New Head Distiller at Hangar One Indicative of Women’s Expanding Roll in Spirits

There’s a women’s movement in spirits that is rapidly expanding. Top roles in production and representation are increasingly filled by females. Hangar One Vodka is in line with this trend. Last January, the brand named Caley Shoemaker — former Production Administrator of Stranahan’s Colorado Whiskey — as its new head distiller.

The 28-year-old is among just a handful of women in the world with her job title. She also helped design the new Hangar One Vodka distillery in Alameda, Calif, which opened a year ago. The distillery will soon welcome guests to a new onsite tasting room.

I recently spoke with Shoemaker (pictured above) about her roles in Hangar One and the larger beverage industry.

BD: Where do you see yourself in the women’s movement?
CS: I think I’m in the early part of it. Many of us are now in California. The men in the industry here have been very welcoming to women distillers. We even have a legit national club now, the Ladies of American Distilling.

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Shoemaker helped design the new Hangar One distillery.

BD: Are you and your club peers perceived by younger women as role models?
CS: I hope so. Before the current wave of lady distillers, there were very few in the industry. Now, I think there is definitely more visibility to this career path as a possibility for women.

I got into distilling and brewing because I studied art in college. That got me interested in the creative aspects of solving problems. Of course, there’s a lot more engineering in distillation and brewing. That’s why it’s so important now that more girls are being exposed in school to STEM courses: science, technology, engineering and math.

BD: How was the experience of helping design the new Hangar One distillery?
CS: It was fun. It was a big open space when it first opened, so I had a large palate to work with in terms of laying out the place. I was lucky with Hangar One, in that it was really just me and one other person planning the construction.

I could really plan out the future of the place. And I helped install all the equipment, which is important for me in knowing exactly how it all functions. Now I know how to fix everything, if and when I need to in the future. It’s been an awesome journey, getting to be part of building a place that’s really cool.

BD: Tell me about the new tasting room.
CS: We’re going to have roughly 5,000 square feet of space. There’s going to be a downstairs bar and an upstairs bar, and an outdoor space that’s going to have a garden. That will be nice, because I’ll be able to pick my own herbs and botanicals and work with them onsite.

That’s part of the overall décor and theme of the tasting room. We want it all to convey the sense that the number one priority at Hangar One is to work with the freshest ingredients possible.

And it’s more than just an area for tourism. We want to educate people on tasting vodka. So it’s twofold. Obviously we want people to have a good time, but also get an education on all the creative ways that they can enjoy vodka, whether they’re at home or ordering drinks at a bar or restaurant.

Kyle Swartz is the associate editor of StateWays Magazine. Contact him at kswartz@epgmediallc.com.

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