The Kentucky Bourbon Hall of Fame list of rock stars has some new members and a lifetime achievement award for one of Bourbons most famous faces, that of a man known among his peers, as the “Buddha of Bourbon.”
The Kentucky Distillers’ Association and the Kentucky Bourbon Festival created the Kentucky Bourbon Hall of Fame in 2001 to recognize individuals and organizations that have made a significant and transformational impact on Bourbon’s stature, growth and awareness. It is the highest honor given by the signature industry and is presented annually during the Kentucky Bourbon Festival happening this week in Bardstown, KY, the “Bourbon Capital of the World.”
Candidates may be nominated each year by the Kentucky Distillers’ Association, its member distilleries and the Kentucky Bourbon Festival. Nominees are then sent to the KDA Board of Directors for final selection. The four categories are Industry, Journalism, Roll of Honor and Lifetime Achievement.
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The 2016 Kentucky Bourbon Hall of Fame Inductees
“This year’s distinguished class has a shared theme – they served behind-the-scenes to promote, protect and elevate our timeless craft,” said Eric Gregory, president of the Kentucky Distillers’ Association. “But make no mistake – they are the backbone of our growth and success.”
“Today we rightfully shine the spotlight on them in gratitude and congratulations. Their remarkable achievements have propelled Kentucky Bourbon into a Golden Age that continues to provide new jobs, investment and global recognition for our beloved Commonwealth.”
This year’s inductees are:
- Jimmy Russell, Master Distiller, Wild Turkey (Lifetime Achievement)
- Barry Becton, Senior Director of State Government Affairs, Diageo North America
- Joy Perrine, author and veteran award-winning bartender at Equus Restaurant and Jack’s Lounge in Louisville
- John Rhea, former Chief Operating Officer, Four Roses Distillery
- William M. Street, former President, Brown-Forman Corp.
Jimmy Russell, Master Distillery Wild Turkey Bourbon
Russell, now in his 62nd year making whiskey at Wild Turkey, was honored with the Parker Beam Lifetime Achievement Award. He was elected a charter member of the Hall of Fame in 2001 and a Lifetime Honorary Member of the KDA Board in 2014.
“It is truly an honor and a privilege to receive this award because not only is Parker a true Kentucky legend, but one of my closest friends,” Russell said. “We grew up over Bourbon together, and I’ve lost count on the number of evenings we’ve swapped stories over a glass of my whiskey or his whiskey. All I can tell you is there have been a lot of laughs.
“Parker is a champion of our industry and a real fighter, and I admire him greatly. I wish him, the entire Beam family and the KDA my deepest thanks for this recognition.”
During his esteemed tenure, Russell has been responsible for the creation and launch of renowned Bourbons, such as Tradition, Tribute, Rare Breed, American Honey, Kentucky Spirit and Russell’s Reserve, which he co-created with his distilling partner and son, Eddie.
Known among peers as the “Buddha of Bourbon” and a true champion of the industry, Russell has received numerous awards around the world for his dedicated craftsmanship and lifelong support of Kentucky and its famous export.
“Jimmy’s willingness to help educate succeeding generations of Master Distillers is legendary,” Chris Morris, Chairman of the KDA Board of Directors and Master Distiller at Brown-Forman said. “He is our link to many of the traditions of the past that make our industry so special.”
The award was named last year for Parker Beam, who joined Heaven Hill in 1960 working under his father, Earl, as a sixth-generation distiller in his storied family. He became Master Distiller in 1975 and has earned numerous awards for distilling, aging and selecting some of the world’s most acclaimed Bourbons.
He was named Master Distiller Emeritus in 2013 shortly after being diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), or Lou Gehrig’s disease. His public advocacy for ALS research, care and awareness has generated millions for his “Promise of Hope” fund. If you want to learn more about Parker Beam, read this heartfelt article, “Parker Beam, The Promise of Hope” by Fred Minnick.
“Jimmy and I have known each other for over 50 years I have nothing but respect and admiration for Jimmy and his family,” Beam said. “I am proud to have him be the first recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award that the Kentucky Bourbon Hall of Fame named for me last year, particularly since we both have literally spent our lifetimes working in this industry.”
“It’s with great honor that we welcome these outstanding individuals to our hallowed ranks,” Gregory said. “Their names are forever etched into the history of our timeless craft, alongside legendary icons whose roots run deep in Bourbon lore.”
Barry Becton, Senior Director, State Government Affairs, Diageo North America
Throughout his 16 years with Diageo, Barry has worked in several corporate relations capacities, including leading Diageo’s Government and Community Relations agenda in Kentucky for the past nine years. He secured stakeholder support for the construction of a new distillery in Shelby County and renovations to the historic Stitzel-Weller Distillery in Louisville that added The Bulleit Experience to the Kentucky Bourbon Trail® tour.
As Chairman of the Kentucky Distillers’ Association’s Governmental Affairs Advisory Group from 2010-2016, Barry’s leadership with the KDA and member companies secured a series of legislative victories that propelled Bourbon to one of the fastest growing sectors in beverage alcohol. From 2009 when Barry and other distillery representatives fought against unfair tax increases by holding a “Bourbon Tea Party” on the Capitol steps, to the passage of SB 11 this year which modernizes Bourbon tourism opportunities in the Commonwealth, his efforts to ingrain the idea of Bourbon as a signature industry with legislators has been invaluable.
Joy Perrine, Award-Winning Bartender and Author
For more than 30 years, she has been promoting the versatility of Bourbon at Equus Restaurant and Jack’s Lounge. Joy goes beyond crafting tasty cocktails. She is passionate about educating consumers about the different flavors of Bourbon, the manner in which they can meld with fruits and juices and the way they can complement a wide range of foods.
And, her expertise is not limited to Jack’s Lounge. Several top Bourbon producers have drawn on Joy’s expertise to assist with product development and flavor analysis.
Currently, she serves on the faculty of Moonshine University, the Ivy League school of the Spirits Industry, alongside such notable industry dignitaries as David Hobbs, Chris Morris, Jimmy Russell and Bill Samuels.
She and food writer Susan Reigler co-wrote The Kentucky Bourbon Cocktail Book, which Albert Schmidt called “A gem for cocktail lovers and Bourbon lovers alike.”
John Rhea, Chief Operating Office, Four Roses Distillery
A 40-year veteran of Four Roses Distillery, John Rhea has been a key leader in elevating Kentucky’s signature Bourbon and distilled spirits industry to unprecedented heights, and has played a vital role in the historic resurgence of Four Roses and its legendary brands.
Mr. Rhea, a native of Bullitt County, began his career at Four Roses as a Maintenance Supervisor after graduating from the University of Kentucky with a Bachelor of Science degree in Mechanical Engineering.
His wealth of experience in building and operating distilleries around the world led to his current position as Chief Operating Officer, where his tireless efforts have transformed Four Roses back to its rightful place as one of the world’s most premium and sought-after whiskies.
His vision and legislative advocacy also has helped mold the Kentucky Bourbon Trail® experience into a global tourism attraction. It was during his tenure as Chairman in 2011 that led the KDA to strengthen its intellectual property and trademark assets that have secured the Kentucky Bourbon Trail as a unique destination with international fame and recognition.
William M. Street, Former President Brown-Forman
It could be said that Bill Street was born into Kentucky distilling. He was born September 23, 1938, in Louisville, Kentucky, to Dan and Frances Street. At the time, Bill’s father was Brown-Forman’s general counsel, and would go on to a 35-year career at Brown-Forman retiring as President in 1969 and serving on its board for nearly 40 years.
He was named president of Brown-Forman Corporation in 1999, and retired from the company in 2003. In addition to these roles, Bill was elected to the Brown-Forman Board of Directors and the Executive Committee of Brown-Forman in 1971. He would serve on the executive committee for 32 years and as a director for 40 years, retiring from service in 2011.
Congratulations to the 2016 Kentucky Bourbon Hall of Fame inductees!
Cover image courtesy of KDA.