“The culture! The history! The people … farmers, truck drivers, bartenders, our customers. The juice! You know … that moment … when the whiskey hits the glass.”
That’s the emphatic, broadband answer you’ll get when you ask President/Head Distiller & Blender of Widow Jane, Lisa Wicker, what really excites her about whiskey.
The short answer is, everything.
But for this master of the craft, the world of imbibing overall is a passion, and she has decades behind the scene of celebrated brands, coming originally from the world of wine.
She’s got a palate refined and tuned beyond measure, and a resume that includes time with Brown County Winery, Simmons Winery, and Limestone Branch Distillery.
In her current distilling role, she works with the entire Samson & Surrey portfolio, which encompasses Widow Jane, Philadelphia Distilling, Few Spirits and Brenne whiskey.
She was named an Icon of Whiskey Master Distiller for 2019, and you’ll most often find her focus on Widow Jane, which won Outstanding Gold by Whiskies of the World in 2019 for the Five Barrel Small Batch.
The pandemic has been tough on everyone. For Wicker, it hit very close to home considering she caught Covid-19 mid pandemic.
“I returned to Kentucky and was diagnosed a few days later,” she recalls. “Recovering my taste and smell was an obsession.”
That obsession bore beautiful fruit.
“A 15-year release I blended after Covid scored a 94 with Whisky Advocate,” she says. “So, I guess it worked! After reopening the distillery early June, the brand took off. Blending and bottling ramped up.”
While the craft spirits world is undeniably better because of her work ethic, super nose and expertise, it’s the connections that make it feel like family.
“Work friendships are everything,” she says, and at Widow Jane, and across Samson & Surrey, the team uses a ‘buddy system,’ with everyone benefitting from shared resources and a vision that allows each product to retain a distinctive personality.
It’s a company philosophy held by the best-of-the-best across the industry, that everyone is better together. Q Mixers is no exception.
We asked Wicker what she does to Spark Spectacular Joy––a question Q Mixer Founder Jordan Silbert often poses to people.
“Time with my grown children, their amazing spouses, my grandsons, sisters, nieces and nephews,” Wicker says. “We are spread out from coast-to-coast, far north to the Southwest. We are close knit, even with time and distance.”
As Brooklyn-based neighbors, Lisa and her team love serving Widow Jane with Q Mixers spectacular lineup of perfectly carbonated beverages. Lisa’s Q Mixers Meet at Tales cocktail Big Apple Buck celebrates their shared home of New York in its name, and uses both Q Ginger Beer for its signature spiciness that pairs wonderfully with the grain spice in our Oak & Apple Wood Rye, and Q Ginger Ale for balance and added complexity thanks to its rose oil, cardamom, and coriander additions which are great compliments to our sophisticated, five-barrels-at-a-time truly small-batch whiskey. Widow Jane prides themselves on their unapologetically bold, sophisticated and complex flavors, and so does Q Mixers, truly a perfect pairing!
Tales of the Cocktail® also sparks joy for Wicker, who began attending eight years ago.
“I was distilling with Steve Beam at Limestone Branch,” she recalls. “We decided last-minute, jumped in his truck and headed to New Orleans. I do not think I had time to think about what we were getting into. I remember the roar from the lobby getting on the elevator. So much education is packed into the time and space of the conference. Lots of grilled oysters and craft spirits.”
There’s a lot packed in for the team at Widow Jane these days too. Business is back to full force as usual.
“The phenomenal growth this last year has not let up,” she laughs.
Q Mixers and Tales of the Cocktail Foundation present, Meet at Tales––a program going behind-the-scenes with eight industry leaders, delving into their best times at Tales of the Cocktail®––raising a virtual toast to the people, places and drinks that have shaped their careers.
After several challenging years, Meet at Tales is a chance for our Industry Leaders to give advice and mentorship to those rising up. Six lucky Tales of the Cocktail 2021 registrants will be selected to Meet at Tales for a 15-minute conversation and will receive a custom cocktail kit developed by the Q MIXERS Industry Leader they are paired with. Following Tales, each Industry Leader will select one individual for a one-hour follow-up conversation.
We could think of no better partnership for this project than Q Mixers––a brand whose entire mission is to make truly spectacular mixers. Additionally, during this year’s conference taking place in a hybrid format September 20-23, Q Mixers will host 4 Mix at Tales Happy Hour events ––each of which pair up 2 industry leaders to host a happy hour to field fun and pertinent questions, brainstorm, and have a few drinks of course.
Add Lisa’s Mix at Tales Happy Hour event to your Tales of the Cocktail 2021 agenda taking place digitally on September 22nd at 4:00 PM CST.