Meet world's first female Master of Bourbon

Published 12:00pm 14 June 2024

Meet world's first female Master of Bourbon
Words by Ashleigh Howarth

It’s not often you get to study for an exam by blind tasting different types of whisky, but that is exactly what Carmen Hartwich did to obtain one of the world’s top alcohol certifications.

After 18 months of studying assorted brands and flavours of American whiskey, as well as their production methods, ageing and finishing, Carmen became the first woman and first Australian to achieve her Master of Bourbon qualification.

Presently, only seven people in the world have a Master of Bourbon, awarded by The Council of Whiskey Masters - the world's leading education and certification body for whiskey expertise, covering scotch, bourbon, and more.

Having recently moved to the city after completing her exams in Scotland, Carmen told Moreton Daily it was one of the “most intense experiences of her life”.

“After studying the syllabus for over a year, I travelled to Scotland in April where I met with a panel of international whisky experts to demonstrate my knowledge of American Whiskey,” Carmen said.

“These exams are held once a year at different countries around the world, so the irony of me sitting my American whiskey exam in Scotland is not lost on me!

“It was easily one of the most intense experiences of my life – studying for 18 months to obtain the knowledge level required to then being in front of some of the best international whiskey experts in the world, it was very nerve wracking but exciting at the same time.”

Held over two days on the Isle of Raasay in Western Scotland, the exams included blind tastings, essays on a wide range of topics, and in-depth oral theory exams. 

Each candidate was reviewed on all aspects of their chosen specialty, covering history, production, all major distilleries, knowledge of the trade, tasting competence, regulations and standards of identity, and more.

“The oral examinations were the hardest, because there I was sitting across the table from some of the most brilliant whisky minds in the world and all they did was keep firing questions at me,” Carmen said.

“They wanted to see the depth of my knowledge, and the absolute limit of my knowledge, so they kept asking me questions over and over again, trying to trip me up.

“But having studied really hard at home, I answered those questions really well.”

Carmen, who works full time as a Brand Ambassador at Brown-Forman - the largest American-owned spirits and wines company - will now set her sights on obtaining her Master of Whiskey.

“I have already got my next set of books to study, and I am looking forward to all the blind tastings again,” she said.

“To me, it doesn’t seem like extra work, because I love the industry so much.”

Get into the spirit with free Brown-Forman tastings at the Moreton Bay Food + Wine Festival

Carmen and other Brand Ambassadors from Brown-Forman will be appearing at this year’s Moreton Bay Food + Wine Festival, where they will be offering free Premium Spirit Tastings across all three days.

“We will be bringing four of Brown-Forman’s best labels for people to try, including our Woodford Reserve Bourbon Whiskey, Benriach Single Malt Whisky, Herradurra Tequila, and Diplomatico Rum,” Carmen said.

“This is a special bespoke guided tasting experience where guests can enjoy a sip of our premium products and hear from our expert Brand Ambassadors.

“Everybody who comes along will receive a pair of headphones to wear during the session, making it an intimate experience for everyone to learn and listen without any distracting background noise.

“We will feature a different spirit every 30 minutes, with each tasting session lasting 15 minutes.

“You don’t even need to book– just look at the list of session and product timings out the front and pick the experience you would like to enjoy and come back at least 10 minutes beforehand.”

With limited spaces per tasting, you will definitely want to make sure you’re first in line for your preferred session!

Entry to the tasting sessions is included in your general admission ticket.

The Moreton Bay Food + Wine Festival will run over three big days from August 23-25 at Apex Park in Woody Point.

For tickets, head to the Moreton Bay Food + Wine Festival website.

Drink responsibly.

About Brown-Forman

Based in Louisville, Kentucky, the Brown-Forman Corporation has been manufacturing premium and super-premium spirits and wines for more than 150 years.

From barrel to bottle, Brown-Forman’s impressive portfolio includes whisk(e)y, tequila, rum, gin, liqueur, wine and ready-to-drink products, all of which are sold in more than 170 countries worldwide.

One of Brown-Forman’s most popular tipples includes Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Whiskey, which the corporation acquired in 1956.

Jack Daniel originally crafted it himself and comes from the oldest registered distillery in the United States, which was established in 1866 in Lynchburg, Tennessee.

Regarded as the best-selling individual whiskey brand in the world, Jack Daniel’s premium Tennessee Whiskey is still made using iron-free cave spring water and is charcoal mellowed through 10 feet of sugar maple charcoal in Lynchburg.

Other well-known brands that fall under the Brown-Forman umbrella include Woodford Reserve, Old Forester, Benriach, Slane Irish Whiskey, The GlenDronach, Coopers’ Craft, Glenglassaugh, Herradura, el Jimador Tequila, Diplomatico Rum, Fords Gin, Gin Mare, Chambord, Sonoma-Cutrer, and Korbel.

Each brand is crafted by traditional methods and modern innovation, honouring the places and the people who brought the spirits and wines to life.


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