Waters of life

The Finnish language has no gender. That is to say, its pronouns are gender neutral and the language completely lacks grammatical gender. One example is the word ‘han’ – a gender neutral word that means both he and she, meaning that when relating a story about a boy and girl on a date, you have to be extra careful when relating who said and what and to whom. The Finns themselves would say that this facet of their incredibly complex language has led to one of the most equal societies in Europe. And they may be right. Sometimes it can be see just how gender-codified our world is. I see it daily in my work – patients will address male nurses as ‘doctor’ and female doctors as ‘nurse’. Granted, it is mainly the older patients – the same ones who occasionally call me doctor or even ‘Father’. But we gender codify everything – jobs, films, books, breeds of dog, and even food and drink. Which brings me, as almost everything does, to whiskey.  

The whiskey scene is completely gender polluted – go to almost any event and it will be packed with young male hipsters or old ‘George-from-Glenroe’ types (I’m the latter). You may see the odd wife or girlfriend, but overall, they are the minority – recent statistics suggest that globally women make up just 25% of whiskey drinkers. It is a fantastic drink, not just because of its incredible complexity and depth, but also because it is innately Irish – it is a travesty that more than half the population might be slow to try it because it is seen as ‘a man’s drink’. But joining a whiskey society can seem daunting, as they often bear a passing resemblance to a Star Trek convention.

So the River Lee Hotel is trying to change that. They held a whiskey-tasting evening specifically aimed at women in the surrounds of their beautiful hotel, a stone’s throw from the old Crosses Green and North Mall distilling sites.

The event was hosted by Karen Cotter, above, currently master distiller of the micro-distillery in Midleton. She guided the audience through the classic Redbreast 12 year old, Jameson Black Barrel, Powers 12 year old – and the wonderful Green Spot, allegedly the biggest hit with female drinkers.  

Those in the distilling trade say it’s because Green Spot has a lightness, a fresh, almost-menthol like finish that goes over well. However, the suggestion that the female palate needs a lighter whiskey is ridiculous – women have been scientifically proved to have a better sense of taste than men, so they should get even more from one of the big hitters like Powers John’s Lane or cask-strength Redbreast.  In fact, one of the marketing team at Jameson told me she believed Green Spot was a hit with women simply because it looks like a bottle of wine. 

Anyway, enough mansplaining – here’s the blurb:

The River Lee Winter Whiskey Club celebrated its inaugural session with a special masterclass entitled ‘Women & Whiskey’ led by female distiller Karen Cotter.  Gathered with Cotter was a largely female audience who experienced a tasting flight of Ireland’s finest whiskeys on the night, including Redbreast 12 year old, Greenspot, Jameson Black Barrel and Powers 12 year old.

Karen Cotter, distiller at the Microdistillery at the Jameson Experience Midleton, which is part of Irish Distillers, said: “Jameson has led the current surge in popularity of Irish whiskey – we’ve grown from less than 500,000 cases in the mid-1990s to 5 million cases this year.  Jameson’s signature smooth taste profile, Irish character and authenticity have won legions of fans globally and we have effectively communicated with consumers through marketing properties such as film and St. Patrick’s Day.  Ultimately, it’s the taste of the product that secures its success and future potential – and we’ve got that in spades across our whole portfolio.”

Research reveals that women make up just 25 per cent of whisky drinkers worldwide*, but that number is increasing as cocktail culture becomes embedded in society and the appreciation of provenance and taste grows.  Woman are joining the ranks of self-confessed whiskey aficionados such as Christina Hendricks and Lady Gaga, who credits Jameson for helping her song writing.

The River Lee has a number cultural events planned for the Winter Whiskey Club in the New Year including Whiskey & Culture with Sean O’Riordan, Whiskey & Fashion with the Irish Year of Design and Whiskey & Music with Triskal Arts Centre and Other Voices.

For more information on upcoming Winter Whiskey events at the River Lee or to make a reservation visit www.doylecollection.com/hotels/the-riverleehotel.

Here are some pics from the event:

And if you think this entire post is just sexist nonsense, just be glad I didn’t go with any of these titles:

  • Drammer Queens
  • Pot stiletto
  • Whiskey whimen
  • And so on.

As far as I’m concerned, the more people drinking whiskey, the better for both consumers and the industry. Here’s to diversity.

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