It’s our pleasure today to help celebrate a remarkable individual whose career in the hospitality and tourism industry has been nothing short of extraordinary. I’m very happy to announce Whitney Rorison as the recipient of the Excellence in Hospitality and Tourism Award.
Whitney Rorison embarked on her career in the hospitality and tourism industry back in 2001 when she was just 18 years old. Her passion for this field led her to work in the wine, craft beer, and spirits sector. Whitney’s journey began at the Jackson-Triggs Niagara Estate Winery, where she started as a retail associate and worked her way up to becoming the Events Manager.
Over the years, Whitney took on pivotal roles at several distinguished establishments, including Fielding Estate Winery, Oast House Brewers, and Dillon’s Small Batch Distillers, where she has been since 2012. At Dillon’s, she oversees all guest experiences, leads the hospitality team, acts as the Marketing Manager, and serves as the Brand Steward. Whitney’s incredible talents extend beyond her career, as she is also the author of an award-winning and internationally distributed cocktail book, published in 2019 by Penguin Random House.
But Whitney’s contribution to Niagara goes well beyond her impressive career. She has actively participated in the community and made a substantial impact. She served on the Board of Directors for the Twenty Valley Tourism Association, now known as Niagara Benchlands, for multiple terms. Whitney also played a crucial role as the Event Chair for the Winter Wine Fest in both 2017 and 2018.
Education has been a significant part of Whitney’s journey as well. For three years, she dedicated her time to teaching the Sales & Marketing course at Niagara College for Brewmaster program students from 2015 to 2018. Whitney’s passion for sharing her expertise is evident in her contributions to the industry. She has been a sought-after speaker, sharing her insights at the TIAO Conference and presenting at the Culinary Tourism Alliance Summit during her time with Dillon’s.
The firm holds a special place in Whitney’s heart and in our community as the first craft distillery to open in Niagara. Over the last decade, the distillery has grown significantly, expanding its offerings to over 100 products available exclusively at the distillery and distributed across Canada and the United States. Whitney and her team’s vision is deeply rooted in crafting spirits and cocktails with a strong focus on local and in-season ingredients, while actively working with local grape growers and farmers to source their ingredients.
One of Dillon’s most important aspects is offering unique and immersive distillery tours, tastings, blending, and cocktail-making experiences. The distillery has also been dedicated to organizing numerous events both at the distillery and across the region, acting as ambassadors for the Niagara community.
But the true mark of a leader is how they deal with crises, even more than with opportunities. The pandemic created a shift in business dynamics, with in-person visits and experiences taking a huge hit, as they did across the industry. Despite these challenges, Whitney and her team adapted and grew their online and direct-to-consumer business by nearly 200% in both 2020 and 2021. Their innovative approach and adaptability set them apart in an ever-changing landscape.
Whitney’s relentless dedication to pushing the envelope is evident in her commitment to creating the best distillery guest experience in the world. She has consistently introduced new experiences, such as guests blending their own gins and, in 2024, plans to launch the “Craft Your Own Whisky” experience, allowing guests to customize their whisky based on their preferences.
However, Whitney’s contributions extend far beyond her distillery. She is passionate about collaborating with local chefs, makers, and artisans within the Niagara community. Her commitment to the phrase “better together” exemplifies the spirit of collective support and community.
Moreover, when the pandemic and the lockdowns had isolated us all, Whitney and her team at Dillon’s Small Batch Distillers brought us together again, initiating the “Sipping Room experience” by offering cocktail kits through their website and online shop. They hosted weekly virtual cocktail-making classes, bringing the community together in a safe and enjoyable manner during a challenging time.
In addition to her professional endeavors, Whitney is also an active member of various communities, both personally and professionally. She is closely connected to the local farming community, with a particular focus on sharing the rich agricultural stories of growers and farmers in the Niagara region. She supports many local organizations and initiatives, including Community Care, the YWCA, local animal shelters, and various events promoting arts and culture in Niagara.
Whitney Rorison’s journey in the hospitality and tourism industry is nothing short of remarkable. Her innovative approach, leadership, and dedication have made a profound impact on the Niagara region. She is a symbol of resilience, adaptability, and a commitment to creating memorable experiences for all. Her ability to lead her team in not only overcoming the challenges posed by the pandemic but thriving in the face of adversity is a testament to her exceptional leadership.
As we celebrate Whitney today, we also honor her special place in our community and the role she plays in bringing people together through the art of distilling and cocktail culture. She is a shining example of excellence in the hospitality and tourism sector. Thank you, Whitney, for your outstanding contributions, your innovative spirit – no pun intended – and your work to bring us together through shared experiences and shared joy. Congratulations on receiving the Excellence in Hospitality and Tourism Award.