Cleo's single barrel bourbon or what's in a man's name

Today is international women's day. One should never miss a good opportunity to raise a glass, so I decided to pour myself a fine dram for the occasion. But making the right choice can be a tricky business for a woman. Especially when it comes to Bourbon and Rye.


There is a huge selection of fine whiskies to chose from, and a few days ago, I began going through my files and cabinets to find a whiskey that would be fit for this special day. I tasted quite a few  bourbons and ryes recently, so I though an American whiskey would be nice this time.
But rather than coming up with an inspiring drink for females, I discovered something else: some of the best bourbons and ryes are named after old Men. Great old Men. Men who contributed. Men who had a vision. Men who did something wonderful. Who were wonderful.

You need proof? Here you are: William Bat Masterson, Colonel Albert B. Blanton, Elmer T. Lee, William Larue Weller, George T. Stagg, Colonel Edmund Haynes Taylor, Booker Noe, Baker Beam, Basil Hayden, Augustus Bulleit, George Dickel, James E. Pepper, James Beam, Old Abraham Overholt, Elijah Craig, Evan Williams, Henry McKenna, Old John E. Fitzgerald, Parker Beam, Pappy van Winkle, Thomas Jefferson.

But I couldn't find a single one that carries the name of a woman. Well. For some strange reason, American marketing departments and business owners seem to think that it is a great idea to name a whiskey after a great old man. Which it probably is. But does it mean that there are no great old women around that could give their name to a whiskey? I don't think so.


It's just, men don't bother. If I think about it, there are a quite a few female names that pop up in my head. Calamity Jane. Mary T. Willet. Mary Dowling. Mollie Turner. Pauline Sabin. Getrude Cleo Lythgoe. Never heard of them? There you go! But thanks to Fred Minnick and his book "Whiskey Women", we know much more about great Whiskey Women than a few years ago.

Mary T. Willet was co-founder of the Willett Distilling Company. Calamity Jane could shoot like a man and certainly enjoyed a strong drink as well. Mary Dowling owned Waterfill&Frazier Distiller and moved the company to Mexico during Prohibition. Mollie Turner and Mary Kajyde were two of the very first female moonshiners who were arrested and sent to prison. Pauline Sabin fought a cruisade for repeal and Gertrude Cleo Lythgoe was known as the Queen of Bootlegers. I'd love to have a whiskey called Mary T. Willet family cask or Cleo's single barrel bourbon.

A very sad case of neglect seems to have happened with Jefferson's whiskey. The company is run by Trey Zoeller and his father Chet, and according to their website, his "8th generation grandmother was arrested in 1799 for the production and sales of spirituous liquors". Did he name his whiskey after this great and couragous woman? No, he didn't. Men don't bother.

And think about Greta Garbo, whose very first sentence on screen ever was "Gif me a whiskey, ginger ale on the side, and don't be stingy!" Mind you, prohibition was still in full swing when Garbo said this. What a statement! What a woman!

Today is International Women's Day. Let's raise a glass to all the great male and female whiskey lovers around the globe and to all the wonderful people who contributed to this great drink. And maybe one day, there will be a bourbon or a rye that is named in honour of a great woman. One should never give up hope.

PS: So, what do I drink? Well, I might go back to Scotch again. There are quite a few malts which are named after a goddess. Yula or Freya sounds like the drink of the day!

Cheers to y'all,



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