Who says women don't like whisky? Certainly not Heather Greene, a petite whisky expert who travels the world extolling the virtues of single malt Scotch for Glenfiddich. Greene, who stumbled into her career in liquor while traveling through Scotland as a musician, recently launched a "Women & Whisky" campaign, a series of events and tastings designed to get discerning ladies to spread the good word about the brown stuff. Her next event, the so-called “Single Malt Speakeasy,” is tomorrow, November 16, at 8 p.m. 1534 bar in Soho. (RSVP here if you'd like to attend.) We sat down with Greene to talk about why women should love whisky and her favorite places to drink it in the city.
Can we talk a little bit about women and whisky? Women sort of get the short end of the whisky stick; it’s not really marketed towards us. Why should women drink whisky? Well actually it wasn’t traditionally marketed to men. It was something that women were very comfortable drinking in the '30s, '40s, and '50s, and around the world there are women who drink whisky. Bourbon drinkers are women; women don’t have any problem drinking bourbon in the south. I mean, mint juleps are made with bourbon. If you look at classic cocktails like old-fashioneds and Manhattans, those are whisky-based cocktails. So this sort of question of how and why the single malt scotch becomes a male thing, I don’t really know. It was most likely advertising in the '60s and '70s that implicated whisky with power and that’s why men ended up drinking more of it.
So what's the Women & Whisky campaign all about? I’m just trying to make women comfortable, show them an arena in the food and beverage world that they can explore and really enjoy. Women tend to have an incredible, wonderful sense of nosing and tasting and they traditionally, in many studies, outscore men in their ability to identify aroma and flavor. So, that said, whisky has an incredible amount of aroma properties, more so than any other liquid beverage or spirit, more so than wine, more so than beer, more so than champagne. So it’s something that women can actually really enjoy and get into. I just think that women should drink it and enjoy it because why not—they enjoy wine, they enjoy food, they enjoy so many other things and there’s no reason that they should be shut out of this really great arena.
For women who might not know a lot about whisky what sort of baby steps would you recommend? One thing I would tell them to do is buy a bottle with some friends and split it. I would recommend a Glenfiddich 12, which is a really classic Socttish bottle, a very nice, classic whisky. Get a bottle of 12 with your friends. Make a classic cocktail, have it on ice and have it straight or mixed with bitters or diluted with a little bit of water, and use that to actually experience it in different ways. That’s a fun at-home after work on Friday kind of thing. If you’re at a bar, I mean the same thing, that whisky is in every single bar. If you’re with a friend or two I would order two whiskys from the same region and just ask the bartender to split it. There are lots of ways you can experiment.
Where do you go in New York to drink whisky? If you’re downtown I think the Highlands and Mary Queen of Scots, great whisky bars. The Rye House. 1534, which is holding the event on Wednesday, if you go there and ask Justin the bartender to make you a whisky cocktail and tell him you’re new to it, he’ll totally make you what you want. And he’s amazing. If you want super posh and high-end, you could do the bar at Daniel on the Upper East Side with Xavier Herit. He just wrote a book about cocktailing and he makes an incredible cocktail so if you want to some kind of really special cocktail night go sit at his bar and ask him for a whisky cocktail. There are so many. For exploration there’s the Brandy Library in Tribeca and Ward III down in Tribeca, which have huge selections. I’d say those are my favorite ones.
What kind of feedback have you gotten from women? It's been amazing. I’ve done a lot of projects for 5 years. I’ve been traveling and stuff and this whole Women and Whisky thing, not just from women but from guys who say their events are more fun. I did just did an event at Whisky House and it was called Why Your Wife Should Drink Scotch and we talked about how aroma properties are an aphrodisiac, like there are studies that show that spice and nuttiness and pumpkin increased blood flow to a man’s…region…shall we say.
The women have been really receptive like, “oh thank you so much” and “gosh now I know a little bit about it” and “thank you for spending the time”. They have less hang-ups than men do. Women come to the table with no preconceived notions of how whisky is "supposed" to be enjoyed, and they just enjoy it how they want to.