Lisa Wicker has done it all across her 20 years in the alcohol beverage space, from working as a grape picker in a Southern Indiana vineyard and starting a winery in Kentucky, to refining her distilling with some of the biggest names in whiskey. Through her experience, Lisa has developed a healthy respect for the nuances of raw materials and the impact of assemblage on wine and spirits.
She got her start in whiskey moonlighting as a student of distilling by night at a distillery down the road from the Kentucky winery she was building by day. Her passion and talent were evident and she shifted to distilling full-time. “Once I started distilling exclusively, I didn’t look back. I laugh when I think about it, because I was convinced making wine was the greatest job ever. I realized I’d been mistaken all along -Distilling is the best job in the whole world.”
In her current role as President and Head Distiller for Widow Jane, Lisa splits time between Bardstown, Kentucky, where she has shepherded the development of the largest heirloom corn cultivation in the US, and Widow Jane headquarters in Red Hook, Brooklyn, where she oversees the Widow Jane team production space and 15,000 square feet of Rickhouse space applying art and science to blend Widow Jane 10 Year Bourbon in a maximum of five-barrel batches. It’s this practice that produces a more complex, multi-faceted flavor profile than any single bourbon can achieve. “The throughline between every job I’ve had in the beverage industry is a commitment to craft, authenticity, and quality. In the same way you can’t take bad grapes and make good wine, you can’t take bad grain and make great whiskey.”
She continues, “I consider myself to be extremely lucky, not only for the trajectory of my career that’s shaped who I am as a distiller. But also for the team we have in place at Widow Jane. I get a lot of the public recognition, but I’m grateful for the collaborative environment we’ve built and to be able to call everyone on our team a colleague and friend.
Lisa also serves as distilling consultant at the George Washington Distillery at Mount Vernon, in Alexandria, Virginia, where she was awarded Highly Commended Master Distiller/Blender in 2019.