The sun shone bright on my old Kentucky home as Kentucky distillers along with more than 200 friends and family joined together this Bourbon Heritage Month to induct six new members into the Kentucky Bourbon Hall of Fame®.
The Kentucky Bourbon Hall of Fame was created in 2001 to recognize the sacrifice, passion, and determination of those who have made Kentucky Bourbon what it is today. It is the highest honor given by the signature industry. The ceremony was skipped the last couple year because of the pandemic but it returned in all its glory on a beautiful Kentucky blue sky summer day.
The ceremony welcomed its 20th class live in and person at My Old Kentucky Home State Park in Bardstown, Kentucky, the Bourbon Capital of the World. And if you are now hearing the states song in your head that’s because The Misty Mountain String band was there playing My Old Kentucky Home along with many other favorite bluegrass tunes.
The event kicked off as the unofficial start of this years Kentucky Bourbon Festival. The celebration was emceed by Kentucky Distillers’ Association (KDA) President Eric Gregory. After a few opening words that you can watch in the video above he introduced The Kentucky Bourbon Benefit crew, Governor Andy Beshear and a presenter for each new inductee.
“This year’s esteemed class celebrates the visionaries, artisans and partners that have made Kentucky Bourbon – and our beloved Commonwealth – the gold standard of American whiskey,” Gregory said.
“We are thrilled to welcome them to the Hall of Fame and, on behalf of our industry, offer a humbled and heartfelt thank you.”
Kentucky Gov. Beshear added, “Bourbon is a signature Kentucky industry that employs thousands of our people to produce a product known and loved around the world. The Kentucky Bourbon Hall of Fame ceremony is a great chance to celebrate both the pioneers and the innovators whose vision and craftsmanship keeps pushing bourbon to new heights.
“I am honored to take part in this celebration and look forward to seeing where the next generation of leaders in this field will take us.”
Kentucky Bourbon Benefit Delivers $1.4 Million Check for Eastern Kentucky Flood Relief
Unfortunately, Kentucky has seen its share of natural disasters over the last dozen months. It was in December of 2021 that the Western part of the state was struck by a horrific tornado that stayed on the ground for more than 200 miles causing massive destruction. Soon after the event, the bourbon community stepped up and created The Kentucky Bourbon Benefit to raise money to help the tornado victims with recovery and rebuilding efforts. The group was organized by the Kentucky Distillers’ Association in partnership with the Bourbon Crusaders charitable organization, Bourbon curator Fred Minnick and Louisville-based Westport Whiskey & Wine. That campaign raised $3.4 million for this unprecedented tornado disaster.
Tragedy struck again between July 25th and July 30th in the Eastern where deadly flash flooding brought widespread damage and loss of life to the Appalachia area. The Kentucky Bourbon Benefit team once again joined forces and raised $1.4 million for relief efforts raised by an online bourbon auction. A total of 3,626 bidders representing all 50 states and Washington D.C. vied for the auction’s 533 lots, placing more than 17,300 bids in total.
The Kentucky Bourbon Hall of Fame Welcomes 6 New Members in 2022
This year, for the first time ever, a blue-ribbon committee of renowned Hall of Fame members reviewed and selected inductees. Candidates are nominated each year by the KDA and its member distilleries in three categories: Industry, Roll of Honor and Lifetime Achievement.
The selection committee includes all living recipients of the Parker Beam Lifetime Achievement Award: Jimmy Russell, Master Distiller of Wild Turkey; Bill Samuels, Jr., Chairman Emeritus of Maker’s Mark Distillery; Max Shapira, Executive Chairman of Heaven Hill Brands and Even Kulsveen, Executive Director of Willett Distillery.
Related Story – How Inductees into the Hall of Fame are Chosen
The class of 2022 includes six new members. Below is a quick summary of each new member and a link to a stand along article and video for each recipient.
- Andrea Marie Wilson, distinguished industry veteran, Executive Vice President, General Manager and Master of Maturation at Michter’s Distillery, and in 2009, the first woman to chair the KDA Board of Directors. Watch Wilson’s induction ceremony here.
- Julian P. Van Winkle, III, President, Old Rip Van Winkle Distillery, heralded grandson of Bourbon legend Julian “Pappy” Van Winkle, creator of the ultra-aged premium Pappy Van Winkle brand and the very first James Beard winner from Kentucky, as well as numerous other accolades. Watch as Bill Samuels, Jr. introduces Julian ‘Pappy’ Van Winkle here.
- Kaveh Zamanian, Founder, Whiskey Maker and CEO, Rabbit Hole Distillery, left Iran in 1979 during the revolution and founded Rabbit Hole in 2012. He blends the immigrant whiskey maker tradition with time-honored methods, diverse perspectives, and modernist aesthetics. Watch Kaveh Zamanian’s induction here.
- Retiring Rep. D. Chad McCoy, R-Bardstown, Majority Whip, Kentucky House of Representatives, two-time recipient of the KDA’s “100 Proof” award for public service and champion of several landmark pieces of legislation. Watch McCoy’s induction here.
- Retiring U.S. Rep. John Yarmuth, D-Louisville, Co-Founder of the Congressional Bourbon Caucus and Chair of the House Budget Committee who helped lead a permanent reduction on the federal excise tax on distillers among other key measures. Watch John Yarmuth’s induction here.
- The late Stephen Francis Thompson, Founder and President, Kentucky Artisan Distillery (Lifetime Achievement Award), former president of Brown-Forman Distilleries and a pioneering resource for craft distilleries across the country. Watch Master Distiller Jim Rutledge tell stories about his friend Steve Thompson here.
The KDA commissioned glassblowing artist Brook Forrest White, Jr., of Flame Run in Louisville to craft unique and contemporary awards that incorporate Bourbon-inspired motifs such as amber colors, oak, copper and water.
A student of the late famed glass artist Stephen Rolfe Powell at Centre College in Danville, Kentucky., White’s work has been recognized nationally, including at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., and at several distilleries in Kentucky.
Bourbon is one of Kentucky’s most treasured industries, a booming $9 billion economic and tourism engine sustaining more than 22,500 jobs with an annual payroll topping $1.23 billion each year, over $285 million in local and state taxes and $1.8 billion in federal alcohol taxes.
A key export, the iconic industry is currently in the middle of a $5.2 billion building boom, from innovative new tourism experiences to expanded production facilities, bottling centers and aging warehouses, all to meet the growing global thirst for Kentucky Bourbon.
Kentucky now boasts more than 10.3 million barrels of Bourbon aging in warehouses across the Bluegrass, the most in its revered distilling history. Distillers filled more than 2.4 million barrels in 2020 alone, the third year in a row that production topped the two million mark.
Watch the Entire 2022 Kentucky Bourbon Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony
- The 2022 Kentucky Bourbon Hall of Fame Welcomes Michter’s Master of Maturation Andrea Wilson [Video Part 2]
- The 2022 Kentucky Bourbon Hall of Fame Welcomes Old Rip Van Winkle’s Julian P. Van Winkle, III [Video Part 3]
- The 2022 Kentucky Bourbon Hall of Fame Welcomes Rabbit Hole Distillery Founder Kaveh Zamanian [Video Part 4]
- The 2022 Kentucky Bourbon Hall of Fame Welcomes Spirits Industry Supporter Representative Chad McCoy [Video Part 5]
- The 2022 Kentucky Bourbon Hall of Fame Welcomes Founder of the Congressional Bourbon Caucus John Yarmuth [Video Part 6]
- 2022 Kentucky Bourbon Hall of Fame Lifetime Achievement Award Goes to Kentucky Artisan’s Stephen Thompson [Video Part 7]
- Founder of Kentucky Artisan Distillery and Former President of Brown-Forman Distilleries Steve Thompson has Passed Away