We\u2019re grateful for all the up-and-coming women who distill, blend and otherwise make sure that our favorite whiskeys and spirits find their way to our glass. But we should also pay homage to those who paved the way and played an integral part in whiskey history.\r\n\r\nWomen have always been involved in the production of beer, wine and spirits. According to Fred Minnick, author of Whiskey Women: The Untold Story of How Women Saved Bourbon, Scotch, and Irish Whiskey (Potomac Books, 2013), the first evidence of women making beer was found on Mesopotamian cuneiform tablets that date to around 4000 BC. While Minnick\u2019s book should be required reading for those who seek to know more, here are just a few ladies who\u2019ve helped advance, protect and develop whiskey.\r\n\r\n\r\nEllen Jane Corrigan, Bushmills\r\nIn all but name, Ellen Jane Corrigan was the first CEO of a major spirits company when she stepped in to run Irish whiskey distillery Bushmills after her husband, Patrick, died in January 1865.\r\n\r\nShe\u2019s most noted for taking the first steps that transformed Bushmills into an international whiskey powerhouse, but she did it all. She negotiated the terms of Bushmills\u2019 lease in 1874, preserved and protected the distillery\u2019s vital water supply, and introduced electricity to the facilities. She also turned the distillery into a limited liability company to enable it to shift from a local Northern Ireland distillery into an international entity.\u00a0\r\n\r\nWhen she sold Old Bushmills in 1880, Corrigan negotiated a voting spot on the board of the new company, something not typically offered to women at that time.\r\n\r\nIn 2005, Helen Mulholland was appointed as master blender for the Irish whiskey brand, a role she still holds today.\r\n\r\n\r\nHelen and Elizabeth Cumming, Johnnie Walker\r\nBefore Johnnie Walker became the blended Scotch whisky dynamo it is today, a woman ran its most important distillery, Cardow.\r\n\r\nThe first was Helen Cumming. The illicit whisky enterprise she helped run began in the early 1800s, when Cumming was reported to have lured excise agents into her Cardow farm for a meal, and then hoisted a red flag outside to alert other distillers to the presence of the agents.\r\n\r\nThe distillery eventually became legal when excise laws were eased. Her husband, John, became registered as a \u201cdistiller of genuine malt whisky\u201d in 1824. Eight years later, he handed over the business to their son, Lewis. Helen still contributed to Cardow, \u201cthe smallest distillery in Scotland,\u201d with just two employees.\r\n\r\nWhen Lewis died in 1872, Helen was 95 years old. She encouraged her daughter-in-law, Elizabeth, to take over Cardow. A brilliant businesswoman, Elizabeth recognized that blending whisky was becoming increasingly popular, but the distillery couldn\u2019t keep up with demand. In 1884, she acquired four acres of land within 300 yards of the original buildings. Over the next year, Elizabeth built a new distillery and eventually sold the old one to William Grant.\r\n\r\nWhen John Walker & Sons Limited, later named Johnnie Walker, purchased the Cardow Distillery in 1893, it was no longer \u201cthe smallest distillery in Scotland.\u201d Its substantial whisky-making capacity played a key part in Johnnie Walker\u2019s rise to become an empire.\r\n\r\n\r\nAugusta Dickel, George Dickel\r\nThe only American whiskey distillery owned by a woman in the 1800s that\u2019s still in production is George Dickel, established in Tennessee as a liquor wholesale company in 1861. Named for its founder, George A. Dickel, the company blended and bottled whiskeys, with most of its spirits procured by the Cascade Distillery in Coffee County, Tennessee. Eventually, Dickel purchased the distillery.\r\n\r\nIn his will written in 1894, Dickel instructed his wife, Augusta, to sell the business at the \u201cfirst favorable opportunity.\u201d However, after he passed away, she ignored his wishes. Augusta maintained her husband\u2019s share of George A. Dickel, although she didn\u2019t participate in the day-to-day operations. She mostly traveled to Europe, where she brought her whiskey to associates in France.\r\n\r\nWhile it\u2019s not the most heroic of stories, by ignoring her husband Augusta kept the company intact, which passed on to brother-in-law V.E. Shwab after her death in 1916.\r\n\r\nNow renamed as Cascade Hollow Distilling, Nicole Austin was appointed in 2018 as its general manager and distiller, where she oversees the legacy George Dickel brand.\r\n\r\n\r\nElizabeth \u201cBessie\u201d Williamson, Laphroaig\r\nOften referred to as \u201cThe First Lady of Scotch,\u201d Elizabeth \u201cBessie\u201d Williamson is credited with having saved Scotland\u2019s Laphroaig Distillery from a military takeover. But she also changed the American demand for Scotch from blends to single malts.\r\n\r\nShortly after she graduated from the University of Glasgow in 1934, Williamson began work as a temporary secretary at the Laphroaig Distillery on the Scottish island Islay, where she became the trusted lieutenant of owner Ian Hunter. After he suffered a stroke in 1938, Hunter asked Williamson to become the distillery manager. She took over his full-time duties just before World War II began.\r\n\r\nIt was not a moment too soon. Whiskey production ceased during wartime, as the government diverted grain to feed soldiers. Laphroaig was turned into a major ammunitions hub, with explosives hidden in the malt barns. Yet, Williamson refused to give in to every military demand. She made sure no one melted down the stills or other equipment to make munitions. She also ensured that no one stole her whiskey and kept the distillery\u2019s business afloat during the crisis.\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\nWhen World War II ended, Williamson forged ahead and developed relationships with other distillers. She made bold, smoky Laphroaig a sought-after whisky for blends. But instead of wasting her Scotch\u2019s distinctive peaty character in blends, Williamson envisioned marketing Laphroaig as a single malt.\r\n\r\nWhen Hunter died in 1954, he left the distillery to Williamson. She forged ahead as an ambassador for Islay whiskies and single malts. The Scotch Whisky Association named her as American spokesperson from 1961\u201364, giving her the opportunity to tour the U.S. and spread the gospel of Scotch whisky. Williamson died in 1982.\r\n\r\n\r\nRachel Barrie, Brown-Forman\r\nCurrently the whisky-maker for Brown-Forman's BenRiach, Glenglassaugh and GlenDronach distilleries, Rachel Barrie built her reputation as the first modern female master blender in the spirits industry.\r\n\r\nBarrie studied chemistry at the University of Edinburgh before she began her career as a research scientist at the Scotch Whisky Research Institute. She then moved into production at the Glenmorangie Company, where she earned the title of master blender in 1995, working with the Glenmorangie and Ardbeg Scotch whiskies.\r\n\r\nIn 2011, she joined Morrison Bowmore, where she developed well-known brands like Bowmore, Auchentoshan, Laphroaig and Ardmore.\r\n\r\nBarrie is noted for her work in developing award-winning whiskies. But in addition to her accomplishments in whisky, she also opened the doors for other women to enter the spirits business.\r\n\r\n\r\nMarianne Eaves, Castle & Key\r\nRepresenting the up-and-coming generation of women in whiskey, Marianne Eaves is the master distiller for Kentucky Bourbon producer Castle & Key. When she took on the role in 2015 for the brand-new distillery, she was the first woman to earn that title in Kentucky since Prohibition.\r\n\r\nAfter she graduated from the University of Louisville with a degree in chemical engineering, Eaves worked at Brown-Forman, the company behind Woodford Reserve, Old Forester and Jack Daniels. In five short years, she ascended from intern to master taster, where she worked in the storied research and development lab alongside Woodford\u2019s master distiller Chris Morris.\r\n\r\nIn 2015, Eaves left Brown-Forman to launch Castle & Key at the site of the Old Taylor Distillery, a historical site that had been out of commission since 1972. Today, she oversees the production of Castle & Key\u2019s gin and vodka, as well as new rye and Bourbon bottlings scheduled for release in 2020 and 2021, respectively.