Bass & Flinders Distillery (B&F) became a true family business when Holly Klintworth, daughter of co-founder Wayne joined in early 2016.
Holly had been working in the wine industry herself, since around the time Wayne and Bob were making moves to begin B&F.
Holly joined the B&F team with considerable industry marketing experience, and began learning the distilling ropes from dad Wayne. Today Holly manages the bulk of the distilling at B&F and they proudly share the love for the job, the distillery and the products they produce.
We were fortunate to attend a gin making masterclass lead by Holly and highly recommend it to anyone visiting the Mornington Peninsula. We took time to chat with Holly specifically about her experience in the industry.
What’s your experience been like as a woman in the distilling industry in Australia?
As a woman, I’ve always felt equal to my peers in the industry. It’s a very small industry in Australia and everybody knows everybody else. I’ve been supported and everyone’s been really helpful. I’ve never been disadvantaged in any way in the industry.
While I had some initial concerns, when I began working with my dad, about the labour involved in the distilling process, the reality was quite different. Our process is set up in a way that one person can manage it day or night, as we’re often running our distillations 24 hours a day. In addition, my dad has been a great mentor and has always said there’s no aspect of the production that is beyond my reach.
Would this have been an industry that would have drawn you without the family involvement?
It’s probably not an industry I saw myself being involved in before I came to work with my dad. I’ve learnt pretty much all my distilling knowledge from him and even before I came to work here, it was amazing to see it grow from this small passion project in a tin shed to the business it’s become today. Being involved in the alcohol industry in other capacities, I’ve really enjoyed utilising different skills and abilities that the distilling process requires.
What opportunities has it opened up for you?
Being down on the Mornington Peninsula is something we want to maintain for B&F, it’s the home for our distillery and it’s a beautiful lifestyle being down here. I’ve had a lot of room to grow in the business working with my father… it could have gone really well or really badly! Luckily for me it’s been great. Knowing that anytime of the day or night I can give him a bell with a question and get an answer straight away has meant that I’ve really learnt a lot in a really short space of time.
What do groups like Women of Australian Distilling bring in terms of support for you?
I think sharing the support and experience of other women in the industry is great. We’ll often talk about much the same things as we would with any other distiller would, but it’s nice to share these conversations with other women who might bring a different perspective to our male colleagues.
One of the difficulties broadly in the industry, being a comparatively young industry, is a lack of mentors, particularly compared to other parts of the world with larger and more mature distilling industries.
It would be great to have more female mentors available who’ve been in the industry for a long time, have seen and done it all. When some of those difficult questions come up, that may be female specific, there would be more women in a position to answer them and help us through them.
That said it’s amazing to have the mentorship and support of women trailblazers in the industry like Kathleen Davies from Nip of Courage. Kathleen is a huge supporter of women in the industry. She’s involved me in production of a B&F specific cocktail through Aussie Tipple her bottled cocktail company. Our cocktail the pink negroni is one of a series of cocktails featuring female distillers from around the country.
Kathleen’s also created opportunities for me and other women to speak to audiences and raise the profile generally of women in the industry.
A lot of us see her as an inspiration, as someone who’s been involved in the industry since it’s more recent resurgence, but she had to go it alone for much of that time. She’s said herself that she wished there had been other women she could go to for mentorship and support when she was finding her feet, so it’s important for her to be that person whenever possible for other women moving through the industry now.
How many women are involved in distilling in Australia currently?
It might surprise people that in an industry that’s been typically male oriented, we’ve done some recent stats, and within the ADA (Australian Distiller’s Association) about 15% of distillers in Australia are women. While we’d love to see this number grow and we’re encouraging more women to become involved, this is a healthier percentage than a lot of other manufacturing industries.
Are there any unique challenges for women in distilling?
You know the reality is our challenges are common for people across the industry. Dealing with the high level of excise on alcohol makes it difficult to bring products to market at an affordable level for customers.
You get in the middle of a room full of distillers and mention the word council and you won’t find a single one that doesn’t have a story about dealing with their local council.
Those are the real challenges in my experience and fortunately (sort of), these aren’t gender specific, we’re all in the same boat and dealing with common challenges.
I would say the main misconception when speaking with the public about my role, is they’ll assume that I’m involved in a side of the business that is marketing or sales related, rather than the distilling itself. It’s something I’m comfortable in proving people wrong on and it opens up an interesting conversation around my role.
On the plus side it’s been a benefit to me and our business generally, as the media is keen to hear and share more stories of women being involved in the industry. It’s great that people are interested in hearing my perspective.
We’ve loved the chance to profile this talented distiller and share her creations with you this month.
If you’re keen to learn more about the women in this fantastic industry, check out the profiles at: