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Noya Gilmore spent much of her career as an ironworker, but after she experienced repetitive strain injuries she found she needed a change of pace. She went back to school, studied biology and chemistry, and eventually found herself working as a distiller at Bently Heritage Distillery.
BW: Your first job was as an ironworker. How do you feel about the title “The Rosie the Riveter of Distilling”?
NG: Wow, That’s an amazing title. I don’t think I could live up to that. I just like to think I’ve had some interesting careers.
BW: What does a typical day in the distillery look like for you?
NG: Mornings are about getting equipment up and running, checking tanks, ferments, starting the stills. Once cuts are made, we have time to work on projects. These can be anything from working with the quality team, checking botanicals, tasting samples, to developing new liqueurs. Once we get our incubator skid set-up, we will have the opportunity to develop new spirits on a small scale before scaling up. Currently, I am working on developing a Bottled in Bond program.
BW: What kinds of whiskeys are you making at Bently Heritage Distillery? When can we expect a release?
NG: We are making Single Malt, Bourbon, Rye, even some wheat whiskeys. Luckily, we have leadership that knows you can’t rush aging so it will be another few years for the American Whiskeys and at least 5 more for Single Malt. We hope to have some small single barrel releases in the next few years to help with the wait.
BW: What advice do you have for women who want to begin a career as a distiller?
NG: Ask questions, ask questions, ask questions. Don’t be afraid if you don’t know something. Ask questions. It shows you’re not afraid of what you don’t know and you’re smart enough to know it. Nobody expects you to know everything, especially when you’re starting out.
I also remember some advice I got from an Ironworker recruiter way back in the day. Walk fast and shake hands like a man. If you walk fast, even if you don’t know what you are doing, you look like you do. While the shake hands like a man is a bit sexist, having a good firm handshake is a good way to start any relationship, whether with contractors, vendors, bosses, or peers.
BW: Tell me about your perfect Reno/Lake Tahoe whiskey weekend.
NG: I’m pretty new to the area and Covid hit right when I was starting to get adjusted. Right now I’d say a dram with friends anywhere would be perfect.
Photos Courtesy of Bently Heritage Distilling