Meet 7 Women Who Are Smashing the Glass Ceiling of Kentucky’s Bourbon Industry

Posted on October 5, 2020

Maggie Menderski, Louisville Courier Journal – September 30, 2020

I really wish I could introduce you to all the women in the Kentucky bourbon industry, but there’s just not enough space.

The hardest part of writing this story was choosing who to profile, and that’s a wonderful problem to have.

Rewind 15 years ago, and women in leadership roles at Kentucky distilleries were as rare as a bottle of 23-year-old Pappy Van Winkle.

Now finding a female leading the charge is more like pulling a good spirit down from the top shelf — not common, but certainly prominent and attainable.

With a little help from the Kentucky Distillers Association, The Courier Journal identified more than 30 women in leadership roles in the commonwealth’s traditionally male-dominated industry in a variety of jobs and work distilleries of all sizes. While I’m sure that list dynamically under-represents all the women defining, changing and growing our state’s favorite spirit, here is a small sampling of seven women who are shaping Kentucky’s storied bourbon industry.



When Peggy Noe Stevens became the first female master taster in the world in the late 90s, she thought that couldn’t be true.

“I was taken by surprise, I thought surely, I couldn’t be the first,” she told me. “I embraced it, and I wore that badge, if you will, quite proudly.”

She became the first, and since then, she’s been hard at work to ensure that when women cross off those firsts in the bourbon industry, seconds, thirds and many more follow.

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