I reached out to Jackie because the Instagram community is tight knit and everyone seems to know each other. Someone mentioned to me you should interview Jackie James, she has an interesting life. Ladies and gentleman, they were right. Before I give everything away just know that Jackie has recently made a transition from the love of sports to her new found love of Whiskey. Here is her little slice of the whiskey pie.
Jackie, please tell us a little about yourself? How did you find yourself in the world of whiskey?
JJ: Like many girls I know, I’ve always been a vodka soda or Sauvignon Blanc fan. Those were really the only two drinks I knew as I spent my entire adult life thinking that’s what we women were supposed to drink. In October 2018, a close friend pushed me outside my comfort zone by taking me to a whiskey bar. He took me to Bar Jackalope inside Seven Grand LA and it was there that I tasted my very first bourbon – a 12 Year Old Lot “B” Van Winkle Special Reserve. I was shocked at how much I loved it and was excited to try more. From that point forward, everyone and everything I came in contact with, in regard to whiskey, has been nothing short of magical! I’m overwhelmed with how warm and welcoming the community is and how whiskey can bring so many diverse people together – I never experienced that while drinking vodka sodas or Sav Blanc.
Jackie, you are the creator and host of the Girly Locker Room. Can you tell us more about that project? What was the initial concept and what has it grown into since?
JJ: Just as I wasn’t familiar or comfortable with whiskey, I wasn’t familiar or comfortable with sports either. I felt intimidated and left out because I didn’t understand the rules or really care about statistics and plays. After being introduced to professional sports in my adult life, I quickly realized how wrong I had been in how I stereotyped athletes and the games. I created Girly Locker Room to focus on the social side of sports and the human side of athletes – I wanted to offer a way for people like me to better connect with the games and the traditional sports fans in our lives. Girly Locker Room focuses on the social elements surrounding sports rather than the actual games themselves – food, fashion, pop culture, camaraderie, relatable storytelling, and applicable life lessons that we can all learn from – on or off the field.
For those of us who are not familiar with Bourbon Stewards, can you tell us what they do, and how can someone also become a Bourbon Steward if they were interested to pursue this?
JJ: A Certified Bourbon Steward can vary from an expert sommelier to someone like me who just has an intense passion for learning more about bourbon. According to the Kentucky Distiller’s Association, the purpose of the course is to provide a premium, standardized bourbon education that is accessible and holds real value. In practice, that means training bourbon industry professionals and hospitality employees (especially hotel, restaurant, and bar workers) to talk knowledgeably and correctly about the spirit’s production and history, and to be able to make recommendations for pours, flights, and pairings.
For anyone who might be interested in becoming a Certified Bourbon Steward, the process involves completing a home study course and then passing an exam. The next level, which I plan to complete this year, is the Executive Bourbon Steward – this involves traveling to Kentucky for an interactive, hands-on course.
Do you remember your first dram? Tell us about that.
JJ: I sure do! My first dram was in October of 2018, three months ago, and it was delicious! For me, I believe my whiskey experiences are a direct reflection of my mood, the company I’m with, and of course, the quality of the product. I’ve made some of my most special memories sharing whiskey these last few months and I’m forever grateful.
I am sure over the years you got to taste some really amazing spirits. Throw your top 5 at us, and tell us why your number one is.. well your number one.
JJ: What I love most about being new to the whiskey world is that I get to learn from all of you and share experiences and perspectives to better understand and further develop my amateur palette. I haven’t tasted nearly enough whiskey yet but thus far, my top five are Eagle Rare, Blanton’s, Jefferson’s Ocean, Proper Twelve, and my top one, as cliché as it might sound, is that legendary Pappy Van Winkle.
The 12 Year Old Lot “B” Van Winkle Special Reserve was my very first dram and after we finished the bottle, my close friend wrote a heartfelt note all over it. You just can’t beat that kind of meaningful memory and as delicious as Van Winkle is, the evening’s company and conversation made my first whiskey experience that much more special.
Let’s talk a little about women and whiskey. As a prominent and a respected woman in whiskey, what do you think whiskey companies should do to engage women, who make up 50% of our populations demographic to actually try whiskey?
JJ: Involve more women, listen to more women, and know that not all women are the same. Just like men, our tastes and views vary and the more a company looks outside the box for feedback from fresh perspectives and personalities, the more insight they will gain. That being said, I don’t think all whiskey companies should necessarily change up their style to target more women. Regardless of gender, I think every company needs to look at who their customers are and how they can best add value. It’s great to go after new customers but equally important, if not more, to take care of your existing ones.
Millennials are the future of business, which means they are the current and future buyers in this country. Do you think Craft Distillers owe it to change their marketing to reflect this new market? “You either change or you get left behind” or should they stick to the same, as the saying goes “If it’s not broken don’t fix it”? Maybe there is some middle ground?
JJ: Similar to the gender question, I think the answer to this depends on each individual distiller and who their customers are. If their customer base wants a more modern approach, give it to them. If their customers like the traditional, tried and true, stick with it – newer is not always better. Bottom line is knowing your customer and always think of them first while delivering what’s in their best interest.
What do you personally want to see more of from the whiskey makers?
JJ: I would love to see more diversity from whiskey makers – as long as it aligns with their brand and values. Whiskey isn’t just for Caucasian males and I would love to be able to connect with and relate to someone who loves whiskey and looks like me. Although I love enjoying drams with my male friends, I really look forward to the times I get to introduce my female friends to my new favorite drink.
Besides your company and whiskey, what else do you enjoy doing for fun?
JJ: I’ve recently gotten into working out and for the first time in my life, am truly loving it! In addition to fitness, I love to travel, learn, meet new people, and grow my relationships with the special people already in my life.
Why did you begin sharing your passion for whiskey on Instagram and is this something you currently do professionally or is it more of a side gig?
JJ: I try to be as authentic as possible on Instagram and when I shared my new passion for whiskey, the responses I got were overwhelming. My friends loved it and wanted to learn more. I quickly realized that I was connecting with more people, in more meaningful ways, by posting about whiskey vs. sports. I’m currently deciding how to move forward and how I can best add value to the whiskey community – and yes, the end goal is to be able to share my love for whiskey as a full-time endeavor.
Is there anything else you want to share with us?
JJ: I’m so grateful to you for reaching out and requesting this interview. The friendships I’ve made via whiskey are invaluable and I’m so humbled and honored that you’ve allowed me to join your community. Thank you from the bottom of my heart and cheers!