What does it take to gain notoriety? If you’re a wannabe celebrity, you’ve got to make a statement that attracts some attention. Find a butcher and have someone cleave you a meat dress. Post something shocking on eBay: sell the ghost in your basement or the peace of mind you just received from attending a God-Save-The-Lesbian-Whales march. Or stockpile as much tea as you can and toss it into the Boston Harbor. Be brave. Be bold. And get it on video.
But what if you’re not a person, but a thing—a widget, an object, or even a way of life? You want to be desirable, you seek to build brand loyalty, you strive to gain a lifetime of devotion.
Best bet? Put that gadget in the hand of the woman wearing the meat dress.
There you go, now everybody wants one.
In this case, we’re talking about image. On both a small and large scale.
This has happened to me countless times: I sit down on a bar stool and an attentive barkeep hands me the drinks menu conveniently opened to every flavor of Cosmopolitan available to the human tongue. I smile politely and flip to the back page where the list of single malts usually lives. I order something with the intention of scraping the tartar off my teeth and the barman turns to my husband to correct my endearing confusion. Apparently, I have lost my marbles, the ability to hear and the use of my tongue.
Usually, Sir Sackier says something along the lines of, “Just get her the damn scotch, and now you better make it a double.”
Stuff like that always perks me up.
Thankfully, that scenario is diminishing—likely as a result of women more tenacious than me, who have no problem in lassoing the bartender with their purse straps, tying him to the seltzer hose and then leaping over the bar to pour themselves a glass of something they really want to drink.
Whisky has had a rough time in the past, soaking up the blame for the behavior of women who regularly use the back end of their stilettos as both a weapon and toothpick. Is it the drink that gives them a hard edge? Can softly spoken women, maybe those who have been raised in the stacks of great libraries or reared by Care Bears, find whisky enticing?
I think so.
Maybe not in vast quantities, but there is a growing body of females who are not only trekking across the whisky trail (not trailing behind their husbands), but blazing a few new paths for the cool kids to follow.
Once whisky (and soda) became a standard for Sherlock Holmes, and Charles Dickens stockpiled case after case of Pure Highland Malt (Cockburns of Leith) in his basement, the rest of the world simply fell in line.
Winston Churchill, Dylan Thomas, Humphrey Bogart—all somewhat reliant on scotch. The Rat Pack, while on stage singing, likely sucked up more of the juice than they did air. Mark Twain waxed lyrical over the drink, and all eyes are on Prince Harry, hoping it’s not the one thing he needs for remembering how to fly a chopper in Afghanistan.
Sure, Lady Gaga has stated that when songwriting, the typical accompaniment to her melodious muse is a vat of scotch and some Mary Jane, and other hipster girls like Kate Moss and KT Tunstall have pitched in to the celebrity profile by slugging back, but for some women, they aren’t seeking the bad girl glory with their choice of liquor. They’re wanting something more along the lines of smart and classy instead of tart and sassy.
Perhaps a combination of both is what the whisky world is after when marketing to women. Liqueur companies have tapped into their sweet tooth, mixologists have concocted cocktails, and Jack Daniels created a campaign encouraging women to ditch the eggnog and spike the cookies for the holidays (because who doesn’t love to see little kids try to decorate the Christmas tree, boozy after eating/drinking a dozen Santa Clause-shaped sugar cookies?).
And then there are those trail blazers I mentioned earlier, the ones who are influential not simply because of what they drink, but because of what they make to drink.
Rachel Barrie is continuing to draw headlines as an industry respected whisky maker, Jill Jones is the executive vice president of Brown-Forman—a global spirit company, Gillian Macdonald is the distiller at Penderyn, Angie Morrison is breaking new ground as the first female whisky sommelier while working at the famous Cape Town Bascule Bar and Angela D’Orazio, who probably has the coolest job title of Master Blender and Chief Nose Officer, works for Mackmyra Svensk Whisky.
What does this say about the industry? I’d say good news for shareholders, less typecasting for women, and a few Christmas photos you might want to keep out of the hands of child protection services.
The future will be fun.