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Meet the First Latina Bourbon Maker in Texas

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Samantha Olvera-Moreno is building sisterhood within the Texas bourbon industry one glass at a time.

By Gianni Zorrilla, Illustrations by Madison Weakley

Gender doesn’t matter when it comes to crafting a quality glass of bourbon, and Samantha Olvera-Moreno is living proof. The first Latina in the Lone Star State to craft bourbon “from grain to glass,” Olvera-Moreno doesn’t play by the rules. 

From the outside looking in, the alcohol industry is definitely a man’s world, but any insider like Olvera-Moreno can attest that women are on the rise—and have been for decades.

Passion is often a winding road. Olvera-Moreno originally went to school to study respiratory therapy but discovered Garrison Brothers Distillery while managing a bar in the Hill Country back in 2014. When she started working in production at the facility, she was the only woman. While more women have joined the team throughout the years, Olvera-Moreno remains the only Latina.

Bourbon is America’s only native spirit, and Olvera-Moreno is at the forefront of Texas women in whiskey. She was a pivotal force in bringing the Bourbon Women Association to Texas, an effort that, after two years in the making, became official this year during Women’s History Month. 

Now, as the Texas branch ambassador of the association, Olvera-Moreno facilitates events throughout the Lone Star State. Attracting the likes of female lawyers and teachers, housewives and soccer moms—and then some—she helps to drive forward the central mission of bringing women of all walks of life together over a fine glass of bourbon.

Olvera-Moreno shares her top tips for breaking into—and mastering—a male-dominated field like the alcohol industry and crafting your career to your passions.

EXPECT THE UNEXPECTED.

“I received a degree in the medical field, but life brought me to the bourbon world instead. I wouldn’t change a thing. The point when it all changed for me was when I was in hospitality, learning how to do tours. When they got to the part of the rules that go into making bourbon whiskey, a lightbulb went off. And that’s when Garrison Brothers created a monster. I just love bourbon. I love the craft, the history, everything that goes into making it.”

WORK HARD.

“Don’t work hard to get noticed; work hard because you love what you do. I pull my own weight. For about a year and a half, I was working night shifts. So, for about eight hours, I was by myself. There were barrels that weighed more than I do that I was having to move. It would take hours doing it by myself, but I figured it out. As a woman, what I always love telling other women is, ‘Work hard and figure it out.’ Never think you can’t do it. You can do it. It doesn’t matter how long it takes. Just figure it out. There are no wrong questions.”

MAKE YOURSELF AN EXPERT.

“There is always more to learn, no matter what field you’re in or what you end up doing in life. Stay open-minded to it all. There’s a book that I always love sharing called Whiskey Women. Fred Minnick wrote it and breaks down how in-depth women have been in this industry. Women were the ones during the Whiskey Rebellion keeping the stronghold of the distilling process, and there’s a lot of women behind so many other distilleries going to Scotland and Ireland and Kentucky. It’s just a reaffirmation that, yeah, we’ve been doing this for a long time. It’s been a man’s world, and we women have really risen up. And we’ve always been there. Did it suck to be in the background? Yes, absolutely. But it’s not that way anymore. The more women come together, the stronger we truly are.”

ADAPT AND BECOME RESILIENT.

“Life has a way to test you when you’re not looking. It’s OK to feel what you feel, but don’t let it break you. Let it make you stronger and focused. No matter what happens in your life personally, don’t ever get discouraged. Always look forward.”

STAY HUMBLE.

“Love what you do. Be great at what you do. Never forget others that came before you or the ones that it will be passed on to.”


READ MORE FROM THE DECEMBER ISSUE


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