Growing up in Bardstown, Kentucky doesn’t always mean a career in Bourbon. Or does it? For Three Chord Barrel Program Manager Laura Webb it wasn’t always an obvious career path.
BW: You have spent the better part of your career working in Bardstown, Kentucky. Do you ever feel that working in the spirits industry was a foregone conclusion?
LW: From a bird’s eye view, I should have. I grew up in the bourbon Mecca, my family is ingrained in the industry from all different sides…Hell, the air is literally perfumed with sour mash on certain days. However, bourbon at that time wasn’t the tourist attraction it is today. Working in the industry then typically meant manual labor or one of the few desk jobs. I’ve always leaned toward the creative. Marketing and brand building was more my speed and that landed me in the music industry for a time. Nowadays, the music & bourbon industries are closely related. The two sort of melded together in my career path. So, when I was asked to join the Three Chord team, everything came full circle for me.
BW: As the Southeast Regional Sales Manager and the Barrel Program Manager for Three Chord, what does your day-to-day look like?
LW: My workdays ebb & flow between both job roles. Some days I am meeting with accounts, performing tastings, or planning events. Other days I have my earbuds glued in, my fingertips drumming on my keyboard, and am a spreadsheet wizard. On really fun days, I get to travel and explore new cities or just sit with my bourbon buddies in the industry and chat over a pour of Three Chord.
BW: What should people know about Three Chord as a brand?
LW: Firstly, we originated as a conduit for philanthropic endeavors, specifically to support musicians. I have seen the backend of the music industry personally, and even for the successful, artists typically struggle. There is no healthcare package in this line of work. That was particularly a concern to us over Covid when they were unemployed. So, being a charitable company resonates with me and is a large part of who we are.
Secondly, Three Chord launched at a time when blending whiskeys was not popular or commonplace. As other, larger brands are now tilting toward blending, the consumer has become more comfortable with the concept. But in the beginning, we were disruptors. As a Bardstownian, and therefore traditionalist, I have to admit, I was skeptical of blending different styles of bourbon and using finishing barrels. Once I tried what we were creating, I couldn’t deny that there was something to it. Some single barrels are tannic, some are hot, some are flat. Blending allows for balance that some single barrels just can’t achieve. That’s the basis of Three Chord products and it works.
BW: What advice do you have for women who want to work in beverage alcohol?
LW: 1. Don’t be intimidated. Bourbon is not gender-specific. It just so happens to have skewed that way in the past. But when you watch a Western, those saloon gals are swigging shots of whiskey right next to the cowboys.
2. Take the time to learn what you like and do not like. Educate yourself on the history, distilling process, and taste profiles. If you can knowledgeably verbally express what your senses pick up on, good or bad, then you are able to have a conversation with anyone; possibly teach them something, as well. But remember, conversations are a two-way street. Be humble and willing to learn from others.
3. Be careful about degrading other brands. The spirits industry is smaller than you think. Be careful about what you say, where you say it, and who you say it to. You don’t have to like everything, but be respectful in your critiques. There is no sense in burning bridges on such a subjective product.
4. Be genuine. This business is about relationships. Get to know and interact with your clients and colleagues on a real level. Your job will be much more productive and fulfilling.
BW: Tell me about your perfect whiskey weekend in Bardstown.
LW: A few years ago, during KY Bourbon Festival, my husband and I ran the gamut of events. In just a few days, I had gone from tennis shoes to ball gowns, tasted some of the best unicorn bourbons around, won a cocktail competition, and met Bill Murray at a charity event. That was a good weekend. Though, Bourbon Festival in Bardstown, any year, is a time I treasure. I get to hug my friends who come to visit from all over the country. We open our home to houseguests and cook a midnight breakfast for our neighbors to help sop up the alcohol. We always manage to find some leisurely time with our industry cohorts in between us all running around like chickens with our heads cut off.
Photo Courtesy of Laura Webb