Dr. Joy Spence

Meet Dr. Joy Spence: First Woman To Become A Master Blender

Dr. Spence Joy spoke to ESSENCE about what it means to be "successful" in this day and age.

Renowned master blender Dr. Joy Spence was welcomed by the James Beard Foundation in New York City during the Appleton Estate Extraordinary Dinner Series on the weekend of Oct. 30. Afterwards, she sat down for an interview with Essence about her experience being the very first woman to earn the title of master blender in the spirits industry — dedicating her four decade long career to uplifting other women in the industry.

A master blender is someone who develops specific blended spirits using a combination of spirits with different characteristics.

The Appleton Estate Dinner, an invite-only cultural hub for fusion food and alcohol, is a partnership between the Appleton Estate and the Women’s Leadership Program with the James Beard Foundation. The program seeks “to champion gender and racial equity by supporting women throughout the lifecycle of their careers.”

Dr. Spence told Essence that she was honored to be a part of something with a mission so similar to hers.

“James Beard Foundation is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to celebrate, support, and elevate the people behind America’s food culture and champion the standard of good food anchored in talent,” she said.

She continued, “The Women’s Leadership Program really aims to champion gender and racial equality by supporting women through their careers, and Appleton Estate is so excited to have partnered with them on this project because they do amazing work to ensure that there are more women in leadership across the industry in the US. And they share our vision and desire to celebrate people and perspectives, paving the way in the food and beverage industry, which is very, very important to us.”

As a proponent of success and ambition, Dr. Spence shared her wisdom on what it means to make history. She waved off the appeal of winning awards in favor of making the biggest impact that she can.

She said, “For me, success means being an agent of change for women in the spirit industry. Having been the first female master blender in the world, I’ve been able to open the doors and give opportunities to other women to become master blenders in the industry. So, for me, I became an agent of change. And I’m so proud of that and proud of the fact that so many women now have been appointed master blenders.” 

She prides herself on supporting women in every avenue of their careers that she can, as by remaining consistent, she can uplift the next generation of trailblazers to make their mark.

In fact, she admitted that some of her most rewarding work that she’s ever been a part of has been working one on one as a mentor for women in STEM who are “passionate about [their] craft despite challenges.”

“That’s just my dream to elevate as many young women as possible who want to pursue a career in STEM,” she explained.

She teaches young women to “Focus on your craft, be passionate about your craft, always act as a sponge for knowledge, always willing to learn and explore new experiences and benchmark against your competition… Combine your chemistry, technology, or whatever it is with your unique artistry and take it to the next level.”