First female master distiller launches own brand

She wants to support other women and minorities to diversify the face of bourbon makers.
Published: Sep. 1, 2023 at 8:08 AM EDT
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BARDSTOWN, Ky. (WAVE) - The first female master distiller has just released a bourbon line of her own. And now she wants to support other women and minorities to diversify the face of bourbon makers.

After three years of developing recipes, followed by five years aging in bourbon barrels, Marianne Eaves is finally ready to introduce her bourbon to the world.

”It’s like sending your kid off to school. I hope everyone likes them. I hope no one bullies my baby,” Eaves said.

Her baby is named Forbidden. A name chosen because women were once forbidden to take on certain roles in the industry.

”There’s actually a lawbook, Kentucky lawbook, that says women are not allowed to be hired as anything but a cashier usher and waitress until it was repealed in 1974,” Eaves said.

It’s a career Marianne stumbled upon after getting her chemical engineering degree at the University of Louisville.

Brown Forman hired her, she moved up the ranks to Master Taster, and at 28 years old became the first female master distiller at the new Castle and Key. With ideas bubbling in her head, she decided to branch out on her own. “No one had ever considered before using white corn, white wheat and a high percentage of barley together,” Eaves said.

Most use yellow corn and rye.

”The addition of white corn and white wheat together, it’s creamy, it’s smooth and soft. But also nuanced and complex,” Eaves said. “There’s a lot of interest without the heat, without the dryness, without the burn.”

In the first two months since being released, 10,000 bottles of Forbidden have been purchased. Now the mother of two girls is also working on other projects.

”To move into the next era of bourbon we have to be open to looking at diversity of how it’s made, where it’s made, who makes it,” Eaves said. “The experience of most people in bourbon has been an older white guy who makes their bourbon.”

She launched the Eaves Foundation and is building an endowment, to show those in underrepresented communities what she does. She’ll offer mentorship and scholarships, alongside University of Kentucky, that can be applied to any type of alcoholic beverage. So “Forbidden” will just be the name on her bottle. Forbidden is made at the Bardstown Bourbon Company, which can produce over 50 different mash bills.

They call themselves the first “Napa Style Destination” on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail. They also produce their own line of bourbon and offer tastings and tours on their 100 acres. They also have a restaurant with items sourced locally.

You can buy Forbidden at the Bardstown Bourbon Company, Liquor Barn, Justin’s House of Bourbon, or by clicking here.