A toast to the women in the beer, wine and spirits industry

The LCBO is helping to make every day International Women’s Day with its Spirit of Inclusion Initiative

The alcohol industry has historically been male-dominated, but progress is being made, thanks in part to the support of the LCBO’s Spirit of Inclusion Initiative.

Launched in 2021, the initiative aims to identify and remove systemic barriers for diverse women in the beverage alcohol industry, with partners including Niagara College and Brock University, Vinequity and a number of brands. The program offers bursaries and scholarships, facilitates mentorship relationships and identifies paid co-op placements for diverse women who are looking to begin or advance their careers in the field.

In honour of International Women’s Day, the LCBO is celebrating amazing women brewers, winemakers and master blenders. Below is a sampling of the incredible women currently working in the industry. Their stories are inspirational and the fruits of their labour can enjoyed by everyone.

Kirsteen Campbell

Master Whisky Maker at The Macallan

Kirsteen is the first woman to hold the title of Master Whisky Maker and is truly breaking barriers with the historic and iconic Scotch whisky brand, The Macallan. She had always hoped to be a part of the food industry one day and became fascinated with the world of whisky through chemical analysis, quality control and sensory work. Today, Kirsteen is one of the most important decision makers at The Macallan and is blazing a new trail for women in the beverage industry.

Feature Product: Macallan 12 Year Old Double Cask

This double cask is matured in a combination of American oak and European sherry oak for a balanced profile of dried fruit and light oak spice. The palate is creamy with honeyed flavours carrying marmalade and baking spices followed by a lengthy, fruity finish, that is dominated by Sultana.

Emma Garner

Winemaker at Thirty Bench

Thirty Bench Wine Makers is a Small Lot winery on the Niagara Escarpment’s Beamsville Bench. As one of Niagara’s first boutique wineries, it has become one of the most awarded in Canada thanks to winemaker, Emma Garner. Emma’s approach to winemaking is minimalist in nature, allowing the vineyard to express its own voice. Her work has caught the attention of the Canadian wine community, and in 2015 she was awarded the coveted distinction of Winemaker of the Year at the Ontario Wine Awards.

Feature product: Thirty Bench Winemaker’s Blend Riesling – $22.95

Emma particularly enjoys working with Rieslings, and her signature method includes fermenting at low temperatures to enhance the aromatic compounds that make her wines burst with complexity and intensity. The Winemaker’s Blend Riesling features flowers, prune, smoke, nuts and citrus flavours, refreshing acidity and a hint of spice.

Joy Spence

Master Blender at Appleton Estate

Joy Spence joined the premium Jamaican Rum brand as Chief Chemist in 1982. In 1997, she gained the title of Master Blender – making her the first woman to hold this position in the spirits industry globally. Since then, Joy has been at the forefront of creating the blends that make Appleton Estate the celebrated brand it is today.

Feature product: Appleton Estate 8 Year Old Reserve – $39.95

This eight-year-old rum is one of Appleton’s best known creations. This full-bodied and rich spirit has aromas of deep amber, honey, vanilla, oak, roasted nuts and baking spice. Try neat in a brandy glass or use to make a rum-based cocktail.

Erica McOustra

Brewmaster at Steam Whistle

Erica McOustra is a credentialed Brewmaster, receiving her education at the Versuchs-und Lehranstalt für Brauerei (VLB) Beer Institute in Berlin, Germany. After ten years with the Toronto- based brewery, Erica was appointed Steam Whistle’s Brewmaster. Her brewing philosophy includes an appreciation for tradition, while adopting a continuous improvement mindset – always driving quality forward.

Feature product: Steam Whistle Premium Pilsner – $19.25

Made from four all-natural ingredients, Steam Whistle’s Premium Pilsner is crisp and balanced on the palate, with light grainy malt and floral tones leading to refreshing bitter notes. It’s perfect for any celebration.

Geneviève Janssens

Winemaker at Robert Mondavi

Geneviève has been a part of the Robert Mondavi Winery team since the late 1970s, where she learned directly from the late Robert Mondavi himself, before becoming Director of Winemaking in 1997. As a former Wine Enthusiast’s Winemaker of the Year, Geneviève’s wines are recognized globally for their exceptional quality.

Feature product: Robert Mondavi Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon – $54.95

This classic Cab – with cedar, chocolate, fig, herbs and honey notes – has been made since the winery’s founding in 1966. Enjoy it with hearty dishes: meaty lasagna or filet mignon.

Students who self-identify as a woman from a diverse background currently under-represented in the beverage alcohol industry are eligible to apply for Spirit of Inclusion Initiative scholarships, bursaries and programming.

For more information on the initiative, visit lcbo.com/SpiritofInclusionInitiative.

Photos: Courtesy LCBO