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Elizabeth McCall: “One small change is all it takes”

Reduce the amount of plastic you use and consider your impact on the environment. We can all do better when it comes to taking care of our environment. One small change is all it takes. Woodford Reserve Assistant Master Distiller, Elizabeth McCall, CSS (Certified Specialist of Spirits) is the second generation of her family to work […]


Reduce the amount of plastic you use and consider your impact on the environment. We can all do better when it comes to taking care of our environment. One small change is all it takes.


Woodford Reserve Assistant Master Distiller, Elizabeth McCall, CSS (Certified Specialist of Spirits) is the second generation of her family to work in the bourbon industry and one of the youngest female distillers in the United States. She followed in her mother’s footsteps starting as a sensory expert and working in the quality department. McCall has a master’s degree from the University of Louisville and has been a member of Brown-Forman’s R&D Department since 2009. She works directly with Master Distiller Chris Morris and R&D on innovation and the development of new products within Woodford Reserve. Additionally, she interacts one-on-one with consumers through personal barrel selections and education on sensory methodology and works to define the quality sensory standard to which every batch of Woodford Reserve must comply. When Elizabeth is not using her expertise at the distillery, she is passionate about her family, horses and being involved in her community. She sits on the board of Louisville nonprofit Green Hill Therapy where her horse, Cody Ko, serves in the hippotherapy program. Elizabeth also enjoys spending quality time with her husband, Matt, and dog Beasley.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

My career at Brown-Forman began as a sensory technician for quality control taste testing. The main focus of my job was washing dishes, setting up tasting panels, entering data and writing reports. I was promoted to Associate Sensory Scientist, still focusing on quality control taste testing. I traveled to each of our global production facilities to train our teams on our sensory methods, how to pick up defects and how to properly nose and taste. In 2014, I took an internal class on spirits, where I made a positive impression on our Master Distiller Chris Morris who, unbeknownst to me, was looking for someone to train to be a Master Taster. A few months later, he asked if I wanted to train for the role. I said yes, of course and this is what set me on my path to my current role. In January 2016 I was moved to the role of Sr. Quality Control Specialist and Master Taster for Woodford Reserve. I gained invaluable production experience in this role and in February 2018 I was named Assistant Master Distiller for Woodford Reserve.

Can you tell our readers what it is about the work you’re doing that’s disruptive?

Woodford Reserve is part of a team working to bring the growing of rye grain for distilling back to Kentucky. Currently, rye is sourced from as far away as Poland. To have it sourced from Kentucky would be incredible. Not only reducing our carbon footprint but supporting our Kentucky farmers at the same time.

We all need a little help along the journey — who have been some of your mentors? Can you share a story about how they made an impact?

The most impactful mentor I’ve had in my career has been Woodford Reserve’s Master Distiller Chris Morris. From the moment he invited me to train to be a Master Taster, Chris has taken me under his wing to teach me the ways of the bourbon industry. From how to work a room at a branded dinner event to how to work with the production team on future innovation of our whiskies. Without his guidance I would not be in the position I am today.

Can you share 3 of the best words of advice you’ve gotten along your journey? Please give a story or example for each.

Authenticity; stay true to yourself, know who you are and remember where you came from. Curiosity; never stop learning and growing, set goals and have a vision. Craftsmanship; quality, excellence, consistency and always do the right thing

How are you going to shake things up next?

Through thoughtful innovation of our whiskey for future Woodford Reserve Master’s Collections and Distillery Series. I am excited to push the envelope with new grain recipes that express flavor profiles not yet seen in whiskey.

Do you have a book/podcast/talk that’s had a deep impact on your thinking? Can you share a story with us?

“What I know for Sure” by Oprah Winfrey. This book reminded me to appreciate the small things in life. That positivity will bring you so many more gifts than negativity will. Both of which are much easier said than done.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Reduce the amount of plastic you use and consider your impact on the environment. We can all do better when it comes to taking care of our environment. One small change is all it takes.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“I live in the space of thankfulness…what you focus on expands. When you focus on the goodness in your life, you create more of it” — Oprah Winfrey. I try to stay positive as much as possible. I strongly believe that focusing on the positive aspects of a situation is so much more powerful than the negative. Expand the positivity.

How can our readers follow you on social media? @elizabeth_oneill_mccall

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