chavanne, who has continued a tradition of craft bourbon started by her grandfather.
 

“Britt is the central cause of the entire Willett wheel,” Minnick said. “She’s just one glowing example of the importance of women in the industry right now.”
 

Inspired by his own mother and female soldiers he served alongside during the war in Iraq, Minnick said he started work on the book with a heightened appreciation of strong women. He hopes the book will encourage further exploration of the intriguing history of whiskey and bourbon – spirits that are continuing to grow in worldwide popularity.
 

“I’ve received a lot of ‘thank-yous’ for writing it,” Minnick said of the book. “I went back and spoke to the Bourbon Women group at the Governor’s Mansion, and they were very appreciative.”
 

Minnick’s book is on sale nationwide at bookstores and select Costco warehouses. For more information, visit fredminnick.com.
 

Elizabeth Adams is a freelance writer from Lexington.


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