In the world of whiskey, there are very few Latinas paving the way for connoisseurs and professional sippers. When you picture a whiskey aficionado, you probably envision an old white man, sitting on an armchair, wearing a smoking jacket, and surrounded by leather-bound books, right?
Well, the Scotch Girl is changing the face of whiskey-sipping, scotch-sniffing expertise. She’s a Latina who is on a mission, “breaking boundaries one dram at a time,” and helping others learn to appreciate the many complexities of whiskey with each sip. After all, whiskey and scotch are complex and multi-layered, just like Latinas. And this expert is ready to teach you everything she knows.
As a whiskey enthusiast, educator, and co-founder of Scotch Society 305, Bianca Espinosa is undoubtedly a part of the cultural shift where whiskey lovers are concerned. Espinosa is dedicated to educating and inspiring other Latinas to embrace whiskey and make everyone know it’s no longer a white man’s drink. She’s built a brand around the concept that scotch can be for anyone, as long as you have the tools to know what you are sipping.
Yes, whiskey, and all brown liquor, used to be considered a man’s cocktail. There was no point in studying the demographics of whiskey drinkers because, let’s be honest, they were all old white guys. But not anymore.
Recent data from several industry analysts, including the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States (DISCUS), indicate that more women are enjoying whiskey. A 2018 report on whiskey trends, published by Beverage Wholesaler, found that the fan base is growing and becoming more diverse when it comes to whiskey. According to Dewar’s North American Brand Ambassador Gabriel Cardarella, “with millennials exploring the world of darker spirits, there is an increased demand for (innovation).”
Thirty years ago, women only made up about 15% of whisky drinkers, but by 2014 that number had risen to 37%, and whiskey drinkers are also getting more multicultural.
As The Scotch Girl, Espinosa is capitalizing on that shift. We sat down to chat with her about The Scotch Girl, how she built her brand, what inspired her fascination with whiskey, and her goals for empowering other Latinas to start sipping.
Tell us a little bit about yourself. Where are you from, and how did your upbringing inspire your entrepreneurial spirit?
I am a native Miamian! I was born in Miami, FL, to Cuban parents. However, when I was a toddler in the late ’80s, my parents and I moved to Caracas, Venezuela. For this reason, I feel like I am a mix of Cuban and Venezuelan.
While in Venezuela, I attended an American school where I was exposed to other ex-pat kids like me from all over the world. I missed Miami so much while I was there, but looking back, it was probably one of the best things that could have happened to me.
I had the opportunity to become exposed to so many different cultures and appreciate the importance of being surrounded by people different from you.
After returning from Venezuela in the late ’90s, my parents divorced. My mom re-married several years later. I mention this because I credit my entrepreneurial spirit to my Stepfather! He established the first Latino-owned independent insurance agency in the U.S. in the late ’70s. Through him, I learned the importance of consistency, hard work, treating your team as an extension of your family, and networking!
What or who first inspired your fascination with whiskey?
It goes back to Venezuela and networking. In South America, blended whiskies are very popular. I used to see both men and women drinking “un whiskysito con hielo” frequently. Then I started doing my own networking and happy hours (obviously after I turned 21). I realized that I couldn’t tolerate wine but could tolerate certain liquors. It ended up being that I have a slight allergy to the fermentation process of wine and do not have a reaction to the distillation process of whiskies. Hence one of the main reasons I am a whisky girl… well, “The Scotch Girl.”
Many people, especially women, find whiskeys intimidating – they don’t know what to order, what to buy, how to enjoy it, or what flavor notes and qualities to look for. How do you suggest women get started on their whiskey journey?
It truly is about trial and error. I started by just asking for suggestions from the bartenders. Honestly, so few people take the time to ask the bartenders for whisky recommendations, yet they will ask for wine. My favorite thing about whiskies is that they are required to disclose their Alcohol by Volume (or Proof for American whiskies), where they are from (country and regions), and they usually share the barrels/casks they’re aged in. This will tell you a lot. So, pick a bottle you like and ask them to bring it to you if it’s one you’ve never tried before. Read the labels, and you’ll learn a lot.
One of the first things I like to ask women is their wine preferences, followed by their favorite foods. Typically, someone who mainly enjoys white wine and dislikes spicy foods will most likely enjoy a sherry cask single malt scotch that is not peated (what gives a smokey, earthy, or even medicinal taste).
There aren’t many female whiskey connoisseurs out there, and certainly very few Latinas breaking boundaries in this field. What has been your biggest challenge as a Latina scotch expert?
I co-founded a Scotch and Whisky society in 2017. The recurring theme when I started co-hosting events was that men were surprised when I was the one leading the conversation and tasting. As a Latina, I want to help other Latinos explore different regions and types of whiskies. It’s sometimes tough to convince people that they can step out of their comfort zone and explore different things. Helping people feel comfortable enough to let me guide them through this is a gratifying feeling.
You’ve amassed a social media following of fans listening to your tips and watching your scotch journey. How did you build a brand with a clear mission using Instagram and social media?
Wow, this is a tough one for me to know where to start. Firstly, I am so incredibly humbled whenever someone reaches out to me through social media, and even in person, to either ask for a recommendation or tell me they tried something different because of me! My main mission was to authentically connect with people and share my passion for “the water of life” (whisky).
When I established The Scotch Girl in 2017, I recognized the lack of diversity whenever I attended whisky tastings. There weren’t many women, and even in South Florida, not many Latino attendees. Hence, the phrase “breaking boundaries one dram at the time” became my motto. I wanted to help branch out what the traditional person who enjoys whiskey looks like with each glass of whiskey we shared. I’ve made many new friends and have been a part of many amazing experiences.
What is your best advice for Latinas trying to build their own brand?
Pull from your culture and experiences to help cultivate the future you want to create.
What’s next for the Scotch Girl? Any upcoming events or projects we should know about?
I am hosting probably my most exciting whisky event yet! I helped curate a Bourbon Cruise that will take us through the Bourbon trail while sailing through the Mississippi River! It’s sailing this August 2022, and it is open to anyone looking for an all-inclusive, fun, luxurious, and educational experience!