By Lori Berkey, Contributing Writer
Region – Longbranch is the only whiskey that Debbie Higgins can drink straight up. She’s more of a mixer. Until three years ago she didn’t know the difference between scotch and bourbon, but now, after a few years of membership in the Central Massachusetts Women Who Whiskey club, she can talk mixology with the best of them.
Back in 2016, Debbie’s husband, George, found out a group called Women Who Whiskey were holding an event at the new 435 Grill in Leominster, and he told her about it. Intrigued, she decided to check it out.
According to Debbie, who lives in Leominster, the central Massachusetts chapter president, Cheryl Gaudreau, organizes the whiskey gatherings at different venues with each meeting having a different twist. Debbie wasn’t sure what to expect when she walked in the door.
“It was in a back room and the theme was Prohibition! There were so many people there it wasn’t even funny. They had a lot of raffles, and I just decided then that I was going to sign up,” Debbie said. “There’s nothing you need to do, you just come to an event.”
The club touts that it’s both for connoisseurs and amateurs.
“For me I’m definitely an amateur,” Debbie said, “I usually don’t drink it straight up. I have to have it with something, but I’m learning how to sip. There’s a science to it.”
Dubbing themselves an “experimental whiskey club for women,” the organization exists “to give members the opportunity to learn about varieties of whiskeys and cocktail culture, and to join a network of like-minded women with a taste for curiosity and strong drinks.”
Debbie has enjoyed the camaraderie she’s experienced through her attendance at the events which she said are always packed with at least 50 women. All different age groups from legal age to seniors participate.
“We had an event at the Boulder [Café] in Fitchburg, and that was one that they allowed gentlemen to join us,” Debbie said, “You couldn’t move in there. We had two ladies, grandmothers, who enjoyed themselves like crazy. It was really, really fun.”
At another event, Debbie was interested to learn about whiskey cocktails. A mixologist was there to explain what’s best to go with what. She learned that Birddog has different flavors, like Birddog Blackberry, and how one flavor goes well with seltzer while another pairs better with ginger ale.
“It’s not a lesson per say,” Debbie said, “It’s fun. It’s a lot of women socializing getting together and drinking a man’s drink that’s no longer just for men.”
Although she found she prefers her drinks mixed, she’s been game to try one neat, without ice or mixer.
“This Longbranch is the only one that I can drink like this [neat],” she added, as she slowly tilted her glass and took a tiny swig. “Longbranch happens to be the actor Matthew McConaughey’s baby, he’s the one who put this together for marketing, so no wonder I like it.”
Although Debbie has enjoyed the solidarity of drinking whiskey with women, she said the best part that’s come out of her membership is that she got George into drinking it and now they go around touring distilleries together.
“George was always a beer drinker and now he’s become a whiskey connoisseur,” she said. “Because of me, I believe, I’ve created a bourbon monster!”
Debbie and George attended the Bourbon Legends Boxcar Tour in New York City, and the two have become ambassadors for Maker’s Mark.
“We have our names on a barrel that’s going to be mature in the year 2024,” she said, “Maker’s Mark has a big ceremony if you choose to attend when they open your barrel.”
Debbie likes that her experience with Women Who Whiskey has led to something she now shares in common with her husband.
“We’ll go shopping for new products, new bourbons to try, always looking for something new to try at a bar.”
She and George now enjoy cocktails at home, where they’ve acquired bulbous-shaped Glencairn glasses that allow them to smell the nuances whiskey offers. They also have trays to make special ice cube balls that don’t melt so quickly and water down a drink.
In May the couple is slated to go on the bourbon trail in Kentucky to tour four distilleries.
For more information visit www.womenwhowhiskey.club/signup.