The Women Behind Brown-Forman Single Malts: International Women’s Day 2023

This year, International Women’s Day, which is celebrated annually on March 8, centres around the theme of #EmbraceEquity. March is also Women’s History Month in the United Kingdom and is a time to shine a light on the amazing contributions of women throughout history. 

“Brown-Forman is proof of the increasingly diverse, interconnected, and inclusive world this industry is.” – Rachel Barrie.

Women are making history today, this month and every other day at global drinks brand Brown-Forman. The company supports female employees and continues to lead the change, with numerous goals set for 2030. From various development programs for women, such as the Black Female Experience Initiative focused on career progression; internal mentorship programs; leadership goals that reflect monetary investment in female employees and goals to reach at least 50% women in the company’s professional and leadership positions, to name but a few. 

Often referred to as Scotch Whisky’s First Lady, and a member of Whisky Magazine’s illustrious Hall of Fame, Rachel Barrie is one of the world’s most revered Master Blenders with over 30 years of service to the whisky industry.

After graduating with a degree in Chemistry, Rachel started her whisky career as a researcher for the Scotch Whisky Research Institute under the guidance of the legendary Dr. Jim Swan, before working with distilleries including Glenmorangie, Ardbeg and Bowmore. She joined Brown-Forman in 2017 and is responsible for crafting the exceptional quality and unique identities of The GlenDronach and Glenglassaugh‘s Single Malt Scotch whiskies and has been the architect for the reimagining of the entire Benriach range, launched to high critical acclaim in 2020 with awards for Best in Class and Best Single Malt.

“When I first started working for Brown-Forman, they invited me to be part of their ‘The Women of High Spirits’ event. It was a gathering of women who worked in what as then, a very much male-dominated world of spirits production. For me, to be alongside other female leaders in the beverage industry at the time was innovative. Even back then, Brown-Forman was leading the charge. I don’t think there are many other beverage companies elevating the profile of women in whisky like it. My entire production senior leadership team in Scotland is 60% women. Brown-Forman is proof of the increasingly diverse, interconnected, and inclusive world this industry is. They are role models, showing that it can be done and encouraging the next generation to be better.” 

Brown-Forman places a huge amount of emphasis on fostering future generations, ensuring that the best people are centre stage. Now Rachel Barrie is training up her protegee, Kirsten Ainsee guaranteeing that women remain at the forefront of the brands future vision. 

“I strongly believe that developing and supporting women as they rise is key to attracting and retaining talent and this is something that Brown-Forman continues to do. To improve things in this area, Brown-Forman doesn’t just shout about the number of women in certain senior positions, I think it’s more about the offerings and attitudes that are displayed on a regular basis to empower its employees.”

“In 2021 we recruited Kirsten Ainslie into the role of assistant blender across The GlenDronach, Benriach and Glenglassaugh, so it’s been fantastic working with her on spirit quality, product development and innovation, cask selection, whisky and wood management. It’s a really exciting time for Benriach, The GlenDronach and Glenglassaugh and welcoming Kirsten to the team signals our long term commitment to investing into and growing our wonderful Single Malts. Nurturing young talent is an important part of what we do at Brown-Forman and Kirsten has certainly proven she has the best nose for the job.”

Kirsten said: “I feel very privileged to have the role of Assistant Blender and to work alongside Rachel who is renowned in the whisky industry. Working closely with her, I hope to build on the legacy of maturing and marrying different casks, and crafting whiskies to be enjoyed by newcomers and connoisseurs alike.”

“It’s a great time for women to be working in the industry. Without a doubt, there are more women involved in whisky-making than ever before. With increasing skills, knowledge, experience and competency, women are influencing production and marketing, finance and sales, and through inclusive discussion and education, a broader audience can be reached, enriching the experience for all.” 

Tags: Brown-Forman Single MaltsEmbrace EquityInternational Women’s Day 2023


My name is Greg, and I’m a brand strategy consultant, writer, speaker, host and judge specialising in premium spirits. My mission is to experience, share and inspire with everything great about whisky, whiskey, gin, beer and fine dining through my writing, my brand building and my whisky tastings.

You might be interested in

More from the blog

Leave a comment

Login / register