Maverick Women of Whisky: Mel Hack

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Maverick Women of Whisky: Mel Hack

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!

Mel Hack, Whisky & Alement


  • How long have you been working in the industry?

This is my 11th year in hospitality, with the last six years bartending.


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

There are so many things I think that separate whisky from other spirits and drinks, but I think what it boils down to is that although it is so simple in its ingredients, it is arguably the most complex and diverse spirit there is.


  • What’s your favourite thing about working at Whisky & Alement?

I think my answer changes for this all the time, but right now… Wednesdays at Whisky & Alement are the best. It’s the one time of the week the entire team is in the same room, tasting each new whisky that goes on the back bar. With Julian, Lachlan, Brooke, or Matt sharing a story about each bottle we are tasting. It’s work, but it really doesn’t feel like it.


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

This also changes all the time haha. It used to be bug sherry bombs, and then I went through a peated phase… Now I’m loving anything that tastes or smells like bubblegum and starburst lollies! But anything that has a great thick mouthfeel, and is single malt is a great start for me.


  • Do your flavour preferences shift quickly or do you find you go through long phases of preferencing certain flavours?

Since working at Whisky & Alement I think my flavour preferences have started to shift quickly for sure! Being exposed to at least 10-20 new whiskies a week has completely opened my sensory range and knocked it out of the park! I did the math the other day… In the past 8 months, I’ve tasted approximately 300 – 450 whiskies since working at Whisky & Alement!


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

I made a drink once called Herbal Remedy, and it had gin, green chartreuse, lemon, pineapple, sage and herb-salted kale! The Kale was deep fried and was the garnish, but it was a really fun contrast of flavours, having a herbaceous and tropical cocktail, paired with a salty and vegetal garnish.

More recently, I had a cocktail at Caretaker’s Cottage, and they had a drink that included a strawberry and dill pairing… I usually hate the taste of dill, but it was subtle enough it actually tasted great!


  • Do you have a set process for creating cocktails? Are there rules you stick to when working with whisky as a base?

I like being given a brief for my cocktails, maybe it’s why I like cocktail competitions? Seeing a list of boxes, a criteria I need to satisfy, and then doing my very best to nail it.

In terms of whisky cocktails, there are no rules! It’s something that admittedly took me a few years of bartending to realise.


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

I’m honestly up for trying anything at this point! Working with Lachlan (Watt) has taught me that haha.


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

Either Salted kale or eggshell salt solution.


  • Do you prefer contrasting or complementing flavours?

Contrasting flavours always!


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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