Celebrating International Women’s Day – Australian women in winemaking and distilling

For well over a century, International Women’s Day has celebrated, empowered, informed and inspired, and above all has enforced change. And this March 8th, we’re raising a glass to the amazing women in winemaking and distilling.

International Womens Day

Christina and I are indelibly connected to International Women’s Day. March 8th is our wedding anniversary, but it’s not just that. It also represents how we both see the world as it should be: honourable, respectful and above all fair.

This day has been celebrated and actioned upon since 1911, and has been an important cog in the Women’s Suffrage movement. As the IWD website explains:

“International Women’s Day (March 8) is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women. The day also marks a call to action for accelerating women’s equality.”

To celebrate International Women’s Day – and our anniversary – we want to highlight some of the amazing women working hard in two industries Christina and I get a great deal of pleasure from: wine and spirits!

Historically male-dominated, wine-making and distilling have recently seen a lot more women enter, challenge and thrive in the industries. And their influence cannot be ignored.

Here are five woman winemakers and distillers with unique perspectives on what it takes to make it in the winemaking and spirit-distilling world.

International Women’s Day – the ladies making your gin, rum, whisky and wine

Ally Ayres – Owner-Distiller Karu Distillery, NSW

International Women's Day - Ally Ayres Karu Distillery

Ally Ayres – Karu Distillery

Q: How are you challenging the distilling industry?

Normalising women working in the industry is important. I was told: “charring barrels is a man’s job” so I got a photo of me charring a barrel and posted it.

I was told I would “never be more than the brand ambassador” and here i am behind the scenes getting it done and have 35+ awards across the world. (That is hard to say, but feels nice).

The women in this industry are such strong and brave individuals that I am so proud of and celebrate their achievements and share our stories with others.


Q: What do you think the impact of having more women in distilling is having on the industry?

Women and men detect different profiles of flavour, which is something I find really interesting and we have put this to the test many times at Karu Distillery.

Since the industry is having a rise in female distillers, we are seeing a lot of different flavours coming through from what you’d typically expect. It’s exciting to see where this will eventually lead.

Alarna Doherty – Owner-Distiller Tara Distillery, NSW


International Women's Day - Alarna Doherty Tara Distillery

Alarna Doherty – Tara Distillery

Q: How are you challenging the distilling industry and yourself?

I feel that being a woman that not only founded a distillery but also manages a distillery challenges a lot of how people perceive the industry has been run until now.

More and more there are incredible women taking the lead in the industry, but it is still seen predominantly as a bit of a boys’ club (particularly in the whisky scene).

I think I’m also challenging the perception of what women’s and men’s drinks are. I myself drink both gin and whisky, and I think whisky is still seen as a predominantly male drink.

Q: What innovations are you driving in the distillery or from a more general industry perspective?

In Australia, most distilleries employ traditional Scottish, English or American production techniques.

Drawing from my Australian-Irish cultural background, I was really interested in crafting spirits that looked to Irish production methods, so I talked to and visited as many Irish distillers as I could and I’m really excited about bringing those Irish techniques to mainland Australia.

Penny Jones – Winemaker and Manager Bay of Fires Winery, TAS

International Women's Day - Penny Jones Bay of Fires Winery

Penny Jones – Bay of Fires Winery

Q: How are you challenging the winemaking industry?

The wine industry is a challenging place to work in itself! No season is like the last, and that is part of what makes it so challenging and rewarding at the same time.

Tasmania is really a tiny producer in terms of volume, and yet we are working to make wines that are world class. Part of the challenge is in getting our story out to the rest of the world.

Q: What innovations you are supporting at the winery?

Our Pinot Noir wines have received incredible recognition over the years, standing tall amongst the Pinots of Australia (and indeed the world).

As our vineyard resources change and develop with time, we continue our journey to make the best version of our style that we can and this is a constant evolution.

Helen McCarthy – Winemaker St Hallett Winery, SA

International Women's Day - Helen McCarthy St Hallett Winery

Helen McCarthy – St Hallett

Q: How are you challenging the winemaking industry?

At St Hallett, we are implementing sustainable practices including increasing our energy efficiency and reducing all types of waste.

We are constantly challenging what it means to be efficient, effective and sustainable.

Q: What innovations are you driving from an industry perspective?

I am passionate about embracing innovative techniques and technologies in the winemaking process from vineyard to packaging.

I participate as a mentor in an innovation start up program run by Flinders University and regularly participate in webinar / Zoom calls regarding winemaking innovations.

Courtney Treacher – Senior Winemaker Houghton and Brookland Valley wineries, WA

International Women's Day - Houghton Winery

Courtney Treacher – Houghton Winery

Q: How are you challenging yourself in the winemaking industry?

I enjoy being a part of a dynamic winemaking team and the challenge of crafting wines of varied styles under the Houghton, Brookland Valley, Moondah Brook, Goundrey and Amberley ranges.

Q: What innovations are you supporting at the winery?

We are constantly driving to diversify and evolve our range to craft intense and inspiring wines that our consumers will continue to enjoy.

International Womens Day

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