Forbes – March 2019
Though the spirits industry is often characterized as one dominated by men, that isn’t to say that there aren’t plenty of women who are currently at the helm of some of the world’s most notable liquor brands. From master distillers, brand ambassadors and owners to those at the forefront of marketing, innovation and every role in between, these women haven’t let stereotypical industry “norms” hold them back. Today they are leaders in their respective fields, shaking up the world of liquor, all while proving gender is irrelevant when it comes to crafting the perfect libation.
Peggy Noe Stevens, Founder, Bourbon Women Association
You have an extensive background in hospitality and event planning, how did that transition into a career in the spirits world?
I began my career in the hotel business working in food and beverage along with events. I had full intention on becoming a GM one day at a hotel and then was recruited by Brown-Forman Corporation. They were creating an event and travel department and needed someone to lead and develop that area within the company. I planned more than 100 spirit and wine events annually and negotiated travel contracts.
The hotel business was certainly my “boot camp” to growing into the role at Brown-Forman, as I had already learned all facets of food and beverage and event planning. I stayed at Brown-Forman for 17 years, working on great brands and eventually managing their brand destinations. It was there that I also trained to become a Master Taster. I was fortunate that all my experience evolved and I still credit my early days of the hotel industry for teaching me execution and work ethic.
You founded the Bourbon Women Association, the industry’s first female consumer organization. When did you realize a need for that? What was the impetus to create the association in the first place?
My first thought of wanting the spirits industry to speak to females was well before BW was incepted. While at Brown-Forman, I spoke at a women’s weekend conference at a resort with close to 100 women. When I asked the audience how many bourbon lovers there were, I think I had three. They acted as if bourbon was too strong. A little shocked at the answer, I then asked how many liked margaritas? When it was a resounding “yes,” I simply promised that if they let me teach them how approachable and complex Bourbon truly is and what great cocktails it can make, they will realize that bourbon is no stronger than tequila!