Beyond the Sip: Inspiring Inclusion in the World of Whisky

As we celebrate International Women’s Day, the theme of “Inspire Inclusion” resonates deeply, urging us to acknowledge  the remarkable contributions of women across all spheres of life. 

In the world of whisky, where tradition often intersects with innovation, one woman’s story stands out as a testament to the power of conviction and the pursuit of excellence. Nettie Harbinson, the visionary behind the most expensive whisky ever sold, is one of such women, whose legacy continues to inspire inclusivity in an industry historically dominated by men.

In 1926, Nettie Harbinson crafted what would become the most valuable bottle of wine or spirit ever sold at auction—the legendary The Macallan 1926. But Nettie’s journey to crafting history was not driven by grand ambitions or a quest for fame. Instead, she was guided by a simple principle: to do the next right thing. This quiet heroism propelled her to make choices that would not only shape her own legacy but also redefine the narrative of the whisky world.

Janet Isabella Harbinson, affectionately known as ‘Nettie,’ embodied the essence of The Macallan—a brand synonymous with excellence, tradition, and community. As the daughter of Roderick Kemp, the businessman credited with The Macallan’s rise to prominence, Nettie inherited a legacy of craftsmanship and commitment to quality. When faced with the choice to sell her family business or take the reins, Nettie chose the latter, demonstrating resilience, foresight, and an unwavering dedication to her community.

Nettie’s story is not just about crafting exceptional whisky; it’s about amplifying the voices of women in an industry where they have often been overlooked. Her journey from a pioneering distiller to a philanthropist and community leader dismantles the notion that whisky is solely a man’s domain. By caring for her employees, investing wisely, and championing international export, Nettie paved the way for future generations of women to challenge perspectives and forge their own path.

But Nettie’s legacy is just one chapter in The Macallan’s rich tapestry of female leadership. Kirsteen Campbell, Master Whisky Maker, and Diane Stuart, Whisky Maker, are two women who continue to shape the future of this prestigious brand. Kirsteen, the first woman to hold the title of Master Whisky Maker in The Macallan’s nearly 200-year history, brings her extraordinary sense of smell and passion for Scotch whisky to her role. Leading the Whisky Mastery Team, Kirsteen ensures the highest quality and consistency in every bottle of The Macallan.

Meanwhile, Diane Stuart, with her background in Forensic Science and a deep appreciation for whisky-making heritage, brings a unique perspective to her role as Whisky Maker. Her journey from a summer job as a Distillery tour guide to crafting vattings at the bench exemplifies the skill, dedication, and perseverance required to excel in the whisky industry.

As The Macallan commemorates its 200th anniversary, it not only celebrates a storied past but also looks towards a future where inclusion and diversity are normalised. Nettie’s legacy and the achievements of Kirsteen, Diane, and countless other women serve as a beacon of inspiration, reminding us that the world of whisky, and beyond, has room for everyone. 

On this International Women’s Day, we raise a glass to the trailblazers, the visionaries, and the champions of inclusion, whose stories inspire us to break barriers and redefine what’s possible. Cheers to Nettie, Kirsteen, Diane, and the countless women making their mark on the world of whisky and beyond.