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Sip Spirits And Learn About Distilleries At This New Whiskey Club For Women

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The Gold Rush Cocktail with Slow Hand Six Woods whiskey (Photo courtesy Greenbar Craft Distillery)
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An international whiskey club created just for women has launched their first California chapter in L.A. and will host frequent educational tasting events beginning this month.

Women Who Whiskey was initially founded in New York City by Julia Ritz Toffoli back in 2011. Their goal was addressing the gender-based skepticism aimed at women as whiskey drinkers by hosting tastings, cocktail classes and other events. Designed for both newcomers and seasoned sippers alike, the organization quickly grew to include chapters across the U.S., Canada, Europe and Africa, and now the organization has arrived in L.A. And it seems the city was ready for its arrival as over 1,500 members signed in the first five days of its creation. For those male whiskey fans who feel left out of the fun, not to worry fellas, you can still sign up for their mailing list to find out about their occasional mixed company “Gentlemen’s Edition” events.

(Editor's note: For those wondering about the two spellings of the brown liquor—whisky typically signifies Scotch whisky and Scotch-inspired liquors, which also includes most from Canada and Japan, while whiskey with an "e" is used for the Irish and American varieties.)

The group's inaugural event this Saturday features a tasting and educational class designed around the Scotch whisky distiller Bruichladdich at Seven Grand's hidden Jackalope Room, but the tickets sold out practically overnight. Thankfully, they have another event coming up on Sunday, April 10, which will feature a whiskey tasting and cocktail class at Greenbar Craft Distillery in the Arts District, preceded by a mural tour hosted by Cartwheel Art Tours.

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To say that Kim Ohanneson, the L.A. chapter president of Women Who Whiskey, knows her share about whiskey would be an understatement. Not only is Ohanneson a certified Whisky Ambassador through the British Institute of Innkeeping and a food, drink and events blogger, but she's also co-founder and producer of The Whisky & Poetry Salon.

Ohanneson tells LAist:

I've had a long love affair with whisky, which was one of my motivations for co-founding the Whisky & Poetry Salon three years ago with Johnnie Mundell and Karolyn Kiisel (who is no longer involved, but now has Founder Emeritu status). At the Salon, we trade guests 'whisky for words'; everyone reads a poem in exchange for top drawer whisky, tasting notes, education and history. It's an intimate event—no more than 35 guests—and as a result, is a very comfortable drinking environment.

Ohanneson explains that over the past three years, she's seen an increasing number of women of all ages coming to the Salon, either with friends, partners or flying solo. "They've been especially enthusiastic about both the whisky and the experience," Ohanneson says. "A couple of women even approached me about the possibility of doing small, female-focused events, which got me thinking about expanding outward from the Whisky & Poetry Salon."

It was around that time that Judi Laing of the spirit-centric site Boozenews.com introduced Ohanneson to Women Who Whiskey, which at the time was sadly lacking a Los Angeles chapter. "A whiskey club for women dovetailed perfectly with the Salon," Ohanneson says. "And I appreciated that Julia Ritz Toffoli founded the club as a response to gender-based skepticism towards female whiskey drinkers."

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"I've never had a bartender in Los Angeles (or anywhere else for that matter) raise an eyebrow when I ordered a single malt Scotch neat," Ohanneson tells us. But adds, "male bar patrons have commented on my drink choices with statements that range from patronizing to idiotic."

Ohanneson was thrilled by the overwhelming response to the launch of the L.A. chapter.

"I'm excited about working with great brands, bartenders and organizations to provide Women Who Whiskey Los Angeles members with experiences that range from traditional to unique," she said.

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Getting whiskey-schooled at Seven Grand (via Facebook)
At Saturday's opening event, guests will sip four varieties of Bruichladdich whisky in the exclusive Jackalope Room. The group will start with a whisky-based "Welcome Punch" and then be guided by Brand Activation Manager Alex Goode through tasting notes, history and more. Ohanneson explains of her excitement for hosting the first event at Seven Grand's secret bar:

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When I first started drinking single malt Scotch, I would only drink at home with friends because aside from expense account hotel bars, few establishments carried much beyond blended Scotch. When it opened, 213's Seven Grand whisky bar was a mecca for long-time whisky drinkers, but it's also a great place for whisk(e)y newbies to figure out what they like because of their amazing selection, their helpful bar staff and their educational tastings. Today, there are lots of great whiskey bars in Los Angeles, but I have a history with Seven Grand and the Jackalope Room.

The next event, which will likely sell out quickly, will take place on April 10. It will begin with a mini-mural tour by Cindy Schwarzstein, founder of Cartwheel Art Tours, along with Steve Grody, author of Graffiti LA, muralist LeBA, and Heath Satow who creates public art installations. The tour will then end at Greenbar Craft Distillery, L.A.'s first distillery since Prohibition, where guests will take a tour of the distillery with owners Melkon Khosrovian and Litty Mathew. Then tasting room director Drew Jacobson will lead the group in a tasting of Greenbar's three Slow Hand whiskeys—White Whiskey, Six Woods and Six Woods Cask Strength—and enjoy a cocktail made with the distillery's whiskey.

Then on May 18, there will be a tasting with Travis Tidwell, Brand Ambassador for Glenmorangie and Ardbeg at the Hideout at Kidd's Jewelry Heist, a Victorian-style speakeasy in South Pasadena.

To join the L.A. chapter of Women Who Whiskey and to receive invitations to upcoming events, sign up here.

Tickets to the Greenbar Craft Distillery event on April 10 are $40 per person (plus service fee), and can be purchased here.