The word ‘distiller’ commonly evokes an image of a bearded man in Tennessee adding mash to wooden casks. Karen Locke wants to change that vision of the spirits industry.
While Locke was covering the distilling industry over the last decade, she mostly talked to men. She spent years writing about spirits for publications like GQ and Bon Appétit, and even wrote a book on the subject; while looking for sources, it was harder for her to find women in the industry to interview. Looking around distiller conferences, she saw very few other women representing their brands, and found few resources set aside to help women and non-binary distillers in Portland and beyond.
So when Locke founded her own creative agency, High-Proof Creative, she wanted to make sure it was explicitly highlighting women in the industry. That desire eventually motivated her to develop Women in Distilling, an online database that allows distillers, consumers, and journalists to learn more about women in the industry.
Locke worked with Ashley Jhaveri, Graphic Designer at High-Proof Creative, to create the website, which features an interactive map with tabs to help viewers find distillers based on their location, role in the company, and type of producer. In addition, blog posts tell stories of women in the business including two Portland-based business owners — Lee Hedgmon of Freeland Spirits and Chaunci King, founder of the first Black female-owned liquor company in the Northwest, Royalty Spirits.
Joining the map is free; distillers simply fill out a google form and indicate the categories that apply to them and their businesses — Black, Indigenous, and person-of-color (BIPOC); non-binary; and woman-owned.
Locke feels it’s important to allow the women on the site to self-identify, to shape the specific identity groups and categories for the page. For example, one distiller suggested a tab for women veterans, which Locke and Jhaveri soon added to the site. “Karen is more a facilitator than its owner,” said Jhaveri. “It’s a humble way to do a project like that.”
The group will evolve based on input and participation from women distillers throughout the country. For now, Locke sees it as an opportunity to promote and support women in distilling. “My hope is that this map can be used by consumers so they can find information about women and marginalized people so they’ll visit their distilleries and buy their products,” said Locke. Take a look at the full site here.
• Women in Distilling [Official]