March 8th was just the beginning. Our salute to women makers continues this month with profiles the “spirited” women who make some of the most exciting spirits on our shelves at Wine & Spirits. Read on, shop online, then raise a glass! This one’s for the ladiez…
Yolanda Jimenez, Gina Correll Aglietti, & Lykke Li: Yola Mezcal
What do a student of feminist philosophy, a chef, and Swedish pop singer have in common? The trio are the force behind Yola Mezcal, the award-winning, industry leading, trendsetting mezcal brand that puts the women who make it first. The distillery employs all female farmers and distillery workers, and all employees can choose hours that work best for them and their families, are even allowed to bring their children to work.
The story of Yola begins with, well Yola―Yolanda Jimenez, that is, whose grandfather bought an agave farm outside of Oaxaca in 1971 and started producing mezcal. Jimenez, the daughter of a lawyer and an academic, grew up in Mexico City, but spent many summers visiting her extended family in Oaxaca. She studied feminist philosophy at Cambridge University, where he was first introduced to the idea that promoting women’s economic independence leads to greater community health and vitality.
When her grandfather fell ill, Jimenez returned to Mexico City, where she opened a bar featuring agave spirits from Oaxaca. It was there that she met Chef Gina Correll Aglietti and singer Lykke Li and the three became fast friends. A short time later, Jimenez’s grandfather died, and she inherited the agave farm. She decided to produce a mezcal using her grandfather’s recipe to honor him, her roots, and the women of the Oaxacan community. Aglietti and Li were excited by the idea, and the rest―as they say―is herstory.
Morgan McLachlan: Amass Dry Gin
Master Distiller Morgan McLachlan grew up in Canada, where she spent hours in the woods near her home in the nation’s Pacific Northwest, fostering a lifelong passion for nature. She moved to California as an adult, where she worked as a camera operator in the film industry for over 10 years. McLachlan remained fascinated with botany, and she eventually set her sights on a new career ― distilling craft spirits.
McLachlan has made a name for herself as an “avant-garde distiller,” with her innovative methods and focus on botanical-based spirits and fruit distillates. In 2012, she co-founded The Spirit Guild, one of L.A.’s first craft distilleries, where she developed Amass dry gin, a line of modern classic gins inspired by the City of Angels. Distilled with 29 botanicals, including California Bay, Cascara Sagrada, grapefruit, Reishi and Lion’s Mane Mushroom, Hibiscus, Cardamom, and of course, juniper, Amass is a celebration of the natural terroir and cultural landscape of contemporary L.A. Indigenous botanicals like California Bay and Cascara Sagrada ground bright top notes of fresh citrus.
Rachel Barrie: The Glendronach
Master Blender for Brown-Forman’s The Glendronach, BenRiach and Glenglassaugh distilleries, Dr. Rachel Barrie has always been in love with science. She grew up writing science-fiction stories in Aberdeenshire, Scotland, fascinated by the wild imagination that fueled stories of what could be. She studied chemistry at Edinburgh University, letting that passion for possibility help her grow into one of the best Scotch whisky blenders in the world. During her nearly 30-year career in the business, she’s tasted over 150,000 barrels, speaking “of them as if they were precious family members who grew up and entered the world,” according to a 2018 Daily Beast article by Heather Greene. “Everything goes into them and becomes your heart and soul,” she said.
“It is like learning music,” Barrie said in a 2018 interview with Scotch Whisky magazine. “You learn the rudiments first and then you are able to express yourself. Once you’ve learned everything, you know what’s going to work. A master blender is like a conductor; working with different casks, playing different tunes, different top notes, bass notes and working out how to bring them together. Some are playing their own tune in a single cask and some work better being brought together in an expression.”