A continuation of celebrating some notable women in whiskey.
This time, we hear what Mary Anne Mumbi, President of the Nairobi Chapter, has to say about her exciting role in managing the only Women Who Whiskey Chapter in Africa!
What whiskies got you interested in the spirit?
My first experience with whiskey was actually accidental. I used to drink Rum and it was my go-to drink for many years; until a friend introduced me to Johnny Walker at a party. I enjoyed it and decided to research on the brand; how it was made and also on what made whisky different from other spirits. Let’s just say that drinking whisky is now more about the journey that it takes me on – the sensory experience and the history behind each bottle that is produced. How can someone not fall in love with that?
Tell us about the Nairobi Chapter: how did that come about, and why Nairobi?
Women Who Whiskey is an international organization originally founded in New York City by Julia Ritz Toffolli. A few earlier chapter members left New York for personal reasons and because they still wanted to have a whisky community that they can be a part of, which led to the creation of new chapters by the old members. Kimberly Smith brought Women Who Whiskey to Nairobi (as the first chapter outside of the US) and after her departure, Katherine Liew took the mantle as President. She then passed this on to me in 2019 and the club is where it is now globally because of the passion of the changemakers who find other whiskey-loving women to enjoy the liquid together.
What are some of the most exciting parts of managing the Nairobi Chapter?
Whisky: As president of the Nairobi chapter, I have come to experience many different whiskies by taking part in a number of tastings. What I can say is that I am more knowledgeable about whisky now than when I joined Women Who Whiskey and the experiences I have been exposed to have been amazing. I love whisky and being able to work on it is nothing short of a dream.
The Women: I have come to meet and connect with amazing women who are members of Women Who Whiskey Nairobi and have also become friends. I have also connected with the different chapter presidents and excited to be part of a global community of whisky loving women.
Empowerment: As they say, empowering women is empowering communities and at wWw, this is at the heart of who we are. Whiskey is the glue, but we say that Women Who Whiskey is more about women building a space for each other to support each other.
The Experiences: I am an experiential marketer by profession, and I find it very exciting to work with different partners to organize bespoke experiences for our members. Understanding our members likes, interests, and needs to come up with concepts then seeing them come to life gives me a great sense of satisfaction.
What’s the biggest challenge in your role?
There are some people who still believe that the words ‘women and whisky’ shouldn’t belong in the same sentence. I knew that by taking up the role as president, I would have moments where I would have to defend and try change this perception but it’s disheartening when you find these people seated in senior positions in whisky companies. Women have actually been drinking and making whiskies for hundreds of years and surprisingly we still don’t fit the ‘whisky drinking stereotype’. I am however grateful to the different partners that we have been able to work with in the past who believe in our vision and understand that the future of whisky is in the hands of women.
What’s one of your favorite memories involving whisk(e)y?
I would have to say that talking to the great-great granddaughter of William Grant and Sons, Kirsten Grant is one happy memory that instantly comes to mind. We hosted a Glenfiddich session last year and Kirsten was a special guest at the virtual tasting. This was definitely a highlight of 2020.
You meet someone who has never had whisky: how do you get them to fall in love with it?
Ah…easy! Introduce them to whisky. Women Who Whiskey is a club for amateurs, enthusiasts, connoisseurs, and collectors which was formed to give members an opportunity to experiment with whiskies. Through tastings, one is able to find out what they like as they increase their whisky knowledge. The beauty about whisky is that there are so many varieties, and anyone is sure of finding something that tickles their palate. There are also various ways of enjoying whisky; neat, with ice or water, with a mixer or as a cocktail.
What future plans do you have for the Nairobi Chapter?
Organizing distillery tours is up there on the list…wish list :)
On a serious note, my plan for this year is to continue to
push for inclusivity in the whisky community and to have great partners who
support this vision.