“One thing that’s really important to remember is that it was only in the 1960s that women were allowed into the front bar of pubs – people forget that,” says spirits expert Erica Richards.
“When you look at how far we’ve come in the last 50 or 60 years, that’s pretty phenomenal.”
Richards, the premium spirits brand ambassador for The Exchange (a branch of Beam Suntory and Coca-Cola Amatil), makes this observation while talking to The Forager about changing trends in the spirits industry and why she and Hains & Co owner Marcus Motteram decided to launch a spirit tasting club specifically for women.
Pouring Ribbons began in March and will host its fourth event at the Gilbert Place small bar tomorrow night (June 5) with Trudy Dickson from Ambleside Distillers and Laura Carter from Applewood Distillery showcasing their range of gins.
While some may question the need for a gender-specific tasting club, Richards believes it fills a gap that has existed in the market for a long time.
“I’ve been involved in this area for over 20 years and it’s very male-dominated, so we thought it was something that was missing – we thought it would be great if we could create something where women could come together and not be intimidated or overwhelmed and for it to not be so male-dominated.”
The world of spirits can be “quite mystifying” for many people, says Richards, and in her experience men tend to be more confident in voicing their opinions during tastings.
She runs a lot of masterclasses in her role as a spirits brand ambassador, and around 80 per cent of those who attend the mixed events are male.
“Whether that’s because they’re more comfortable in that environment or because men are more interested in spirits, I don’t know, but the [women-only] Pouring Ribbons events have been really well received.
“A lot of women are jumping on it and saying it’s a wonderful initiative. They’re bringing their girlfriends along and their sisters and their mothers.
“It’s a really different vibe – it’s lot more relaxed and there are people sharing stories a lot more than in other masterclasses I run. It’s a less competitive vibe … it’s about everyone experiencing the same thing and sharing their opinions.”
Numbers at each Pouring Ribbons event are capped at around 20 and the presenters are always women, who lead participants through the tasting of seven or eight different spirits.
Richards will present the July tasting herself, with a focus on a range of American rye whiskies.
Her main focus is whisky, and she says there has been a noticeable increase in the number of women drinking what was once considered more of a men’s spirit.
“It’s definitely a changing trend … what we’re seeing more and more is women in the 25 to 40 age bracket starting to experiment with whisky.
“I think part of that is the new emerging whiskies – so, for example, we’re not talking about the traditional, heavily peated scotch whiskies all the time, we’re talking about lighter, more delicate Japanese whiskies and some interesting Irish stuff coming on the scene, and the Australian whisky market emerging … there’s so much variety now.”
For details of upcoming Pouring Ribbons events, keep an eye on the Facebook page.
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