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3-course interview: Peggy Noe Stevens, bourbon taster

Master bourbon taster and brand strategist Peggy Noe Stevens is participating in two panels at the second annual New Orleans Bourbon Festival (www.neworleansbourbonfestival.com), which takes place March 8-10. Stevens grew up in Kentucky and is the cousin of Jim Beam distillers Booker Noe and Fred Noe. She launched her career in the hotel world and developed a passion for the food and beverage industry. She became the world's first female master bourbon taster and eventually founded Bourbon Women, an organization that educates women about making and drinking bourbon. Stevens leads the panel "Balance and Counterbalance: The Secrets to Bourbon and Food Pairing Basics" at 12:15 p.m. March 10. She spoke with Gambit about bourbon.

What sparked the inspiration for Bourbon Women?

Stevens: I was the first female master bourbon taster in the world, and that was in the '90s. I remember being struck by two things: I really wanted to be a master taster and teach people and travel around the world and conduct tastings. But the other thing that struck me, was, "You've got to be kidding me, there's no one else?" If I was really to think about the inspiration behind Bourbon Women, it's from when I was doing tastings as a master taster. I used to go and travel literally around the world, and in those audiences, it was always predominantly male. There would be a trickle of women, but the women wouldn't necessarily ask questions. They would come up to me after the tasting was over. I thought, "We need to change this." They were as passionate as anyone I've ever given a tasting to.

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