Marcy Rudershausen, Founder of Raise a Dram LLC, knows a thing or two about the global whiskey market after more than two decades, during which she became the US’s first and only woman Masters of Scotch.
BW: As the first woman Masters of Scotch in the USA, you have a long history in the whiskey industry. How did you end up working in whiskey?
MR: Here in the United States for Diageo I was the first and only woman Masters of Scotch. After a few years, we became the Masters of Whisky and other women joined the team. I was the second Latina in the world inducted into Keepers of the Quaich and the 5th woman in the United States inducted into Keepers of the Quaich.
I always say I just happened to be in the right place at the right time. I began in the spirits industry doing promotions. After one event my boss at the time asked for someone who spoke Spanish to conduct whisky staff trainings. Since I speak Spanish I raised my hand and was tasked with learning as much as I could about the brands. Since I studied theatre at university, I decided to view the task as creating a “one-woman whisky show.” I asked for two weeks to prepare which is usually the rehearsal time for a play. Before my first training I sat my Dad down at his dining room table, pulled out all the whiskies, and gave him my first and final dress rehearsal. Being a whisky lover himself my Pop was thrilled. I had already enjoyed whisky but I must admit learning the details really turned me into a whisky lover and hence my love for all things whisky was born. The first steps on a 20+ career in whisky.
BW: You train airport Brand Ambassadors. For the folks at home, can you talk about the importance of airport whiskey sales?
MR: The global duty-free market serves as a barometer in many instances to understand how new brands will be received in various markets. Sometimes brands will move from being duty-free exclusives to the national market. Other brands will remain exclusive to travelers based on an array of standards from product availability to flavor profiles that work best in certain parts of the world. Duty-Free sales across all spirts is one of the top markets in the world. Once you find something unique don’t pass it up thinking you’ll pick it up at your next stop because it’s very possible you won’t find it again!!
BW: As a consultant in the whiskey world, what are your specialties?
MR: Conducting educational whisky tastings has always been my favorite thing to do. Watching someone discover the flavors in various whiskies is so much fun! I still, to this day, view it as my one-woman whisky show. My goal is to create an experience that is educational and entertaining whether at a private in-home tasting, a large hotel meeting room of many whisky lovers, or a simple one-on-one with a new salesperson, up-and-coming brand ambassador, or preparing a chef to create a pairing menu. Dispelling old thoughts on whisky for example “Don’t add water you’ll ruin it” is also top of the list of my favorite things to do. Creating fun cocktails whether classic whisky cocktails or new inventive recipes helps to shine a light on dispelling old ways of thinking.
There is absolutely no reason to limit yourself to one brand or one way of enjoying whisky…I mean who only eats spaghetti? So, open yourself to the versatility of your favorite brands. Judging whisky competitions is also a favorite. Getting to experience so many different whiskies side by side blind is such an awesome continuing education!
BW: What advice do you have for women who want to work in the whiskey industry?
MR: My advice for women would be the same as my advice for men…If you have a passion for it don’t give up! Always keep yourself open to be constantly learning. After 20+ years in this industry I’m always learning something new whether it is technical information, better ways of presenting or ways NOT to present information. There are so many more opportunities now than when I began so get out there until you find a brand or a position that brings you joy! Whether at a distillery contributing to the creation of whisky or out in the market selling and brand building everybody contributes to the health of the industry. Also find some fantastic like-minded women and men who are equally as supportive as you are. Having a healthy circle of whisky-loving friends of all ages is crucial to maintain a well-rounded and balanced lifestyle and industry. We should all be learning from each other.
BW: Tell me about your perfect whiskey weekend in Scotland.
MR: A weekend? Whoa that’s a quickie!…ok let’s see…I’d say settle down in Edinburgh. Aside from visiting distilleries, the Edinburgh Castle is a must-see as well as The Scotch Whisky Experience just down the royal mile. There are lots of fantastic restaurants, theatre, and shops in and around the area. One of my favorite distillery adventures while in Scotland for my induction into Keepers of the Quaich was that my plus one and I took a double-decker public bus to the tiny town of Pencaitland and walked about 2 miles through the Scottish countryside to the Glenkinchie Distillery. This is one of my favorite distillery tours. Aside from being able to taste quite the array of whiskies they have an excellent collection of brand artifacts as well. The walk to and from the distillery through the rolling lowland hills is a wonderful respite from the hustle and bustle of the city and will surely open your appetite for a fantastic meal back in town. You can also take a day trip to visit distilleries west or north of the city. One hour you’re in Glasgow or get an early morning start and in 3 hours you could be in Loch Ness. With an extra two or three days, you could make your way to the highlands and out to the islands for a full Scotland experience you’ll never regret!!
Photos Courtesy of Marcy Rudershausen