Moonshine University - Stave & Theif Society

The Kentucky Distillers’ Association (KDA) has announced that the Stave & Thief Society Bourbon Certification Program is now the official Bourbon education course of the organization and its members.

The program was created in 2015 by the Distilled Spirits Epicenter, the KDA’s official educational member, with input from an independent advisory panel of distilling experts, historians, leaders in the hospitality industry and professional spirits educators.

The curriculum, which has been endorsed by KDA members and Master Distillers, is designed to promote and uphold Bourbon’s unique and distinguished culture by preparing establishments and individuals to deliver an authentic Bourbon experience.

Kentucky Distillers Association Logo“This certification is the first of its kind, and it is only fitting that it was created right here in Kentucky, the birthplace of Bourbon,” said KDA President Eric Gregory said. “We’re proud to give it the KDA’s seal of approval and full endorsement.’

Distilled Spirits Epicenter, located in downtown Louisville, is a purpose-built training center complete with a classroom, distillery, and laboratory that offers the technical training and hands-on experience to those that are ready to take their Bourbon knowledge to the next level.

“This certification creates a standardized platform of non-branded, fact-based education in Bourbon with a heavy focus on production and sensory analysis,” said Colin Blake, Director of Spirits Education at Distilled Spirits Epicenter.

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Stave & Thief Society currently offers two levels of Bourbon Certification.




The first, Certified Bourbon Steward, can be achieved by independent study of the Society’s Handbook and requires passing an online test. The second is the Executive Bourbon Steward, a day-long class at Distilled Spirits Epicenter where students utilize the state-of-the-art classroom, distillery and beverage laboratory.

Since its launch, Stave & Thief Society has certified over 300 Bourbon Stewards from all over the country, including restaurant and bar staffs, hotel personnel, distillery tour directors and wine sommeliers.

Woodford Reserve Distillery Master Distiller Chris Morris distinguished member of the Whisky Magazine Hall of Fame, participated in the curriculum development.

“This certification is viewed as the standard in the Bourbon industry,” said Morris. “It offers students accurate, in-depth information as well as the tools and techniques required to discern and interpret the subtle nuances of Bourbon whiskey.”

Though the program was originally designed for frontline workers in the hospitality industry, the Executive Bourbon Stewards are a balanced mix of service professionals, Bourbon enthusiasts and professionals in the whiskey industry.

“When whiskey legends like Chris Morris praise your program and Diageo sends 25 Masters of Whisky from around the world to take the class, you know you’re doing something pretty special,” Blake said.

Stave & Thief certification will now be required of KDA members who join the Kentucky Bourbon Trail® and the Kentucky Bourbon Trail Craft Tour®, Gregory said.

You can see a complete list of Stave & Thief Society courses along with all Moonshine University courses here.

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