Three trailblazing Starward women we admire this IWD

This International Women’s Day, we’re taking a moment to shout out to the strong, extremely talented, changing-the-game women who we’re lucky enough to have part of the Starward team. In a male-dominated spirits industry, these inspiring individuals are challenging the status quo – achieving greatness while supporting and encouraging each other at their craft. We spoke to three of these women about their Starward journey and the importance of acknowledging the challenges women have faced while also celebrating the progress that’s been made.  

Carlie from Starward celebrating IWD


Carlie Dyer, Blender

From NPD (new product development) to leading the sensory program at Starward and working her blending magic so that every bottle of Starward is award-winning, Carlie is a woman of many talents. Don’t believe us? She’s recently been nominated for Distiller Producer of the Year so if that doesn’t tell you she’s got talent then we’re not sure what does!

“As a blender, I mainly work with our mature spirit – a typical day starts with an early morning sensory, either tasting barrels to blend for our core products or checking up on our younger spirits and projects,” she explains.

Munich Malt – it’s matured in ex-bourbon casks and is currently my favourite pour,” says Carlie. “It has our classic tropical character with lovely notes of brioche and buttered toast – the finger lime and soda canned cocktails are hit item in my fridge during summer, too!” she adds.

Experimentation and watching whisky go through its “awkward teenage phase” is what Carlie enjoys the most as a blender. “I really enjoy experimenting and seeing a project through from its conception through to bottling,” says Carlie. “Whisky is an interesting liquid – it’s always changing and goes through phases including an awkward teenage phase!” she says, laughing. “It's a fun journey that is unique to each cask. I always love getting out into trade and being a part of events and tastings, too.”

“I admire all of the women in my life! We may have different paths and careers, but we share the same lived experience as women trying to keep up in a world that has underlining societal pressures and prejudices we have to navigate,” she says.

When asked about the fellow Starward women who she looks up to, Carlie says there are many. “Our team has grown a lot since I started, and there are lots of great women who I’m fortunate enough to work with every day,” she says. “On the fly, I'd like to shout out to Jane our packaging manager. She works really hard and leads a great team who makes sure our whisky looks great when it heads out into the market.”

Carlie feels most confident with she feels “educated, trained and impassioned by something” and would tell her younger self to not feel pressured to study straight after school. “Travel, work and find out what genuinely piques your interest and passion.”

March 8 is a day of reflection for Carlie – she reflects on the women who bravely fought for our rights to allow us to be where we are today. “Our sisters before us have paved an easier path for us to walk on in many ways. It wasn't legal for us to drink in bars until 1965!” Carlie believes it’s important to acknowledge the challenges that women have faced historically while also celebrating the progress that has been made. “We should be continuing to push for further change and diversity; advocating for greater gender diversity in leadership positions, highlighting the achievements of women in the industry and promoting initiatives to attract and retain more women in whisky-related careers,” she says.

Kotryna celebrating with a sip of whisky this IWD

Kotryna Gesait, Starward Whisky Brand Ambassador

“I always tell people being a brand ambassador is basically just about making friends,” starts Kotryna. “A typical day in this role starts with some admin and email upkeep, then I’ll head out and hit up a few retailers and finish the day with as many bars and restaurants I can squeeze in and still have a full night’s sleep!” For Kotryna, it’s a dynamic job and no two days are ever the same so there’s never a dull moment – and it just so happens she loves making friends.

“I can’t go past a Manhattan.”

Kotryna admits that working as a brand ambassador for Starward has changed her relationship with New York of all things. “I grew up in NYC and my relationship with the city had turned sour in my mid-20s, which is when I moved to Australia with no intention of coming back,” she explains. “However, I did eventually return and this job has allowed me to explore the city through the lens of its hospitality and culinary offerings – something I’ve never been able to do before,” she adds. Now she visits many bars that feel like her local and she loves “plopping down on a bar stool and knowing a venue’s entire staff.” 

“I’m a sucker for positive reinforcement, so for me being surrounded by a positive and supportive community of women allows me to shine and do my best work,” she says. “I’ve done a lot of work since returning to this city to build a support system for myself; I surround myself with people that empower me.”

She especially loved working alongside Carlie and Jane at Starward when she lived in Melbourne. “They’re both awesome, strong and supportive individuals; they’re the next big thing in this industry,” says Kotryna. As for the advice she’d impart to her younger self today, it would be to “just be your weirdest self – no one cares.” 

“We have a long way to go, not just in this industry but globally when it comes to how we foster safe spaces for women. It has to be a global effort and will only truly come to fruition when all the folks who do not identify as women lead the charge,” says Kotryna. She says it’s important to acknowledge International Women’s Day so that “one day we don’t have to.”  


Ally from Starward with the popular whisky bottles smiling


Allisyn (Ally) Afortunado, Starward Whisky Brand Ambassador

You’ll find Allisyn travelling around San Francisco and the Bay Area spreading the Starward magic. “I get to teach people about the wonders of Starward through staff training, events and tastings – I basically get to make friends talking about delicious whisky,” she says.


“I can’t go past Octave Barrels. We have also had some amazing single barrels come to the states recently. My favourite cocktail to make with Starward is something spritzy with Two-Fold – possibly with a bit of amaro or aperitif to compliment the whisky,” says Allisyn.


The opportunity to meet and work alongside incredible people around the world is what makes being a part of the Starward team so fulfilling according to Allisyn. 


Before thinking of the women who continue to inspire her, Allisyn shares what she wished she could have told her younger self. “There are so many different things I would’ve loved to have known when I was younger – many of them falling into the general category of trust yourself and enjoy the journey,” she says.

Allisyn admits that being a woman in the spirits industry has been an uphill battle for a very long time;  but, she feels there’s been a huge amount of progress in the last few years. “Many spirits brands have started to acknowledge the women who have helped them along their journey, some of whom were never recognised in their lifetime,” she explains. “We still have a way to go until I think everyone is on an equal footing globally, but we are on our way. I’ve also noticed every single woman I've met in the spirits industry has always been welcoming, supportive, collaborative and occasionally commiserative,” she says. Allisyn adds that she’s grateful for a community of strong women in this industry who she can always lean on, no matter what brand, spirit, or portfolio.

“I think about all the amazing women working at Starward today. They’re all strong, extremely capable and generally an absolute delight,” she says. “I want to give a shoutout to Kotryna, who is a creative powerhouse of a human and has always been someone I can reach out to – and Carlie, who’s so impressive with her meticulously honed palate, and her intellect and creativity in the spirit-making process.”