New in Town is a blog series dedicated to exploring Seattle anew. Every week I’ll highlight a place, person or thing I’ve uncovered on my mission to experience all Seattle has to offer. Read last week’s installment here.
I’m lucky to call whiskey a friend during these dark and confusing times, and I’m glad I’m not the only one finding comfort in brown liquor during this pandemic. Last Sunday, which already feels like it happened weeks ago, I braved the outside world to celebrate International Women’s Day with about 40 women from the Seattle chapter of Women Who Whiskey, founded in 2019 to unite whiskey-loving Seattleites in spaces free from mansplaining and other manifestations of toxic masculinity. The group is part of the international Women Who Whiskey club, and hosts monthly events at distilleries, bars and restaurants around the city, each highlighting a different whiskey—from bourbon to Scotch to American single malt—with cocktails and guided tastings.
For this event, my first with WWW, we met at Palace Kitchen, one of Tom Douglas’ restaurants now temporarily closed due to coronavirus impacts. Tickets (pricing varies by event, from free to $50) came with raffle entries, hearty bites and clever welcome cocktails: peanut butter and jelly Manhattans made with Wanderback Whiskey—our featured spirit of the day. The Oregon-based distillery’s owner-operators led us through tastings of their limited edition single malts (read: when a batch sells out, that’s the end of it), in small groups, so we had plenty of time before and after our tasting for snacking on pâté and bourbon chocolate nougat, and chatting with event regulars like Niki Green.
“I think there is a need for women to just get to have an environment where they feel safe, especially when it comes to drinking alcohol,” says Green, a Certified Specialist of Spirits who runs private whiskey workshops and the founding president of both the Seattle and Bay Area Women Who Whiskey chapters. “I’m not saying men aren’t welcome, because they definitely are, but we have had requests to do exclusively women’s events. We want to keep our core group’s needs met in that way.” Green adds that she’s noticed women are less apt to ask questions when men are present, and that sometimes men tend to take over the questioning. Nonbinary and trans folks are all also welcome, and I loved being part of a strong lesbian presence at Sunday's event.
According to Green, Seattle’s WWW membership—currently just shy of 800—has grown rapidly in the year since its founding, but events are generally capped at around 30 attendees, to ensure an intimate experience that supports conversations, both among members and between members and brand ambassadors. I’m a casual whiskey drinker who appreciates the chance to ask basic questions about booze without any side-eye, and I felt totally comfortable with this crowd, even though I could tell I was sipping along with connoisseurs. While I went with a date (another woman who loves whiskey), everyone we met was friendly, especially after that welcome cocktail—a great vibe for exploring a new bar or restaurant while flying solo, or maybe even making some new friends.
As we grapple with a new, strange normal, I highly recommend communing with whiskey (and women!) for a welcome escape. Mark your calendar for a tasting coming up at Melrose Market with Whidbey Island’s Cadée Distillery on April 9. Check the Women Who Whiskey Seattle Instagram and Facebook pages for updates on event cancellations or scheduling changes related to the coronavirus, but Green says for now these events are still a go. Can’t wait? Gather your girl gang and support local business with a trip to The Barrell Thief in Fremont for half-off Scotch Sundays.