Kim Ohanneson, a certified whisky ambassador and the president of Women Who Whiskey Los Angeles was in Kenya last month to meet Kenyan women who love whisky.
She spoke to BDLife about how to appreciate whisky, her favourite bottles, and why distillers are seeing a new revenue stream in women.
There is a fascination among whisky drinkers that it should be taken neat, is that right?
It is incorrect. Everybody should take their whisky however they want. People are different, there is an upcoming generation of cocktail lovers and that’s okay, whatever you enjoy is up to you, and with bourbon especially they tend to drink with over ice to tamp down over sweetness.
What ice does is tamp down delicate notes and emphasise the base notes. However, use the bigger ice cubes because what they do is dilute slowly.
What is a good whisky?
A good whisky should have clarity and shouldn’t be cloudy. Ideally, it will have a silky mouthfeel, when you nose it, you should pick specific aromas.
If it's Aberfeldy Highland Single Malt, a classic fruity whisky, for instance, you will pick up honey notes. You should also recognise that whatever you nose is not what you are going to taste, but you should have a distinctive taste not muddy, and you should pick up notes not at once because people are different.
What is your favourite whisky?
My favourite to this day is the Laphroaig single malt Scotch whisky. It is a smokey whisky. The first time I tasted it, I got goosebumps and I knew it was my drink.
Does whisky give you hangovers?
I don't get hangovers. But I cannot drink wine because I get headaches and if I take beer I will sleep.
There is a stereotype about women who drink whisky, or society thinks women don't understand whisky, do you think the world has progressed?
Yes. We are coming out of the nonsensical stereotypes of who the whisky drinker is and how whisky should be drunk. Women have warmed up and embraced whisky publicly and my suspicion is a lot of them were drinking whisky just that people did not know about it.
But now it is not a big deal, there are a lot of women who have life longevity because they drank whisky.
Is it safe to say that women are shaking up the whisky industry?
The problem with saying that is that women have always been there, it’s just that we are now taking notice, and distillers have realised that they are the untapped market.
It has been proven that women have a wider nasal receptor, have a refined palate, and can pick up different tastes. Distillers are realising that women have a more educated palate and many women are chosen for blenders.
Why did you launch a Women Who Whisky club in Los Angeles?
I was the weird child in college who was drinking whisky. I started taking a keen interest in the 1990s.
The WWW Los Angeles started in 2016 and we will be at seven years this month. I had a small club and I was ready to branch out and do something bigger.
A friend and I were thinking about a project we could do together. She heard about Women Who Whiskey, which is an international whiskey appreciation club for women (with gentlemen subchapters!) Judi Laing wanted to concentrate on launching “BYOB Like a Boss” (byoblikeaboss.com) so I started Women Who Whiskey ~ Los Angeles on my own. Along the way, I became a certified whisky ambassador.
Why Women who whisky?
My reason for launching Women Who Whiskey Los Angeles, the largest Women Who Whiskey chapter in the world (2,500+ members), was to give women the opportunity to learn about whisky so they could become confident imbibers and consumers.
I remember back in the days when a friend of mine would order some whisky, she would get comments from men ‘That’s a big drink for a little lady’.
My goal was to help women get informed about what they were taking and they would be confident in what they are nosing and tasting.
Who is your target group to join the WWW?
We target women in their late 20s to late 70s, up to now we have one in her early 80s whom we direct where to sit and that shows you how much women enjoy whisky. But a majority are in their 30s to 50s.