International Women’s Day
A BoozeHut conversation with
Nc’Nean founder Annabel Thomas
“it has resulted in our recruitment of a diverse team and I think that is one of our greatest strengths – we don’t necessarily think like the rest of the industry.”
Founder, Nc’Nean Distillery
This month we’ve welcomed the wonderful Nc’Nean Distillery to the BoozeHut family, bringing their organic whisky and spirits into our portfolio for your enjoyment. As a female led distillery, we thought we’d take this opportunity to speak with founder Annabel Thomas about her experience being a woman in the traditionally male-dominated whisky world and find out what it means to her to be a #WomanInWhisky in 2022, this International Women’s Day…
BoozeHut: Hi Annabel, thank you for taking the time to speak with us today. Firstly we’d love to understand why you initially wanted to start Nc’Nean, what were the driving forces behind your decision?
Annabel: It was originally a family endeavour – it is on my family’s farm on the west coast of Scotland and I don’t think you can be there and not think of whisky! But it became a more personal mission when I did some further research and felt like there was a lack of focus on sustainability and flavour in Scotch – most distilleries were focused on doing things the way they’ve always been done, and whilst there is absolutely a place for that, I felt like there should also be, perhaps newer distilleries, highlighting some more forward looking agendas and issues.
BoozeHut: What fears did you have before setting out & did any of them come to fruition?
Annabel: A good question! To begin with I only looked at the fundraising process as that was the first step and my biggest fear was of failing at that – i.e. not raising the money we needed. But we did, and then I was concerned we’d somehow never get to producing whisky, and pretty much since then it’s been such a whirlwind I haven’t spent too much time dwelling on fears!
BoozeHut: Has being a woman helped or hindered you on your journey at all?
Annabel: In the round I would say it has helped. Initially, honestly, it did not occur to me that this was even notable – I’d come from an industry where women and men were pretty balanced and I just didn’t see it as a big deal. It took a consultant probably 4 years in to point out that maybe it was unusual! And the net result of it being unusual is that I think it is memorable. However, perhaps even more importantly than that, it has resulted in our recruitment of a diverse team and I think that is one of our greatest strengths – we don’t necessarily think like the rest of the industry.
BoozeHut: Has being a woman helped or hindered you on your journey at all?As a female founder, do you feel under additional pressure / held to a higher standard than your male equivalents? Do they do enough to promote women and what would you like to see more of from men in the spirits industry?
Annabel: Personally, no I don’t feel that, but maybe I am just thick skinned! I hold myself to very high standards, but I don’t think that is a gender thing. I genuinely think that the spirits industry, and the whisky industry in particular is incredibly friendly and supportive, and it is only really outside that that I think anyone bats an eyelid as to whether you are male or female.perhaps even more importantly than that, it has resulted in our recruitment of a diverse team and I think that is one of our greatest strengths – we don’t necessarily think like the rest of the industry.
BoozeHut: Do you see your legacy being an inspiration for future female whisky founders / leaders?
Annabel: I hope so! We are delighted this year to be, finally, re-running our internship for women to come and experience life in a distillery for a week, and we hope that that will have the impact of encouraging more women to think about working in the industry more generally.
BoozeHut: Have you had any comments / messages from women inspired by your journey that’s given them the confidence to chase their dreams or take on male-dominated industries?
Annabel: I would say that most of the messages we get are from people inspired by our sustainability mission, which is fantastic – we are small in and of ourselves, and if we can inspire change and action more broadly then our project will have a much bigger impact!
BoozeHut: Are you bored of being asked all these questions about women in whisky yet and do you see a time when we’ll have made sufficient progress that there will no longer be a need for such questions in the spirit industry?
Annabel: Ha! No I’m not, because I’m glad to be able to talk about it and gradually change perceptions. But, of course, it would be lovely if we got to a stage where it was not a ‘thing’. But that is not just within the spirit industry – it is across most jobs and society, so we, as the spirits industry, shouldn’t beat ourselves up too much!
Thank you Annabel for your time in answering our questions today and from everyone here at Booze Hut we wish you and the team a very happy International Women’s Day. We’re extremely excited and honoured to stock your progressive (and delicious) products for our discerning drinkers. All the best with the future of Nc’Nean, we can’t wait to see (and taste) what you release next!