Getting paid to taste bourbon every day is a job that most whiskey lovers can only dream about. For Eboni Major, it’s just a normal part of her morning routine.
With a degree in food science and technology, Major thought she was destined to spend her life working in the quality control department of a food company. But when an opportunity to work in the whiskey industry cropped up in 2015, she knew that she had to apply and a little more than four years later she’s the whiskey blender for Bulleit Bourbon.
Major now spends her time ensuring that your glass of Bulleit tastes like Bulleit—from one batch to the next. Here’s a glimpse of her day-to-day as a blender, including what she loves about the role and the most challenging part of tasting bourbon as a professional.
What did you want to be when you were growing up? “I don’t remember having a definitive career goal when I was growing up, but I always wanted to be in a challenging atmosphere. I chose food science because of my fascination with ingredients and functionality. I love learning, so it was important that I sought a career where every day felt like a new science experiment. Luckily, I found that at Bulleit as a whiskey blender.”
Did you go to school planning to be a whiskey blender? “I went to Alabama A&M University to major in food science with a minor in chemistry. While there is no formal degree to become a whiskey blender, I believe food science and chemistry were the perfect foundations to start my journey. Before joining the Bulleit team, I studied and trained in food chemistry, engineering, microbiology, sensory science and product development.”
Can you tell us your typical daily routine? “My days are planned in a few segments. We are always receiving tons of samples from the Bulleit distillery and warehouses, so we make sure we plan out our appraisals in advance. The appraisal samples for the day are poured in the morning, and we can appraise up to 50 samples of both distillates and maturates.
The rest of my day is spent working on other projects, whether it be quality improvements, formula maintenance or innovations. I also love interacting with our consumers and whiskey specialists, so I try to pop over to the Bulleit Distilling Co. Visitor Experience at least one or two times a week.
On the rare occasion that I have some spare time in my day, I’ll head over to [the distillery’s] sustainable greenhouse where we plant ingredients and garnishes for our on-site cocktail bar. Our on-site beverage manager Dani will tell me what’s in season and what could pair well with our Bulleit variants for cocktails. It’s always fun to chat with people on the team who have that same passion for experimenting with ingredients.”
What’s the most challenging part of being a whiskey blender? “Discipline and perfection. Being a blender takes a lot of training and discipline. You also naturally become a perfectionist, as it can take 10 to 20 formulas to get the one that is just right. No matter how many it takes, we don’t stop until the formula is an exact match to our high-quality expectations for Bulleit.”
Since blending is so much about the nose, do you refrain from eating certain foods or wearing anything with a scent when you’re working? “I don’t wear any scented items Monday through Friday. Ironically, I have been more interested in perfumes nowadays for the weekends—I think it’s because it is like forbidden fruit. I also pretty much eat the same thing for breakfast and lunch. I avoid heavy or lingering flavors during the day or make sure I appraise all samples before lunch.”
How do you like drinking Bulleit when you’re not tasting at the distillery? “My two go-to serves are Bulleit Bourbon 10-Year-Old neat or Bulleit Bourbon mixed with a homemade fruit syrup and a splash of ginger beer.”