Holly Twaddell is stirring up a revolution among Kansas City’s whiskey industry. Over the past year, the KC native started Whiskey Women KC; a group made up of women from all walks of life who come together to learn more about whiskey without judgment.
The whiskey fanatic was first introduced to the distilled alcoholic beverage by her father five years ago. After a few sips of Irish whiskey, she was hooked and started immersing herself in the world of whiskey by attending conventions, touring distilleries and even becoming a member of the KC Whiskey Guild.
Twaddell says the taste of whiskey, the experience and the versatility are what sets this spirit apart from the rest.
“Whiskey is about drinking with friends, it's about opening that bottle and just enjoying each other,” described Twaddell, “it has a complexity almost like poetry. There are just different levels of intensity and flavors.”
As she continued to explore the world of whiskey, her social circle began to broaden.
Each event led her to meet new people who shared a similar passion for whiskey, but she knew the industry lacked diversity. Twaddell said little to no women could be seen at distilleries or at barrel selections, and she needed to make a change.
Whiskey Women KC was launched by Twaddell in 2022, and so far, nearly 250 members have signed up to be part of the discussion. Twaddell says the group serves as a safe-space platform the whiskey industry craved. It's also a place where people can contribute ideas while learning more about whiskey.
Whiskey Women KC members can routinely be seen at some of KC’s hottest bars sampling whiskey flights, and touring local distilleries, while creating lasting relationships and countless memories.
“I wanted to create a non-intimidating place where we as women could be ourselves, ask questions, and not feel like we're looked down upon,” explained Twaddell. “A lot of the women are really excited because they get to meet new people. We’re going out, in the community and making new friends.”
Since the launch, Twaddell says the KC whiskey industry has been welcoming of her push to involve more women. Distilleries have invited the group to take tours, and whiskey leaders and organizations have reached out to Twaddell to congratulate her on her push to bring diversity to their industry. She says it’s those moments that fuel her desire to keep pushing boundaries and encourage others to do the same.
“You just have to keep going forward. You get a lot of eye rolls, and sometimes you get a lot of backlash like you don't know what you're talking about, and that's pretty standard for a woman going into the male-dominated world of whiskey,” said Twaddell. “Keep pushing forward and keep doing what you love. If it's not a challenge, it's not worth it.”
As for how people can get started on their whiskey journey, Twaddell encourages people to start off light and work their way through the ladder of taste with plenty of company around.
“If you aren't used to stronger whiskey, start with more mild ones, or a whiskey cocktail, but join those groups, keep pushing forward, and keep doing what you love,” said Twaddell.
Twaddell encourages the following stops for people interested in getting a true sense of KC’s whiskey scene.
- The Belfry is a gastropub located on 15th and Grand with knowledgeable staff on hand to guide people through a unique bourbon list and food menu.
- Drastic Measures is a cocktail-only bar. Twaddell praises the Shawnee bar for its clever incorporation of whiskey into savory drinks.
- Verdigris is a Whiskey Women KC group favorite due to its timeless and elegant atmosphere making it the perfect date-night spot or girl’s night out.