It’s not too many industries where awards are handed out on the same stage to a CEO responsible for 4,000 employees and a beloved tour guide that’s been hanging around distilleries since the age of five at the same time. But, that is exactly what happened today at the Kentucky Bourbon Hall of Fame inductee luncheon where Freddie Johnson, a beloved tour guide at Buffalo Trace Distillery was awarded the same award as an industry CEO.
The Kentucky Bourbon Hall of Fame was created in 2001 in collaboration between the Kentucky Distillers’ Association and the Kentucky Bourbon Festival. Rob Samuels, eighth generation distiller, Chief Operating Officer at Maker’s Mark Distillery and Chairman of the Kentucky Distillers’ Association’s Board of Directors explained that, “17 years ago the Kentucky Distillers’ Association created the Kentucky Bourbon Hall of Fame in conjunction with the Kentucky Bourbon Festival to recognize individuals and organizations that have made a significant and transformational impact on the stature, growth and success of Kentucky Bourbon. Candidates are nominated each year by the Kentucky Distillers’ Association, our member distilleries, and the Kentucky Bourbon Festival. Names are then sent to the Kentucky Distillers’ Association Board of Directors for final selection.”
Before a crowd of more than 200 Bourbon dignitaries, the hall of Fame inducted three individuals into its hallowed ranks and bestowed its Parker Beam Lifetime Achievement Award on one of the industry’s most successful leaders, visionaries and champions.
“This year’s class truly shows the diversity of personas behind the growing Golden Age of Kentucky Bourbon, from a beloved tour guide whose wisdom and personality embodies and elevates our visitors’ experience, to the leadership and passion of three top executives who have forged the path to our current success,” said Eric Gregory, President of the Kentucky Distillers’ Association.
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“Each, in their own way, has forever transformed our signature spirit. We are eternally grateful for their remarkable achievements, dedication and commitment to our timeless craft, and for that we offer our and commitment to our timeless craft, and for that we offer our heartfelt thanks.”
- Freddie Johnson, VIP Visitor Lead, Buffalo Trace Distillery
- The late Dr. Pearse Lyons, Founder & President, Alltech, Inc. (Town Branch Distillery and Dueling Barrels Distillery)
- Max L. Shapira, President, Heaven Hill Distillery (Lifetime Achievement)
- Matthew J. Shattock, Chairman & CEO, Beam Suntory (Jim Beam Distillery and Maker’s Mark Distillery)
Freddie Johnson, Distillery VIP Visitor Lead, Buffalo Trace Distillery
Freddie Johnson is a third-generation employee at Buffalo Trace Distillery and serves as its Distillery VIP Visitor Lead. Born in Paris, Ky., he spent some of his early childhood summers in the mountains of Breathitt County with his maternal grandfather who was a coal miner and friend to the moonshiners.
Watch Freddie’s Acceptance in the Video Below
Watch the induction ceremony as Freddie Johnson is introduced by AJ Hochhalter, the producer of the feature film “Neat: The Story of Bourbon.” You can watch the film here.
The family moved to Frankfort, Ky., when he was five. Freddie enjoyed hunting, fishing and hanging out with his paternal grandfather, Jimmy Johnson Sr., and father, Jimmy Johnson Jr., at what is now known as Buffalo Trace Distillery.
Freddie was in the middle of a successful career as a network/operations engineer in Atlanta when he put all of it aside to fulfill a promise made to his father, Jimmy, more than 20 years earlier. He had promised his father that he would work at the distillery during his lifetime so they could say they had three generations of the Johnson family that worked at Buffalo Trace.
Freddie took early retirement and moved back to care for his father and brother. Jimmy got him a job as a tour guide at the distillery in 2002 but Freddie has been in and around the distillery since he was five years old.
Freddie weaves together his childhood memories with the distillery’s rich history as he entertains thousands each year in various tours around Buffalo Trace. One of the distillery’s most popular and highly sought after tour guides, Freddie is the recipient of the 2015 ROSE (Recognition of Service Excellence) Award and the 2017 Lexington (Ky) Hospitality Award.
Max L. Shapira, President Heaven Hill Brands
Shapira, now in his 48th year at Heaven Hill, has quietly and steadfastly grown the legendary distillery into one of the leading spirits producers in the country, while remaining true to its independent and family-owned roots.
After spending his childhood growing up in the shadow of the Bardstown distillery, Shapira left the family business to earn his undergraduate degree at Washington and Lee University in 1965 and an MBA from Harvard Business School in 1967.
He joined his family’s company in 1970 as Director of Corporate Planning, after spending five years at Morgan Guaranty Trust (now J.P. Morgan) in New York. Shapira became president in 1996 following the death of his uncle George Shapira, the last surviving member of the five founding Shapira brothers.
Under Shapira’s leadership, Heaven Hill Brands has undergone steady expansion — through internal product development, brand acquisition and international growth — that has taken the company beyond its traditional roots as a Bourbon distiller.
Rob Samuels, eighth generation distiller, Chief Operating Officer at Maker’s Mark Distillery and Chairman of the Kentucky Distillers’ Association’s Board of Directors, said Shapira “exudes a degree of class and integrity that has always been a model for all of us.
“Max Shapira has played a crucial role in the boom that our entire industry is enjoying,” he said. “His guidance and expansion of his family’s business has helped whole generations of customers discover and appreciate Bourbon and other high-quality spirits. That’s been a benefit for the whole Commonwealth.”
Samuels and Kentucky Distillers’ Association President Gregory presented Shapira with a hand-crafted commemorative plaque in the shape of Kentucky made from barrel staves. “Max Shapira is one of the most legendary stewards of our craft, and his creativity, passion and commitment to quality are second to none,” Gregory said.
“Even though he has been hesitant in the past to receive much-deserved recognition, we are honored today to salute his outstanding career and lifetime’s worth of achievements. It’s safe to say that Kentucky Bourbon would not be enjoying its current success without the exemplary leadership of Max Shapira.”
Shapira said, “I’m truly honored to be recognized by the Kentucky Distillers’ Association and Kentucky Bourbon Festival with the Lifetime Achievement Award named after our late Master Distiller Emeritus Parker Beam.
“There are few better industries in this world to be, literally, born into. It is a special community with tremendous respect for our heritage and an energy for the future.”
The award was named in 2015 for Parker Beam, who joined Heaven Hill in 1960 as a sixth-generation distiller in his storied family. He became Master Distiller in 1975 and 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. He died in 2017 at the age of 75.
Dr. Pearse Lyons, Founder & President Alltech, Inc.
In the late 1970s, Dr. Pearse Lyons immigrated to the United States with his young family — Deirdre, Aoife and Mark — and a dream. His vision to sustain the planet and all things living on it by applying his yeast fermentation expertise to agricultural challenges came to life in his home garage with $10,000.
Today, that vision is put to work by Alltech’s global team of more than 6,000 people around the world. Alltech focuses on improving animal, crop and human health and performance through its innovative use of yeast fermentation, enzyme technology and nutrigenomics.
Its mission has always been guided by Dr. Lyons’ early commitment to the “ACE principle” — a promise that the company’s work must have a positive impact on the Animal, the Consumer and the Environment.
Dr. Lyons was first and foremost an entrepreneur and a tireless innovator with a keen scientific mind. His scientific expertise, combined with an acute business sense, helped revolutionize the animal feed industry through the introduction of natural ingredients to animal feed.
Today, Alltech is the only privately held and family-owned business among the top animal health companies in the world.
The company’s reach has also grown far beyond yeast-based additives for animal feed to include award-winning beers and spirits, a crop science business and even promising research into human health challenges, such as diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease.
In 1980, Dr. Lyons established The Alcohol School in Lexington, Ky., one of the few schools at that time for the distilling industry, and ran it for 25 years. He also published and co-authored “The Alcohol Textbook” that evolved over four editions and soon became a key source for the beverage, fuel and industrial alcohol industries.
In 1999, Dr. Lyons purchased the former Lexington Brewing Company in downtown Lexington to resurrect the city’s brewing and distilling tradition that dates back to 1794. The first beer from Dr. Lyons’ new brewery, Alltech Lexington Brewing & Distilling Co., was Kentucky Ale®.
Dr. Lyons established Town Branch Distillery, the first new distillery to be built in Lexington for more than 100 years, and distinguished a new facet of Kentucky’ distilling legacy by becoming the first Craft Member of the Kentucky Distillers’ Association in 2011 and joining the prestigious Kentucky Bourbon Trail® experience in 2012.
Matthew J. Shattock, Chairman & CEO, Beam Suntory
Matthew J. Shattock joined Beam Suntory, the world’s third largest premium spirits company, in March 2009 as President & CEO. Since that time, Shattock has led the company’s successful growth strategy transformation, emergence as a stand-alone public company in 2011, acquisition by Suntory Holdings Limited in 2014 and the subsequent integration of the Beam and Suntory spirits businesses.
Shattock is responsible for some of the world’s most iconic spirits brands, including Jim Beam, Yamazaki, Maker’s Mark and Courvoisier, more than 20 production and commercial facilities around the world, and a global team of more than 4,000 employees.
Shattock is a veteran leader in the global consumer packaged goods industry with both U.S. and global business experience. Prior to joining Beam, he spent six years at Cadbury plc, where he led their businesses first in the Americas and then in the Europe, Middle East & Africa region.
Prior to Cadbury, Shattock spent 16 years at Unilever, an international manufacturer of food, home care and personal care products. Here he held brand development and general management positions of increasing responsibility, culminating in his role as Chief Operating Officer of Unilever Best Foods North America.
Shattock serves on the Board of Directors of Suntory Holdings, VF Corporation and The Clorox Company.
Shattock earned a bachelor of arts degree with honors from Durham University and also served as a tank troop commander in the British Army. He, his wife, Sue, and three children reside in the Chicago area.
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