The Woman Taking Over The Whiskey World

Whiskey dates back to nearly 1,000 years ago and in some parts of the world is known as whisky, regardless of how you spell it this is one of the biggest spirits industries in the world. The whiskey industry is experiencing massive growth in the market with women fueling the boom.   

Worldwide whiskey sales are predicted to double over the next decade valued at $108 billion by 2031 with women accounting for 30% to 40% of consumers. Women aren’t only taking over the consumer market, but one is influencing the spirit from within the industry.   

Katy Fennema was a former classical musician in the Royal Scottish National Orchestra but is now working at the new Bertie’s Whisky Bar as a Whisky Ambassador located at the landmark property of the Fife Arms Hotel in Scotland. This location in the Highlands is known for its world-class art collection and its whisky program.   

Fennema uses her expertise and knowledge of whisky to create host tastings, create unique whisky drinks, and guide guests through Bertie’s massive collection of over 300 fine and rare whiskies. Bertie’s whisky collection features 365 rare and fine whiskies representing one for each day of the year.   

Her whisky work doesn’t stop there as her job title also extends to consultant for the Edinburgh Whisky Academy. Fennema is also the co-owner of the Braemar Highland Experience which gives luxury bespoke guided tours educating guests on the nature, history, and folklore of Scotland. The Braemar Highland Experience is based in the Cairngorms National Park offering three unique experiences including vehicle tours, guided walking tours, and of course whisky tasting.   

Fennema’s first career choice came after studying at the Royal Academy of Music and was awarded the position of Principal Oboe at the Royal Scottish National Orchestra in 2001. By 2014 Fennema and her husband decided to make a change in their careers for a new challenge that started with finding a small hotel to start a business combining their love of whisky and the outdoors.   

They found a small hotel in Braemar and quickly established their extensive collection of whisky working over the next couple of years to develop tastings to invite guests to enjoy. Fennema couldn’t leave her music career behind and still does educational programs to teach others for various organizations.   

While running their small hotel, a man in his 80s offered them to take over his business of off-road tours in the area and they started hosting tours offering whisky for guests. This touring model evolved into whisky tastings in remote locations while guests get to explore the vast landscape of Scotland.   

Fennema explains that running the two businesses started to be too much to manage for the couple and they decided to sell the hotel putting all their focus on developing the Braemar Highland Experience. This bold choice resulted in the massive success of the new business venture being awarded five stars by Visit Scotland (formerly known as the Scottish Tourist Board) one year after opening.   

Fennema’s whisky passion started at a young age when she would spend time with her father who loved his whisky and when she was old enough would enjoy whisky with her father for some quality time. Fennema enjoys educating people about whisky and spreads her whisky wisdom worldwide being the podcast host of the Edinburgh Whisky Academy.   

Fennema acknowledges that the whisky world was once a boy’s club is diversifying with more women enjoying whisky and driving an increase in the spirits market. Fennema is one person in the whisky industry that represents prevalent progress in the industry and is shaping the future of the whisky world.