Meet the World’s First Female Master Bourbon Taster

Posted on September 1, 2020

STYLE BLUEPRINT – Article by Julie Englehardt, September 2020

Peggy Noe Stevens is certainly a winner in many aspects of the business world, plus she’s quite the trailblazer. She holds the distinction of being the world’s first female master bourbon taster, which pairs quite nicely with her expertise as a certified etiquette and protocol consultant. She worked for the Brown-Forman Corporation for 17 years, climbing the corporate ladder to the position of guest services director for Woodford Reserve. Twelve years ago, she began her own business, Peggy Noe Stevens & Associates, consulting companies globally to advise them on executive training, image consultation and customer service training. She is the founder of the Bourbon Women’s Association, co-founder of the Kentucky Bourbon Trail, and she has been inducted into Whisky Magazine’s Hall of Fame and the 2019 Kentucky Bourbon Hall of Fame. She’s one of the authors of Which Fork Do I Use with My Bourbon?, which offers excellent advice on how to throw a divine Derby party. With the 146th running of the Kentucky Derby taking place this Saturday, September 5, and since it will be run for the first time without fans, which means tons of Derby viewing parties will be taking place throughout the South, it’s only proper that we introduce you to the multi-talented Peggy Noe Stevens!

How did you get your start in the bourbon industry?

After I graduated from the University of Kentucky, I moved back to Louisville, where my first job was with the Hyatt Hotel in town. I was the convention catering manager. My husband and I moved to Chicago in 1988, and I worked at the Hyatt there in the same position, and then moved into sales and became a sales manager. We later moved back to Louisville, and I was headhunted by Brown-Forman to create their tourism and travel department. We next moved to Atlanta, and I continued to freelance for Brown-Forman, and then we returned to Lexington. The Woodford Reserve Distillery was under construction, and Brown-Forman tapped me on the shoulder to ask if I would be the guest services director for Woodford Reserve. So that’s how my journey began with them.

How did you become a master bourbon taster, and what is involved with that position?

When I was working for Woodford Reserve, I was trained by a very iconic figure in the industry, Lincoln Henderson. Lincoln worked for Brown-Forman for years and created the Woodford Reserve brand. I’m very fortunate to have learned under his tutelage. Since that time, I’ve conducted tastings literally around the world. I try to not only teach people about how to taste bourbon but why we’re so proud of it here in Kentucky. America’s native spirit is bourbon, and 95 percent of the world’s bourbon is made right here.

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