Women in Spirits | Jess Hodge
We're giving our young gun distiller, Jess Hodge a massive shout out for being such a crucial part of our production team.
She is a high-priestess of flavour and her skills across all facets of production have been a revelation in our business. She has a Bachelor in Viticulture and Oenology from the University of Adelaide. We borrowed her from the wine game where she was a shining light at Yangarra Estate in McLaren Vale.
What brought you into the industry and kicked off your passion for spirits & winemaking?
A backpacking adventure to South America where I met some winemakers in the region of Mendoza, Argentina. I had been on wine tours before but had never been exposed to the production side of the product. I think I had this idea of wine as a mysterious liquid that just found its way into barrels. I had no idea of the craft and science behind it all. I was backpacking for an adventure but also because I really didn't have much direction at the time. Those tasting sessions and tours got me really excited about looking into winemaking as a career option.
Who are some of the female industry icons that have inspired you along your journey?
I have been incredibly lucky to have icons such as Gill Gordon-Smith (Fall From Grace) & Shelley Torresan (Yangarra Estate) work with and mentor me.
However, so many women inspire me! In fact most women inspire me. Any woman (cis/trans) that works hard and is kind is those around them gives me life and emboldens me to keep on my path. Also Rhianna, who mentors everyone on how to be a fierce lady-boss.
What do you feel is the biggest challenge you have overcome, as a female, to get to where you are now?
To be honest, my biggest challenge that I am still working on overcoming is confidence & self-worth. I'm a bit of a people pleaser and am often plagued with imposter syndrome. There is a lingering fear that someone is going to come around the corner and confirm that I don't actually know what I'm doing and to get the hell out of here!!
In all seriousness though, confidence and self-worth are important personal assets to gain. It's not just for the job but for yourself as well. In the past, I would have said something along the lines of 'proving myself in my role' or 'taking a risk' etc. but really all that progress is attached to developing the courage that comes with believing in yourself. I still have a hell of a long way to go but I'm sure many people out there can relate.. not just women.
How can the wine and distilling industry empower women in 2021?
Walk the walk, don't just talk. Conversations about equality are great, but if no actual action is taken towards ensuring everyone is getting a fair go then it doesn't really mean much. An inclusive and positive company culture cannot be quantified in the value that it can give to empowering all employees.
What advice would you give to young women either already working in the industry, or hoping to in the future?
Work hard, talk to people and for goodness sake please look after yourselves! This industry can be super fun with a lot of really delicious booze being passed around, however, it is important to know your limits, give yourself a break from time to time and get some sleep.
Also, please don't think that you have to be an idea of 'perfect' to have value in this industry. Sometimes I look around me and think that everyone else are superstars and I've just been let into the party by accident, but really, that is me getting in my own way. Don't do that... there is room for everyone as long as you put in the work.
What do you love most about your job now?
Of course, I love the obvious things like assisting on creative projects and new products, helping to make the most highly awarded gins in Australia and increasing my distilling skills in a rapidly growing company, but my other love is the administrative side to my role.
I take personal pride in striving towards creating a well organised production space and connecting the dots between product creation, logistics and seeing bottles on the shelf. My opinion is if you can't enjoy the day-to-day in your job then perhaps it's not for you for the long term. I think everyone has different requirements for job satisfaction though.