Founder and Chief Distiller of Catoctin Creek Distilling Company
BEHIND THE BRAND - BECKY HARRIS
March is Women’s History Month and as an organization we are committed to the advancement of women within our company, within our industry, and in our local communities.
A key tenet to drive this support has been through our Constellation Brands Ventures Focus on Female Founders initiative, a commitment to invest $100 million in female-led companies through 2028. Since launching the initiative in 2018, the Ventures portfolio mix has shifted from being 20% female-led to over 50% female-led.
We are proud to partner with strong, visionary females within the beverage alcohol space and our women’s business resource group, WISE, has helped to recognize them in the month of March as well as all year long. We caught up with one of our Focus on Female Founders Ventures partners, Becky Harris, founder and chief distiller of Catoctin Creek Distilling Company, to learn more about her experience and perspective as a woman within the spirits industry.
How did you first get involved in the spirits industry?
My first experience in the spirits industry was when my husband and business partner, Scott, and I founded Catoctin Creek in February of 2009. We absolutely jumped right into the deep end as founders, and I learned my role as head distiller on the job.
What does it mean to you to be a female leader in a male dominated industry?
My background is in chemical engineering, and both my education and previous jobs were all in male-dominated workplaces. I have never worked in a job where women outnumbered men. I hope that fewer young women coming into our industry find that to be their reality, but we have a long way to go to achieve that.
What is the biggest factor that's made you successful?
There are three factors, in my opinion, to being successful in this industry. First is timing, as we were early entrants into the craft distilling field, which gave us time and competitive space to learn about the spirits industry. Second is a focus on excellence in flavor always, and third is a commitment to improvement in all areas of the business continually. What we did not know coming in, we learned and used as fuel for the improvement process.
As a female in this industry, what challenges or barriers have you have overcome?
In retrospect, I believe that there has been a sense in the past that brands run by distilling women are a gimmick, and not to be taken seriously, despite our credentials and backgrounds. I think industry perception has shifted in this area, and leadership by women is seen as not only currently vital, but historically present as well.
What is your proudest professional accomplishment?
I am incredibly proud of the team we have built here in the distillery, and the products we make and distribute. I tasted some of our cask proof rye alongside a $200 bottle recently and found that the quality difference was not at all apparent if one were tasting blindly.
What advice would you give aspiring female distillers (or more broadly, to women in our industry)?
Speak up and get involved. I am currently President of the American Craft Spirits Association, the trade association focused on the interests of small spirits producers, and my role in this organization has stretched my skills in ways I never envisioned when I first started volunteering. The ACSA is a small group with big goals, and it is a good place to jump in, participate, and lead efforts about which you are passionate.
What is your go-to cocktail at the moment?
I love a classic Manhattan, and if you do too, I suggest trying it with our Virginia rye. It is delicious!
Interested in learning more about Constellation Ventures? We’re just getting started. Constellation has teamed up with a number of visionary companies and their passionate leaders to collaborate on creating the next generation of brands Worth Reaching For. Check out our Ventures page here.