SERVED neat and or even on the rocks whisky was once the most manly of drinks. But now aficionados claim the beloved tipple of macho icons from Humphrey Bogart to Winston Churchill is finally casting off the old stereotypes with the help of an increasing number of women working in the industry.

Their increasingly high profile role is to be celebrated at a sell-out Women and Whisky event as part of the Audacious Women festival held in Edinburgh next month. It is staged by Justine Hazelhurst, a former French teacher ,who quit three years ago to set up whisky heritage tours in Fife after being inspired by visiting Kingsbarns distillery.

While setting up her business she started hosting whisky tastings in and around Edinburgh and was struck by the number of women now working at a high level in the industry. The event aims to showcase their talents.

She said: "I have met plenty of women who work in the industry. For me, the issue is how these key figures, who happen to be women are reported or written about. They are often referred to as 'playing a role' – rather than working, achieving, succeeding – and it undermines their influence. People never talk about the 'role' that men play in the whisky industry."

Guests at the event include Rachel Barrie, a master blender at Beam Suntory, which produces malt whisky Bowmore, Ginny Boswell, a sales manager for Wemyss Malts, Alex Cameron, brand ambassador for Eden Mill Brewery and Distillery, and Karen Somerville co-founder of Angels' Share Glass.

Although women are often absent from the history of Scottish whisky, they were heavily involved in its inception, which – like beer brewing – took place in farms and crofts, with women often stirring the mash tuns used in the fermenting process or adjusting the flame under the still.

Important women include Helen and Elizabeth Cumming, who ran the Cardhu distillery in Archiestow in the 19th century and Bessie Williamson, who became the managing director of the Laphroaig distillery on Islay in 1944, making her the only woman to own and run a Scottish distillery in the 20th Century.

Hazelhurst added: "Although the event is open to all genders, I can see from ticket sales that there are significantly more women attending, so I’m hoping that people go away and spread the word that whisky isn’t solely a man’s drink."

Alex Cameron of Eden Mill, one of the new generation of craft distillers whose first single malt will not be ready until January next year, said that at only 24 she had not experienced barriers as a woman working in the industry. However she was aware of the traditional male image of old. "Stereotypically, it's been men that are more interested in whisky," she said. "Certainly different whiskies suit different palates but that has absolutely nothing to do with gender."

She agreed the shake-up was supported by the new generation of smaller and more innovative Scottish distillers of which Eden Mill is part. Arbikie Distillery in Angus recently brought Kirsty Black onboard as its Master Distiller, a role still rarely held by women.

Master blender Rachel Barrie, who will take part in the event, said that although she was glad for the "struggles" that she'd had to make it as a women in the industry it was no longer so male-dominated. "It's similar to trends in many professions," she said. "I'm lucky to be a whisky maker in the 21st Century."

And she said she hoped the event would help encourage more women to learn about the drink's rich cultural heritage.

"I love that, when I make and taste whisky, I'm continuously learning more about the beauty, complexities and wonders of nature – the idiosyncrasies in our landscape, environment, culture, people," she said. "With each breath and taste I can sense the essence of its past and it leads me to imagine its future."