Under The Ginfluence 007 | Celebrating International Women’s Day 2022

Today, Tuesday 8th March, marks International Women’s Day. A global celebration of the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women.

And not surprisingly, there are plenty of things to be celebrating! The last couple of decades have seen a huge shift in perspectives around gender, and around women especially. The world is more inclusive, and more supportive, than it has ever been. We’ve seen women achieve incredible things- leading countries through pandemics (shout out to Jacinda Ardern), creating vaccines to end those pandemics (thank you, Professor Sarah Gilbert) and creating powerful changes in society (think the #MeToo Movement and #TimesUp). It’s just taken us too long to fully appreciate and recognize women for the impactful, powerful, and inspirational people they are, and always have been. For this edition of Under the Ginfluence, we’ll be delving into the historical relationship between women and gin, and figuring out why gin is typically seen as being a ‘women’s drink’. Fast forwarding a few hundred years, we’ll be meeting the women of Burleighs Gin and discovering the success that comes with employing strong, independent women. Finally, we’ll be looking towards the future of women in the industry and why days like IWD2022 are so important to us, and should be important to everyone. 

Gin has always been closely associated with women, ever since it first exploded into 17th century society, hundreds of years ago. When William of Orange took the British throne in 1689, he brought with him his armies, his wealth, his love for all-things-gin and of course, his wife, Mary. Gin quickly became very popular in the circles of high society, and Queen Mary made it into a fashionable, socially acceptable drink for wealthy, noble ladies. Back then, ladies were not supposed to drink spirits (or anything stronger than ale or wine), so this in itself was a radical act of non-conformity. Of course, us ladies have always been good at doing things we’re not supposed to do. Even if that is drinking gin. As glamourous as gin-drinking queens and noblewomen sound, there was, and always is, a dark side to every story. When the Gin Craze hit (a period of time where gin caused a pandemic of drunkenness and debauchery), suddenly, women found themselves being allowed into the typically male-dominated spaces and situations for the first time. Women could freely buy and consume spirits- they could even make gin and sell it, something that was completely unheard of before. Society opened up for women like never before, and as exciting as this was, it had some negative drawbacks. ‘Mother’s Ruin’ became a widely used nickname for gin because of the effect it was having on women in society. Gone were the days of women having to stay at home to look after the children, cook and clean. Why do that when you could drink gin instead?! After all, that’s what the men were doing, and why should we have to miss out on the fun? Instead, women hit the streets- drunken brawls, gambling, excessive drinking… all those typically male behaviours now transforming into a big old girls’ night out. Although these nights out would end with more than a hangover- the gin at the time had deadly effects and absolutely ravaged anyone who consumed it, no matter the gender. 

Hogarth, William; Gin Lane; https://www.royalacademy.org.uk/art-artists/work-of-art/O24059 Credit line: (c) (c) Royal Academy of Arts /

In 1751, artist and social commentator William Hogarth produced two images as propaganda against gin, and the detrimental effect it was having on society: ‘Beer Street’ and ‘Gin Lane’. In ‘Gin Lane’, he sketches out visions of a life completely ruined by gin, and chooses none other than a drunken mother as the main focus of the piece- a culprit of crimes against society. She’s looking a little worse for wear, battered and bruised, barely holding on to the child at her breast. She has no responsibility, no dignity, no virtue- all because of gin! This was ‘Mother’s Ruin’ in all its gory glory. Even in today’s society, gin is still seen as being a go-to drink for women. Perhaps the negative connotations have disappeared, and we don’t get threatened with a prison sentence for having a cheeky G&T at the weekend, but it is still very much a gendered drink. Gin has come a long way since then, and of course, so have women. Even if you still see it as being your nan’s favourite tipple, gin is much more contemporary and appeals to a much wider range of drinkers than ever before- and this includes men. This is because stereotypes have been challenged and minds have been opened. 

Here at Burleighs, we’re celebrating the fact that gin has long been associated with women- after all, over half our team (including our copper pot still, Messy Bessy) are women! More women are working in the distilling and drinks industry than ever before, and here at Burleighs, we’ve been championing women for a while. For this year’s IWD celebrations, we’ve chosen to focus on the women behind Burleighs- after all, we make up four out of the seven full time members of staff here! We’ve got one of the best distillers in the game, and she makes up one of a handful of female distillers in the UK. Our sales team is driven by two wonderful, intelligent women and our Gin Academy is managed by yours truly. Burleighs has always supported women in this industry without question- often without even trying. Burleighs has long been breaking the bias, and with a long and dramatic historical love story between women and gin, there’s been quite a lot of bias to challenge. 

The Women of Burleighs Gin

As part of our International Women’s Day celebrations, we’re shining the spotlight on our fantastic female employees. We’ve asked a series of questions about what it’s like being a woman in the ‘gindustry’, hoping that it inspires more women to challenge themselves and work outside of their comfort zone. After all, that’s the only way progress is ever made.

CHARLIE HENDON- HEAD DISTILLER AT BURLEIGHS GIN.

What is your role at Burleighs, and what is your proudest achievement at work so far?

‘I am the Head Distiller here at Burleighs. This role changes from day to day but my main job is to ensure that we have all our delicious gins in stock. To do this, I need to distil our gin on our fabulous copper pot still, Messy Bessy. I also bottle the gin so it is ready to be despatched.  Another part of my job is recipe development; this involves creating the next ‘flavour’ or ‘style’ of Burleighs Gin. This is definitely the best part of my job as I get to be creative and experiment with different botanicals which will produce some new and exciting flavours! My proudest achievement so far is developing the recipe for our latest edition: the National Forest Gin. This gin brings flavours of Blackberries, Cherries and Elderflower to give a fresh and fruity taste. The gin has just been awarded 5 stars by Diffords guide, and we are also hoping it’s going to do well at the IWSC awards in the spring- fingers crossed!’

In your working life, have you ever faced any barriers/obstacles because of your gender? If so, how did you overcome them?

In my working life I have always come across people, unfortunately men, who have commented on my capabilities of doing a job. My role at Burleighs can be very physical, I have to be able to lift 20 litre buckets of liquid or move cases of gin, I also have to organise pallets and move them using a forklift. When lorry drivers come to collect pallets, I often get comments like “I didn’t expect a lady to be operating the fork lift”. To me it makes no difference, as long as that pallet gets safely on the lorry, what does it matter?!  My previous job was managing a pub, again this required a lot of physical lifting especially on beer delivery day, and this would mean manoeuvring barrels down into the cellar and positioning them on the racks. I once had a drayman say to me “Oh! Don’t break a nail”. This is the one time a comment like this really infuriated me, (I would usually just laugh it off), but I remember saying back to him that I was moving the barrels around quicker than he was! No comments or obstacles have ever made me feel like I couldn’t do anything, I suppose I’m confident in my abilities and always overcome any barriers and would definitely recommend more women to just believe in themselves, we really can do anything!

What advice would you give to women wanting to get into the drinks + distilling industry?

My advice would be just go for it! If you have a passion for the drinks industry or for creating recipes of your own then employers will recognise your passion and not what gender you are. Your gender should never stop you from achieving your goals or dreams!

MOLLY PATRICK- NATIONAL ACCOUNT MANAGER AT BURLEIGHS GIN.

What is your role at Burleighs, and what is your proudest achievement at work so far?

I am the National Account Manager at Burleighs Gin. My role involves looking after all of our wholesale, grocer and national accounts, ensuring that Burleighs has a presence across the country. I love working for a small, dynamic company and it’s so rewarding to win new accounts and see the direct impact it makes to the business. I started working in the Distillery, distilling the gin, and assisting with the production process. I decided that I wanted to move into sales, and through my own hard work, I’ve progressed through the business- my proudest achievement.

In your working life, have you ever faced any barriers/obstacles because of your gender? If so, how did you overcome them?

There is sometimes a feeling of not being taken seriously or not respected in male-dominated environments- I think that’s the case for many women in many different industries. It’s been really great to see lots of successful women in this industry, smashing the stereotypes and proving that gender doesn’t matter when it comes to being successful.

What advice would you give to women wanting to get into the drinks + distilling industry?

Prove people wrong and follow your passions! 

TARA PARKER- BRAND AMBASSAOR AT BURLEIGHS GIN.

What is your role at Burleighs, and what is your proudest achievement at work so far?

As part of my role as Brand Ambassador I am responsible for promoting the Burleighs brand across the on trade (e.g. restaurants, pubs and bars) and off trade market (e.g. shops, delis and farm shops) focused on the Leicestershire area with aim of gaining new listings and supporting existing customers to help drive sales volumes. I’m always on the lookout for new opportunities to grow our business. I also support Molly with some of our larger regionalclients to make sure that they are aware of new product launches and their staff are knowledgeable about the products we offer through training, masterclasses and brand events. My proudest achievement at Burleighs would be when I organised and delivered my very first large event to an audience of around 70 people.  Public speaking doesn’t come naturally to me, so it was a good feeling when the event was a success and I received great feedback.   My role has allowed me to challenge myself and whilst that first event was particularly daunting, they are now part and parcel of the job!  On a more personal level, my proudest achievement in would definitely be becoming a mum for the first time last year which has been an amazing (and challenging!) journey. I am currently on maternity leave and can’t wait to get back to work and prove that being a successful mum and having a successful career aren’t mutually exclusive!

In your working life, have you ever faced any barriers/obstacles because of your gender? If so, how did you overcome them?

Unfortunately yes, one experience that stands out for me happened quite recently when a pub owner told me that ‘just because you’ve got blonde hair and blue eyes doesn’t mean I’m going to list your product’. This really stuck with me – would he have said that if I was a man? Definitely not. He tried to undermine and embarrass me, but I know that I can rely on my own skills and a quality product to get listed which is what I confidently said to him in response. I know that luckily, that man is now in retirement- exactly where comments like that belong! Instances like that have thankfully been few and far between in my working life, although having spent 8 years in the banking industry there have certainly been instances where I have felt that I haven’t fitted into ‘the boys club’ or been taken as seriously as a male counterpart and have had to work harder to prove myself.

What advice would you give to women wanting to get into the drinks + distilling industry?

My advice would be the same whether you’re male or female- find a product and a brand that you’re really passionate about. Something that resonates with you, something you’re willing to learn about and something that sparks your enthusiasm! 

EMMA TINSLEY- GIN ACADEMY MANAGER AT BURLEIGHS GIN.

What is your role at Burleighs, and what is your proudest achievement at work so far?

I have a really varied role within the business, but my main focus is managing the Gin Academy here at the Distillery. I get up to all sorts of things- organising events, assisting with the production process, writing content for the blog, but every weekend you’ll find me at the Gin Academy, hosting people across the weekend, giving them an amazingly memorable experience (depending on how much gin is consumed!). My proudest achievement at work so far is probably getting the job in the first place! I’d always wanted a job that was unique and quirky, so I worked really, really hard for the interview and nearly three years later, I’m still here and absolutely loving it! I’m also really proud of the experience I provide at the Gin Academy. Hosting and presenting was so overwhelming at first, especially as a young woman, (and even now I get pangs of imposter syndrome), but it has given me confidence I don’t think I would have found anywhere else, in any other job. I believe in myself and my abilities so much more. My sixteen-year-old self wouldn’t believe we were the same person.

In your working life, have you ever faced any barriers/obstacles because of your gender? If so, how did you overcome them?

Absolutely. I think every woman has. Like many women, I’ve worked in hospitality, which seems to be a breeding ground for inappropriate behaviour and harassment. Over the yearsI’ve had to  deal with catcalls, sexual harassment, being undermined, not believed, not respected, pinched, groped, and told that I’m asking for it… the list could genuinely go on for a whole page. Looking back, I should have called it out, but as a young girl in that environment, we were told to put up with it, to expect it. As I got older, it got easier to call out and I quickly left that job as soon as I could. I also used to work at a very popular DIY store- a very male dominated environment. A lot of sexist jokes about women knowing nothing about DIY, the odd catcall, lots of men asking to speak to a male colleague instead of me because ‘they’d know what I want’. Typical. Luckily at Burleighs, I haven’t faced any barriers because of my gender, because the working environment is so supportive, and we’ve got a great team of guys that work here too. Working with Charlie, Molly and Tara is also a huge privilege and I feel very lucky that I’m part of such a progressive, inclusive team.

What advice would you give to women wanting to get into the drinks + distilling industry?

I would echo what Charlie said and say just go for it! The drinks and hospitality industry in general can be difficult to navigate as a woman, but as long as you’re strong-willed, independent and have a no-tolerance policy for bullshit, you’ll be just fine. Make connections with other women in the industry- women empowering other women is so important. Never forget that you deserve exactly the same opportunities as your male counterparts– whether that’s a promotion or a pay rise, never be afraid to ask for things you deserve. And when you get those things, don’t be afraid to be proud of them!

Sam Watson, the commercial director of Burleighs, also spoke about #BreakingTheBias: ‘Burleighs is extremely proud to have a team of inspiring and highly motivated women who play such pivotal roles in our business success. We have strived to create a working environment in which our staff feel empowered to achieve their goals and remove any barriers in the way of personal development. Celebrating International Women’s Day is incredibly important to us, not only to recognise the incredible work of our female staff, but to also acknowledge the issues that women face in today’s society as there is still much morewe can do to even the playing field’.

International Women’s Day is an amazing opportunity to celebrate the women in your life, as well as the women in your workplace. Despite fantastic progress over the years, there are still gender disparities in the work environment. Women are often under-represented in the workplace, especially women of colour, LGBTQ+ women and women with disabilities. Lots of work needs to be done to ensure all women, not just some women, are uplifted and recognized for their achievements. We need to level the playing field. We need to #BreakTheBias and actively challenge sexism, misogyny, and stereotypes- this is the only way we can create a world of equal opportunities. A world where difference is celebrated, and women are valued in all aspects of society. Even though we’re a small business, Burleighs is doing its bit to #BreakTheBias, and will continue to do so every day of the year. Happy International Women’s Day! 

More info + resources: International Women’s Day 2022 (internationalwomensday.com)

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