Women & Whiskey: Breaking down stereotypes one sip at a time

Without women, there would be no beer. And, without beer, there would be no whiskey.

And, without whiskey, there would be no “Women and Whiskey” night at the Lock & Key Whiskey Bar.

Lucky for all, centuries ago, the Sumerian women created beer, and the rest, as they say, is history, right up to the whiskey-swilling women, and a few guys, who showed up at the Corporate Boulevard bar for a night of alcohol education, with lots of fun thrown in.

Brandalyn Bostic Tabor, co-owner of the bar and the brains behind “Women and Whiskey,” says the concept came to her after she read “Whiskey Women” by Fred Minnick.

Women, she discovered, played a significant role in the evolution of whiskey. It was Catherine Carpenter in 1818 who created the first recorded sour mash, a fermented grain used in the first step of whiskey production, she tells her oh-so-eager-to-learn students.

And then there’s Prohibition, when women bootleggers outsold their male counterparts five to one.

Tabor decided she wanted to share this relatively unknown history, and the monthly event to celebrate women’s influence on the stiff drink was born.

That influence began with those beer-making Sumerian women.

“The way you make beer is the beginning of how you make whiskey,” Tabor says, explaining that grains were soaked in hot water to make beer and that water was then distilled to make whiskey.

Last week’s “Weird Science” session focused on, well, the weird science of whiskey making and what all goes into creating rye, scotch and bourbon, which must be aged for at least two years in a new charred oak barrel.

And, while Tabor wants to enlighten participants on the contributions the fairer sex have made to whiskey history and the science of the liquor, she also wants to make sure they are having fun.

“The basis for this is education, bringing in a sense of community here and to have a good time,” she says.

Of course, that good time is fueled by the whiskey itself.

Tabor encourages the audience to yell out what they smell and taste as they sample the three whiskeys. “Caramel,” says one woman. “Cherry,” says another, while a third thinks it’s cinnamon. “Burn!,” one woman simply shouts.

Like all good teachers, Tabor gives a pop quiz and rewards correct answers with glasses. In turn the audience asks her questions, including what’s her favorite whiskey. “I love scotch,” she answers confidently.

Renee Smith-Tadie picked up a few whiskey facts and had a “ton of fun” with her daughter, Elizabeth Canfield. She particularly enjoyed the camaraderie of the crowd.

“It’s nice to get out with other women and not be bothered with men,” she says.

When all is said and done, Tabor hopes the sessions will dispel the stereotype that whiskey is a man’s drink, which she believes may have stemmed from the male-only whiskey clubs of the Prohibition era.

“I wanted to make sure that we broke the barrier down, that this particular bar was not just going to be a man’s bar … women can take ownership in it as well,” she says.

She eventually wants to turn the series into a fundraiser for Triumph Kitchen, a charity that helps underprivileged teens who want a career in the restaurant industry. The event would remain free, as always, but participants would be able to donate to the cause.

So far, Tabor has planned two more “Women and Whiskey” events, but, for now, their topics are secret. The next one is scheduled for the third week in August.