Bourbon Industry Pioneer, Legend and Master Distiller Dave Pickerell Has Died

 In Blog

Distilled spirits industry icon and pioneering distiller Dave Pickerell died recently in San Francisco. Pickerell spent 14 years as Master Distiller for Maker’s Mark Distillery before venturing out to help start many of the craft distilling operations now seen across the country. He was also critical in restoring George Washington’s Distillery at Mount Vernon, one of his crowning achievements.

“Dave Pickerell was a true icon in the distilling world, and an innovator and mentor to so many,” said Frank Coleman, Senior Vice President, Distilled Spirits Council (DISCUS). “With Bill Samuels at Maker’s Mark, Dave helped launch the premiumization of Bourbon, a trend that has swept around the globe.”

“He was a leader of the original team of distillers involved in the restoration of George Washington’s Distillery and the recreation of the first Rye Whiskey at the site in 200 years. That effort in the early 2000s sparked the revival and subsequent boom in Rye whiskey that followed. And, through his teaching, consulting and friendship, he was a founding father of the craft distilling movement that is exploding in the United States.”

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“The Kentucky Distillers’ Association and its 40 members are saddened and shocked at the untimely passing of our friend and colleague, Dave Pickerell,” said Kentucky Distillers’ Association President Eric Gregory. “In addition to his past duties as Master Distiller at Maker’s Mark, Dave was a longtime member of the Kentucky Distillers’ Association Board of Directors and was instrumental in the relaunch of the Association as a full-time organization in 2007. We all know and remember Dave as a larger-than-life figure, always present at whiskey events with his trademark hat, holding court and educating throngs of fans on the art and science of distilling. Dave has left an indelible influence on many brands, and few will ever match his passion for whiskey and Kentucky Bourbon. We hope whiskey fans around the world will keep Dave and his family in their prayers, and raise a glass of their favorite spirit tonight to honor his memory and celebrate his life and legacy. He will be missed.”

Dave Pickerell Has His Fingerprint on More Than 100 Distilleries

Dave’s career in the liquor industry stems from his education and training as a chemist and as a chemical engineer and consultant in the industry. His career started in the military, serving for 11 years as a cavalry officer with logistics, training, and parachutist specialties. He graduated from the US Military Academy at West Point with a BS in Chemistry. He later received his master’s degree in Chemical Engineering from the University of Louisville.

WhistlePig Distillery - Bottled in Barn, Farmstock Rye Whiskey Label, Fingerprint

Dave Pickerell quite literally has his finger print on 100+ distilleries throughout the world.

Dave is well known among Kentucky distillers for his breadth of knowledge in the production of bourbon. In addition to serving as a past chair and director for the Kentucky Distillers Association, he served as the chair of its technical committee. He has also served on the technical committee of the Distilled Spirits Council.

Dave spent more than 14 years overseeing the handmade production of Maker’s Mark bourbon in Loretto, Kentucky, from 1994 to 2008. Dave has been providing consulting services to the craft spirits industry through his company, Oak View Spirits. He has been involved in everything from new brand investigation to operator training and facility design and optimization.

Among his favorite assignments, he served as the Master Distiller for George Washington’s Distillery at Mount Vernon, where he oversaw the commercial production of George Washington’s Rye Whiskey, including the first batch made since 1814.

He has designed equipment, systems and processes for more than 100 distilleries worldwide. The industry has lost a true, modern day pioneer.

The American Craft Spirits Association, home to many of those 100+ distilleries that Dave helped to start released this statement.

“On behalf of the American Craft Spirits Association (ACSA), we are heartbroken to learn of Dave Pickerell’s sudden passing. In addition to serving as an early industry visionary, Dave left an indelible mark on the entire craft spirits community, and his contribution as a founding affiliate member of ACSA can never be overlooked.

As an original member of the Board of Directors (ex officio), Dave offered keen insight, thoughtful reflection, and a genuine interest in furthering ACSA’s mission to elevate and advocate for the community of craft spirits producers. Unafraid to voice his opinion, even if holding a minority view, Dave pushed the board to new heights. As a master in his field, Dave also helped bring to market countless small brands, contributing to the overall growth and strength of our craft spirits industry.”

We’ll continue to update this story as the accolades roll in.

Related Story
George Washington’s Distillery Celebrates 10th & 220th Year Anniversaries [Photos]
What is American Rye Whiskey?

Resource: Oakview Spirits

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