Distilled Spirits Council - 2021 DISCUS Award Winners

The Distilled Spirits Council of the United States – DISCUS the leading voice and advocate for distilled spirits celebrated their 2nd annual conference in AustinTexas this week.

The conference is comprised of large heritage distillers as well as craft spirits makers from across the United States and the entire world. The Association’s awards include the Lifetime Achievement Award, Dave Pickerell Memorial Craft Member of the Year Award, Humanitarian/Service Award and Impact Award for Emerging Leaders. The event was emceed by the industry’s first female Master Bourbon Taster and Bourbon Women Association Founder Peggy Noe Stevens.

“The spirits community is honored to celebrate the outstanding contributions of these exemplary leaders who have each in their own way supported the growth of our great industry and the wider appreciation for our special products,” said President and CEO of DISCUS and Responsibility.org Chris Swonger.

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And the Winner is…


DISCUS Lifetime Achievement Award Goes to Jim Beam 7th Generation Master Distiller Fred Noe

Number One

The DISCUS Lifetime Achievement Award honors an individual who supports the industry during their lifetime through significant innovation and promotion of the industry, commercial strategy, advocacy or responsibility.

Jim Beam Distillery 7th Generation Master Distiller Fred Noe, a Kentucky Bourbon Hall of Fame member, has been an industry stalwart for years and a pioneer for innovation during the bourbon renaissance. As master distiller of the world’s top-selling bourbon brand, Fred has propelled Jim Beam through an incredible period of global growth.

He has maintained the standards of his flagship White Label and award-winning Jim Beam Black while driving premium innovations and taking his family’s small batch bourbon collection to new heights, from the award-winning Booker’s Rye to Knob Creek Single Barrel, Knob Creek Rye, Baker’s Single Barrel, Basil Hayden’s Rye and Legent.

Fred has been an incredible bourbon ambassador, representing the bourbon industry around the globe and educating and inspiring others to discover America’s native spirit. Fred has left his mark on every single person he has met or raised a glass with.

DISCUS Dave Pickerell Memorial Craft Member of the Year Goes to James E. Pepper Distillery Owner Amir Peay

Two

The DISCUS Dave Pickerell Memorial Craft Member of the Year Award is in memory of Dave Pickerell, the “Johnny Appleseed of craft distilling” and is awarded to a leader in advancing the craft distiller community and supporting the association with its advocacy efforts. 

James E. Pepper Distillery Owner and Operator Amir Peay has been a long-time DISCUS advocate, serving on the Craft Advisory Council for many years and consistently participating in industry advocacy efforts that advance the entire industry. Amir has served as a “go-to” craft distiller spokesperson for DISCUS legislative and policy efforts, volunteering for numerous media interviews and always providing salient quotes on priority issues from the Craft Beverage Modernization and Tax Reform Act to tariffs. 

Amir has worked to help preserve the history of American distilling through his efforts to renovate and rebuild the historic James E. Pepper Distillery, a National Historic Landmark, in Lexington, Kentucky, which had been abandoned for more than 50 years.

Additionally, Amir has contributed to DISCUS membership growth through his support for recruiting efforts and outreach to prospective members.

DISCUS Humanitarian/Service Award Goes to U.S. Bartender’s Guild Executive Director Aaron Smith

Three

The DISCUS Humanitarian/Service Award honors a company or organization that has made exemplary and extraordinary contributions to their community and/or the hospitality industry during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Humanitarian/Service Award went to U.S. Bartender’s Guild Executive (USBG) Director Aaron Smith. The USBG has been at the forefront of providing direct assistance to displaced on-premise hospitality industry professionals. Through the Bartender Emergency Relief Fund’s COVID-19 Relief Grant Program, the USBG Foundation raised more than $9.6 million and awarded 32,000 grants to bartenders around the country.

Aside from the COVID-19 Grant Program, the USBG Foundation continues to provide grants to those in the bar industry seeking financial assistance. USBG also provides bartenders with critical mental health, crisis and survivor resources.

DISCUS Impact Award for Emerging Leaders Goes to Master Distiller Old Dominick Distillery Alex Castle

Four

The DISCUS Impact Award for Emerging Leaders recognizes the achievements of an emerging young professional who has made significant contributions to their company and/or to the industry and has demonstrated the potential for leadership and continued service.

Alex Castle is the Master Distiller and Senior Vice President of Old Dominick Distillery in Memphis, Tennessee and President of the Tennessee Distillers Guild.  At the age of 33, Alex is the first female head distiller in Tennessee since Prohibition. A chemical engineer, Alex began her spirits career at Wild Turkey, and after five years, moved to Tennessee to build Old Dominick Distillery from the ground up. She created the distillery’s first batch of Tennessee Whiskey in 2016.

Alex serves as president of the Tennessee Distillers Guild, member of the DISCUS Craft Advisory Council and board member of The Spirit Hub Independent Distillery Preservation Fund. Alex was also recently chosen for DISCUS Academy’s Executive Leadership Program for promising young executives for her strong advocacy for the industry. At Old Dominick Distillery, Alex is also doing her part to ensure a more diverse industry by instituting more inclusive hiring practices and ensuring the distillery is a welcoming workplace for all.


Each DISCUS award was created by Vendome Copper and Brass Works, manufacturer of handcrafted batch and continuous distillation systems of all sizes.

The Distilled Spirits Council of the United States is the leading voice for distilled spirits in the U.S., advocating on legislative, regulatory and public affairs issues impacting the distilled spirits sector at the local, state, federal and international levels. DISCUS members are committed to responsibility and encourage adults who drink to do so in moderation.

When & Where is the DISCUS 2022 Conference?

The DISCUS 3rd Annual Conference will take place June 2022 in New Orleans, Louisiana. We’ll share the dates as soon as they are available.

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