Maggie Kimberl says the category will continue to grow, due in part to its enduring authenticity.  (photo courtesy of Maggie Kimberl)

The Bourbon Women Association was launched a decade ago, when legendary figure Peggy Noe Stevens felt a need to create a space for women to gather, somewhat formalizing what was already a powerful force in the industry. “It was,” she notes on the organization’s website, “more of a pent up feeling.” Today that energy has much more room to thrive, as women continue to take ever more prominent roles. The Association has chapters all over the country.

At headquarters in Louisville, Bourbon Women Association president Maggie Kimberl represents the organization in numerous ways, spotlighting women in the industry, planning events, and generally spreading the word. We caught up with her for a chat, here at the start of autumn.

Why are people so enchanted with bourbon?

I think it really comes down to the authenticity. Bourbon can’t be faked. It has to be what it says it is. That authenticity means different things to different people. For me, it’s something genuinely made by my neighbors. For others, it’s genuine quality. Regardless, you always know what you’re getting.

What was the first bourbon that really made you sit up and take notice?  

The first bourbon I remember actually liking was Eagle Rare. A friend’s husband brought a pint of it to another friend’s wedding and we were passing it around in the parking lot taking swigs from the bottle. That was when I realized, hey, this bourbon stuff is pretty good!

Why do you think bourbon interest is growing among female audiences?

It’s not so much that women are finally getting interested in bourbon, but rather that brands are finally starting to recognize and speak to women consumers in a more authentic way. It’s one of the main reasons Peggy Noe Stevens decided to start the Bourbon Women Association to begin with—to facilitate better communication where none really existed before.

How are distilleries, bars and restaurants working to build bourbon interest?

They’re responding to the interest that already exists by ensuring their staffs are educated about the whiskey sector as a whole. Training courses like Stave & Thief are ensuring no one is left in the dark about the American whiskey category.

What else is happening in this arena?

In American whiskey in general, there’s been huge growth in American single malts. There are a lot of reasons behind this, but the main thing is that a lot of newer distilleries are trying to put their own philosophical or regional stamp on the American whiskey landscape.

So you see good things on the horizon?

The sky’s the limit! Foreign markets are thirsty for bourbon, so I foresee continued growth in production into the next decade.

Any bottles you’re particularly loving right now?

Honestly, I love every bottle I try because I can see what they were trying to accomplish with it, even if they didn’t quite get it right.

 And how do you take it? 

Neat, or in an excruciatingly well-made cocktail.