Maverick Women of Whisky: Lizzie Smith

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Maverick Women of Whisky: Lizzie Smith

March Outturn 2024 Interview


To celebrate International Women’s Day for 2024, we asked some absolute trailblazers in the spirits trade some questions about flavour, unusual pairings, and their love of this amazingly diverse game we call whisky!

Lizzie Smith, Starward


  • How long have you been working in the industry?

I’ve worked in the Hospitality Industry for about 11 years now. This will be my 7th year with Starward.


  • What about whisky do you enjoy that you think sets it apart from other spirits and drinks?

It’s the magic of barrel maturation for me. It’s fascinating that a barrel’s history, fluctuations in climate and other environmental influences can all completely change the product in a way that you can never truly predict. I love that all these factors connect whisky to the place it’s made and champion the creativity of the distillers and blenders behind it.


  • What’s your favourite thing about working at Starward?

I love that we have always sought to break tradition and appeal to those who may have never considered whisky as something they might enjoy. Back when I ran tastings and tours of the distillery, it was always so special to have customers say their experience changed their minds about whisky and that they were excited to try more. I’m proud that we give our customers permission to enjoy our whiskies however they would like, and in doing so we have never been afraid to be bold and experiment with flavour.


  • What are the flavours of a dram you tend to gravitate towards?

Typically, I’m drawn to fruit-forward expressions, probably biased by Starward’s focus on ex-red wine maturation. However, more recently I’ve been loving drams with a waxy, savoury profile.


  • March is about unusual flavour pairings — what’s the weirdest flavour combination you’ve ever created (or enjoyed)?

Perhaps not a “weird” combination, but I think pairing whisky with spicy foods is extremely underrated. I once pickled jalapeños in a whisky-heavy brine without expecting it to work at all. They were sensational! The jalapeños are all gone now but I still use the brine for a spicy kick in a Bloody Joseph.


  • What’s a food you would infuse whisky with that you think could work? Like a left-field dream flavour combination?

I’m sure it has already been done, but I’ve always dreamt of infusing a whisky with truffle oil. I think the umami of the truffle would really round out the heat and spice of the spirit, even better if it was lightly peated and paired with a soft cheese…


  • What’s the strangest ingredient you’ve ever used in a cocktail?

I love an unexpected cocktail garnish. It’s definitely less strange and more commonplace these days, but garnishing cocktails using locally foraged sea herbs like karkalla, or “beach bananas”, used to blow my mind (and thoroughly intrigue our customers).


  • Do you prefer contrasting or complementing flavours?

There’s definitely a time and a place for contrasts, but I nearly always gravitate towards complementing flavours. It’s incredibly exciting when flavours you’ve selected work together to create something greater than the sum of its parts!


This article is featured in March 2024 Outturn — bottles will be available to purchase on Friday the 1st of March at midday AEDT exclusively to members of The Scotch Malt Whisky Society. Not a member? Click here to learn more about the world’s most colourful whisky club.


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