Meet the Women Partnering With A Whiskey Brand To Reimagine Narrative of Women In Spirits


October 17, 2020

You can always count on Black women!

Veteran industry mavens Dia Simms and Erin Harris have partnered with Saint Liberty Whiskey to create a new narrative for women in the spirit industry, Forbes reports.


Simms and Harris are the founders of spirits advisory and investment company, Hands. Together, the two industry vets have a combined total of 30+ years in the wine and spirits industry, getting their start in the game working under Washington, D.C. nightlife impresario Marc Barnes. The duo climbed their way to the top, focusing on premium alcohol and customized consumer hospitality. They’ve been working behind some of the biggest brands like Ciroc and Sean “Diddy” Combs’ Combs Enterprises. Simms served there as former president with Harris working currently as senior vice president. Now the duo has come together again to become part owners of Saint Liberty Whiskey.

Their first goal as new owners is to reshape the narrative around women in the spirits industry by telling the stories of famous women bootleggers, to carve out a new future for women in the multi-billion dollar sector. The first installment of the campaign focused on the Prohibition era centers around Montana bootlegger Bertie “Birdie” Brown, a Black woman known all across the Rocky Mountains for her famous moonshine. In Birdie’s honor, Simms and Harris have released “Bertie’s Bear Gulch Bourbon” whiskey under the Saint Liberty brand, a premium hooch made exclusively with water from the same Rocky Mountains Birdie used a century prior. 

Photo Courtesy of Saint Liberty Whiskey/Forbes


Simms explained why she and Harris felt it was so important to tell the story of women bootleggers at this point, saying, “If you look at the history of America, frankly, it’s replete with untold stories. It’s a disservice to all Americans to hear filtered, selected excerpts from our history, and it drives a false narrative that leads to women and people of color being disproportionately left out…It appears that there actually were more women bootleggers during this time period than men.”

Harris agreed, saying, “Just like these 1920 bootleggers who have these untold stories, there are many [current] women and Black women, specifically, who haven’t had these stories told about them as well.”

“The women who are successful in the spirits industry often, frankly, aren’t at the same level from a compensation standpoint. They’re largely unheard of, so many brands only celebrate the story of men. Part of what Hands is set up to do is to be part of that change,” Simms added. 


Saint Liberty Whiskey founder and chief historian, Mark SoRelle, spoke about the new partnership, saying, “We are so thrilled to have Hands as partners in Saint Liberty Whiskey. With [Simms and Harris’] experience in wine and spirits and disciplined approach to brand building, they will be an invaluable asset to our team.”

The spirits trailblazers plan to follow in the steps of the women who came before them to forge a new equity path for women in the industry. With women and millennials driving the sector, Simms and Harris hope to reflect the culture in leadership and tell authentic brand stories that connect with their consumers. 

“It’s incredibly important for women to be part of the conversation at every level. They are not only the ones purchasing at the liquor store, they need to also be at the board level and throughout the entire supply chain,” Simms said. 


Congratulations Dia & Erin! This is phenomenal!

Photo Courtesy of Shareif Ziyadat/Forbes

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