The Kentucky Distillers’ Association (KDA) was founded in 1880. It represents Kentucky’s signature Bourbon and distilled spirits industry. Its heritage members make up some of the oldest names in the distilling industry. Its newest craft members represent some of the industry’s best and brightest as they enter into one of the most competitive businesses in the world. For the first time in the Associations 141 year storied history they’ve welcomed their first African American owned and operated distillery – Brough Brothers Distillery.
Brough Brothers, the 42nd member of the Association, was founded by Victor, Bryson and Christian Yarbrough, three brothers who were born and raised in Louisville. Their distillery is located in Louisville’s Park Hill community location as a way to support local businesses and economic growth in the historically underserved area of the city’s West End.
“It is an honor to be recognized and accepted as a KDA member,” said Brough Brothers Distillery CEO Victor Yarbrough. “We thank the KDA and its members for their tremendous support as we strive to build a legacy that Kentucky will be proud of.”
“The KDA congratulates Brough Brothers for their vision and perseverance in an industry that has largely remained inaccessible to minority entrepreneurs,” KDA President Eric Gregory said. “Their success as the state’s first African American-owned, licensed and operating distillery is a long-overdue step for our industry.”
Pauline Rooney, Chairwoman of the KDA Board of Directors, said, “This is a welcome and significant breakthrough in the history of Kentucky Bourbon. Our members offer their full support as Brough Brothers expands its operations and provides tourism and employment opportunities as they help revitalize local businesses and the proud heritage of Louisville’s West End.
“We are honored to welcome them to our growing family of Kentucky’s finest distillers,” said Rooney, who is Vice President of Distillation and Maturation for Diageo North America.
Brough Brothers Distillery is the KDA’s 24th Craft-level member, aging less than 10,000 barrels a year, and joins an impressive list of flourishing distilleries in the Louisville area, including Angel’s Envy, Brown-Forman, Evan Williams Bourbon Experience, Heaven Hill, Michter’s, Old Forester, Rabbit Hole, Stitzel-Weller, Barrell Craft Spirits, Copper & Kings, Kentucky Peerless and Moonshine University.
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Brough Brothers Bourbon is currently available on shelves, an 82-proof whiskey with a mash bill of 75 percent corn, 21 percent rye and four percent malted barley. The bottle features drawings of Kentucky’s vibrant culture: Bourbon, basketball, boxing, horse racing and Louisville’s iconic skyline.
Kentucky Distillers’ Associations Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Advisory Panel
Jessica Pendergrass, KDA Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Advisory Panel Co-Chair and General Counsel and Chief Compliance Officer for Heaven Hill Brands, said the addition of Brough Brothers brings much needed perspective to the industry.
Victor and Christian serve on the KDA DEI Advisory Panel, a group of community and business leaders that steer and guide initiatives for the industry.“ African Americans have helped to build and shape our industry, and we need these resilient, entrepreneurial, and empowered voices at the table,” Pendergrass said.
“It has been inspiring getting to know the tremendous men behind Brough Brothers Bourbon. Victor and his brothers came together on this project with purpose and passion – to connect the Black community to economic opportunities in the Bourbon industry, to find ways to elevate and educate the community, and to give back to the community they know and love.
“We can all take a lesson from the intentionality behind their business.”
In addition to the DEI Advisory Panel, the KDA is taking steps to cultivate a culture of diversity, inclusivity, meaningful engagement and collaboration within the industry.
Last year, the KDA created the Lifting Spirits Foundation to fund scholarships at the University of Kentucky, University of Louisville and Kentucky State University’s distilling and fermentation programs to benefit Black, LGBTQIA, women, people of color and other minority and underrepresented groups.
The scholarships, coined “KDA Scholars,” will be funded for many years to come at these flagship institutions. The non-profit group also is working to build similar scholarships at other Kentucky educational institutions in an effort to expand opportunities for traditionally underrepresented, young professionals to launch meaningful careers in Kentucky’s Bourbon and distilled spirits industry.
“We are committed to these initiatives and doing more to create long-term, permanent and historic change in our industry,” Gregory said. “We have a lot of work to do – but we can and will do more to lead our industry, and we are grateful to Brough Brothers for their leadership and support.”
Bourbon is one of Kentucky’s most historic and treasured industries, a booming $8.6 billion economic engine that generates more than 20,100 jobs with an annual payroll topping $1 billion each year, and is one of the state’s main tourism drivers through the KDA’s Kentucky Bourbon Trail® adventures.