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Bundy woman making it in a man’s world

ENJOYING a drop of Bundaberg Rum may not be an exact science, but making it sure is.

Sarah Watson, a former chemist is now the blending and innovation manager at Bundaberg Rum. Ms Watson has been responsible for crafting rums that have been recognised at the highest level at the World Rum Awards, including World’s Best Gold Rum (2016), World’s Best Dark Rum (2016/ 2017) and World’s Best Rum (2016).

And she is set to be one of many winemakers, distillers and brewers at Australia’s first drinks festival with an all-female line-up.

Cellarmasters and BWS have joined forces to create the inaugural Meet the Makers: Women in Beer, Wine Spirits.


Meet the Makers:
Cellarmasters and BWS have joined forces to create the festival Meet the Makers: Women in Beer, Wine Spirits.

Ms Watson’s philosophy when creating a new rum is “never compromise on liquid quality.”

“People experiment with a wide repertoire of different spirit types these days and a new product is only new once,” she said.

“A new-to-world product might attract initial interest because it’s new, but if your liquid isn’t exceptional no one will be coming back for a second try.”


According to the Australian Distillers Association, women make up about 15 per cent of distillers in the industry.

But Ms Watson said they were already getting to a point where women wouldn’t be a minority in the industry.

“It’s great to see the change currently happening in our industry with more females coming into distillery roles and being recognised for their talents and contributions,” she said.

“Rather than looking at females as a minority in the industry, I think it’s more important that distilleries are not viewed as an industry that’s just for men.

“We need to strive for acceptance that a distillery career is for anyone that’s excited and passionate about the world of spirits, regardless of their gender.”

She said she had always found the industry to be very accepting of her as a female, having worked with great females and males in Australia and globally.

“It’s exciting to see the number of females getting involved in the Australian spirits industry rising,” Ms Watson said.

“I think that’s a positive trend for our industry that we’ll see continue.

“What I’ve noticed is the diversity of characters and incredible passion within the industry. I’ve found people have always respected my experience and what I bring to the role.”


Ms Watson said she’s not the image most people imagine being behind Bundaberg Rum, “usually they’re expecting to meet an older gentleman with a beard” rather than a Scottish ex-chemist.

“When I take people through my story, they are can see why having a scientific background can be so beneficial in the world of distilling,” she said.

“And they love the fact that my path into this role wasn’t the traditional one.”

At the festival Ms Watson said she was looking forward to connecting with other inspirational female leaders within the industry and learning about their career path journeys.

She said the festival would be a fantastic way to bring together successful female leaders in the industry to see how they could look to inspire other young adults to embark on a career in the spirits industry.

“It’s important to highlight the different career avenues in which you can enter into this industry and also the different career positions you can move into,” Ms Watson said.

“It’s an exciting and stimulating industry to work in and this festival will give people a glimpse into my world and hopefully find it as fascinating as I do.”

Meet the Makers Women in Beer, Wine Spirits

When: March 8 and 9

Where: Australian Technology Park in Sydney

Cost: from $45 a session, which includes tastings, tasting glass to keep and booklet.

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