Kentucky Owl Hires Its First Female Master Blender
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From Scotch to Bourbon: Kentucky Owl Brings On Industry Veteran Maureen Robinson as the Brand’s First Female Master Blender

Kentucky Owl

After about a year of retirement, Maureen Robinson has re-entered the blending world within the bourbon trade. (Photo: Diageo)

Kentucky Owl has tapped Maureen Robinson as the brand’s new Master Blender, and the news was announced in a news release on Thursday that Robinson will follow in the footsteps of John Rhea as he enters retirement. Robinson is the first female Master Blender to be hired by the bourbon brand.

Robinson holds 45 years of experience and is a trailblazer in the blending world. She has worked for prestigious Scotch whisky brands like Johnnie Walker, The Singleton, Buchanan’s and Old Parr as one of Diageo’s first female Master Blenders. She was awarded the Keeper of the Quaich in 2012 and inducted into the Scotch Whisky Hall of Fame in 2019. In October 2022, Robinson was awarded ‘Master of the Quaich,’ a high honor in the Scotch trade. Robinson retired from working in the Scotch whisky industry in June 2022, but it seems she is eager to return to blending — in the bourbon world.

“I’m really looking forward to my new career venture into the bourbon industry and, as the first female master blender at Kentucky Owl, I look forward to being a role model for aspiring women who have a passion for whiskey making,” Robinson stated according to the news release.

Though Robinson has plenty of experience blending scotches, she is intimately acquainted with bourbon as well. As a Scotch whisky Master Blender, she worked heavily with second-fill bourbon barrels. When asked about her previous experience, Robinson expressed excitement about switching gears to the bourbon world.

“I’m excited to be now working with first-fill bourbon barrels, understanding how flavor is influenced using new American oak barrels and the processes you can use to differentiate these flavors to create new whiskeys,” Robinson explained.

Kentucky Owl was founded in 1879, according to the brand and operated all the way until Prohibition. The brand, known as “The Wise Man’s Bourbon,” was founded by Pharmacist Charles Dedman, and was successful until the Federal Government seized 250,000 gallons of Kentucky Owl and stored the barrels in a warehouse. A few nights later, the warehouse was reduced to ash and rubble, and the bourbon – along with the Kentucky Owl brand – was reduced to history.

The brand was eventually revitalized by Dixon Deadman, Charles Dedman’s grandson, and purchased by the Stoli Group in 2017.

The spirits supplier’s Global CEO Chris Caldwell expressed his support and enthusiasm for bringing Robinson aboard in a statement per the news release.

“With Maureen’s impressive knowledge and vast blending experience on some of the world’s biggest scotch whisky brands, we are incredibly fortunate to have someone of her caliber to follow on from John Rhea and we are all looking forward to her future contributions to Kentucky Owl with her new role as Master Blender,” Caldwell concluded.

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Cynthia Mersten is a writer/editor for Whiskey Raiders and has worked in the Beverage Industry for eight years. She started her career in wine and spirits distribution and sold brands like Four Roses, High West and Compass Box to a variety of bars and restaurants in the city she calls home: Los Angeles. Cynthia is a lover of all things related to wine, spirits and story and holds a BA from UCLA’s School of Theatre, Film and Television. Besides writing, her favorite pastimes are photography and watching movies with her husband.