For Women’s History Month (it’s March, people), Purple were asked by The Spirits Business to help them with a Top Women of Booze article.
These are the female pioneers of alcohol. The heroes of hops. The trailblazers of taste. The dude-esses of distillation.
We supplied them with four of our favourite women. Admittedly some of our choices are a little left field, but we hope you enjoy their stories nonetheless.
Strange choice? We don’t think so, for a couple of reasons. 1) Scotch. We’ve done a LOT of research about whisky at Purple, and we’ve come to the conclusion that Queen Victoria did more than anyone else in the world to make Scotch whisky the success it is today. She was a big malt fan, particularly of Islay whiskies, and is said to have mixed whisky with soda, tea and claret (not at the same time). During her reign, whisky became a household drink in England, replacing cognac.
2) Gin. She is the icon and figurehead of Bombay Sapphire – and appears on the label of every bottle. She represents the old British Empire, and the days of the Raj, so think of her every time you’re sipping your G&T.
In 1805, aged 27, Barbe-Nicole Ponsardin was widowed. Rather than wear black for the rest of her life, she took over her husband’s small wine business in the Champagne region. She had a natural head for business, and liked to innovate, and soon perfected the art of remuage, or riddling. She placed the bottles in special racks to angle them, rotating them a quarter-turn every day for six weeks. The lees would settle in the neck of the bottle and her champagne was crystal clear. More or less how it’s made today. She was a genius at marketing too, encouraging the theatrical sabre bottle opening and trademarking the yellow label in 1876. She rocks.
At Purple, we’ve had the phenomenal pleasure of meeting and working with Lesley on a few projects. A true innovator and inspiration, she is not only the Master Distiller of Hendrick’s Gin, but the brains behind it, creating and deciding the unique cucumber and rose botanicals herself. The runaway success of Hendrick’s, which almost single-handedly started the super-premium gin market, is a testament to her tireless skills and dedication to crafting wondrous and curious spirits. Her place in booze history is well and truly assured.
Cleopatra, the last Egyptian pharaoh, lover of Julius Caesar, is a slightly odd choice but hear us out. She was a strong powerful woman, renowned over the globe, the reincarnation of the goddess Isis and famously the most beautiful women in the world. She was also known as the ‘Lady of Drunkenness’. The leader of the female devotees of Dionysos, the god of drinking, she believed that through wine she could have direct communication with the gods (Roman women were normally bound to strict rules about alcohol consumption, but not Cleopatra) who drank regularly and publically. She used to bathe in red wine too – as well as milk – to rejuvenate her skin. She also famously dissolved a huge pearl (worth about $15 million today in a glass of wine vinegar) and drank it, to win a bet with Marcus Antonius.
You can read the full article from The Spirits Business here.
By Jamie Fleming