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Erin Hayes is Director of Sales and Trade Advocacy for Westward Whiskey in Portland, Oregon. She recently helped launch a special Women’s History Month barrel of Westward that will raise money for two different charities. She started her career as a bar manager, which taught her the skills she needs to work in her current role.

BW: How did your background as a bar manager prepare you for your current role?

EH: Being a bar manager of a busy bar with complex drinks definitely helped with my time management and organizational skills! Bartending in general will quickly make you learn to multitask, multiply that by 10 when you are also in a managerial role. Most importantly though, the essence of hospitality translates directly into my role. Practicing kindness, patience, understanding, and always being willing to go the extra mile to make someone feel good are so important to developing and maintaining professional relationships.

BW: When people don’t quite understand what American Single Malt Whiskey is, how do you explain it to them?

EH: The 30,000-foot view is that Westward Whiskey is American whiskey elevated & single malt reimagined. We never set out to replicate styles of whiskies that have been made and enjoyed for generations in Kentucky, Scotland and beyond. We wanted to speak to where we are from and utilize the incredible resources of the Pacific Northwest (our locally harvested barley, amazing water source, climate and heritage of craft brewing, to name a few) to create something innovative and unique but that could speak to any whiskey drinker.

BW: What is your favorite cocktail to make with Westward whiskey? 

EH: I created an Old Fashioned variation that highlights Westward beautifully and utilizes some of our awesome neighbors & collaborators in OR. We call it the True Northwest Old Fashioned.

 BW: What advice do you have for women who want to start a career in the distilled spirits industry?

EH: Don’t let anyone tell you where you belong. You decide where you belong. Ask questions, learn everything you can, and work hard. And when you get to where you’re going, remember to bring other women and folks that might not always get a seat at the table with you.

BW: Tell me about your perfect whiskey weekend in Los Angeles.

EH: Check in to the Hotel June on Friday afternoon for a staycation! Get settled in and have some Westward cocktails at the Caravan Swim Club! Head to Scopa for dinner and drinks and then go around the corner and get lost in the epic whiskey list at Old Lightening!

Saturday morning head to DTLA for brunch on the roof at The Freehand for some delish & creative Westward cocktails and poolside sunshine vibes at Broken Shaker! Walk over for happy hour at legendary whiskey bar Seven Grand. Pop over to The Mermaid for an old-fashioned on the patio. Have an amazing dinner and a Low Season (one of my fave cocktails featuring Westward, coconut & garam masala) at Death & Co. And finish out the night with some boilermakers at The Slipper Clutch!

Get a late start on Sunday and enjoy an LBB (long boozy brunch!) at Thunderbolt for their to die for breakfast biscuits and a Westward & Coldbrew. Head towards Hollywood and stop into Thirsty Crow and pore over their whiskey list for a bit. Round out the weekend with dinner and some of my favorite whiskey cocktails in LA at Republique!

Photos Courtesy of Westward Whiskey

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