I recently came across a post on Serious Eats discussing the presence (or lack thereof) of women in the whisky world. While men are still the dominant consumer of whisky, the Scotch Malt Whisky Society has almost doubled its female membership over the course of three years (to a total of around 15 percent of its membership). Also, an estimated 25 percent of all scotch drinkers in the UK are female, an increase from around 10 percent only a few years ago. My start to whisky drinking is perhaps atypical, as the person that really piqued my interest in the field was a woman with deep passion and knowledge for whisky. As I’ve grown in my appreciation for fine whiskies, my wife has followed suit. In fact, a recent trip to Shebeen revealed her new favourite, the Longmorn 16. So in that sense my “whisky world” is slightly atypical, containing quite a few women.
The predominance of men is also an issue in the cigar industry, as the majority of cigar smokers I have met are men. The same can’t be said of cigar makers, however, as women are frequently employed in cigar factories. Yet flip through the latest Cigar Aficionado and the only women you’ll see are scantily clad and provocatively “smoking” their cigars. In fact I had a tough time finding pictures for this article of women smoking cigars that didn’t contain some sort of nudity. Thankfully there are women of influence in the industry working to change this trend; for example check out Her Humidor.
Why the gender gap? Is there a societal norm informing us that whisky and cigars are a male habit? What can we as consumers and people in the industry do to change the gender stereotypes towards whisky and cigars, encouraging women to discover the enjoyment of these fine pursuits?