Meet Harlem-based Prism babe and fulltime distiller, Aisha Colindres. After studying chemical engineering in college and moving to New York, she found herself on a path she hadn’t envisioned - distilling vodka. Get to know more about her, her journey, and what she loves about what she does.
Born in Frankfurt, Germany and raised in Florida, Aisha dreamed of living in NYC. “Raised in a multicultural/immigrant household, I always craved living in a metropolitan community where I would feel less different or alone. Also being from Frankfurt and visiting family every summer instilled a love for a more fast-paced inner city lifestyle,” she says. So after graduation, she took a leap of faith and took her chemical engineering degree to the big city.
“In school, I imagined myself working in the pharmaceutical or cosmetics industry, which are some pretty typical options for chemical engineers. I struggled to find a hands-on engineering job in the city, as most were in New Jersey, but after about 8 months of searching, I found a job listing for Distillery Manager and I now run the first distillery in Manhattan since prohibition,” says Aisha.
Working at the Chelsea micro-distillery, Aisha distills, blends, and hand bottles premium-made vodka. “We utilize a unique fermentation of winter wheat in our blend, which imbues a subtle flavor and aroma for an exceptionally smooth drink. We also use fresh botanicals to develop original, naturally infused vodkas.”
The best part of her job? “I really love the intersection of science and creativity,” says Aisha. “Being able to constantly apply my technical knowledge feels really rewarding, but it’s also so fun to use it in a way that leads to interesting products that I get to try at home and share with my friends and family. There’s also something so satisfying about coming away with a physical product of your hard work at the end of the day and getting to use it in a cocktail.”
But despite all her knowledge, hard work, and great achievements, it’s not always easy working in what is traditionally a male-dominated industry. “I love my job and surprising people with what I do - both because I'm a woman and it’s not that common of a job. However, it can also be extremely demoralizing dealing with the assumptions that I don’t fully understand how to do my job, or that I’m unable to carry out the physical labor aspect of my job.”
Aisha continues, “Customers and contractors almost always skip over me and go to my male coworkers to ask questions or talk business. I don’t want to be respected for the novelty of being a woman distiller, constantly feeling like I need to prove myself in this industry in a way that my male coworkers never have. Although it’s something I continue to struggle with, I feel lucky to have found allies in my workplace who've been both supportive of my growth as a distiller and vocally appreciative of my contributions.”
“As a woman in the industry, I would say to be prepared to advocate for yourself,” says Aisha. For anyone interested in pursuing a career in distilling, she says you don’t need to be an engineer but it definitely helps to have a strong technical background. “Working in spirits is a lot of fun, but it's also a lot of work in one of the most heavily regulated industries. You should be someone who pays attention to detail and is committed to safety and quality.”For more on her life in New York, job as a distiller, and really killer style, follow Aisha on IG, and scroll to shop all of her Prism picks.