The Kentucky Bourbon Hall of Fame® today inducted eight luminaries into its elite ranks, including distillery founders and craftsmen, influential government leaders, a groundbreaking activist and the first father and son to share the prestigious honor in the same class.
An all-time high of 300 guests attended the luncheon ceremony at The Legacy at Log Still Distillery in Nelson County. The invitation-only event, known for attracting the industry’s most revered legends and champions, is held annually in conjunction with the Kentucky Bourbon Festival.
Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear congratulated the inductees and thanked the packed crowd for investing billions of dollars to grow the global industry here at home while building and strengthening local communities in every part of the Commonwealth.
“Kentucky’s signature Bourbon industry employs thousands of our people to produce a product that is known and loved around the world,” Gov. Beshear. said. “The Kentucky Bourbon Hall of Fame ceremony is a great chance to celebrate this industry and the innovators whose vision keeps pushing Kentucky Bourbon to new heights.”
Created in 2001 by the Kentucky Distillers’ Association, the Kentucky Bourbon Hall of Fame® recognizes 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.
KDA President Eric Gregory said, “The Kentucky Bourbon Hall of Fame is always my favorite event of the year. It’s the one time where we all gather together to share our successes and toast the lives, legacies and journeys of those who have forever changed our timeless craft and played a major role in building a stronger Kentucky for generations to come.
“On behalf of the KDA, we offer our deepest thanks and heartfelt gratitude to this year’s inductees for their distinguished service to our industry and our beloved Commonwealth. We are an industry built on friendship and collaboration, and this year’s class is a testament to that tradition.”
This year’s inductees are, in alphabetical order (full bios, as provided by each inductee, are attached):
- Dr. Jerry O. Dalton, retired Master Distiller, Jim Beam. A 22-year industry veteran, Dalton worked as a chemist for Barton Brands before moving to Jim Beam where he spent 12 years, finishing out his career as Master Distiller succeeding the legendary Booker Noe.
- The late Mrs. Dixie Sherman Demuth, Owner, Dixie’s Elbow Room. A bar owner in the 1950s, Demuth took her fight for women’s rights to the Kentucky Court of Appeals, which overturned a 200-year-old law to allow women to serve and enjoy alcohol in a public bar.
- Mr. Greg Fischer, former Mayor of Louisville, Ky. As a three-term mayor, Fischer is hailed for coining and promoting “Bourbonism,” a burgeoning hospitality movement focused on Louisville’s leading position in the Bourbon, tourism and local food scenes.
- Mr. Pete Kamer, Owner, Distillery Engineering. After retiring from a 45-year industry career with Seagram’s and Barton Distillery, Kamer started a leading consulting business that has helped launch dozens of distilling companies, including many Kentucky craft distilleries.
- Mr. Joseph J. Magliocco, President & CEO, Michter’s Distillery. Celebrating an industry career that spans 40 years, Magliocco resurrected the storied Michter’s brand and brought it to Kentucky, helping to lead the Whiskey Row renaissance in downtown Louisville.
- Mr. Dean Watts, Former Nelson County Judge-Executive. As the longest serving judge-executive in Nelson County history, Watts created a hospitable economic environment for the industry to flourish and welcomed several new distilleries during his 28 years in office.
- Mr. Chester ‘Chet’ Zoeller, Author, Historian and Co-founder, Jefferson’s Bourbon. After years of research, Zoeller wrote Bourbon in Kentucky, a comprehensive publication of his findings, cataloging nearly 1,000 distillers and brands across the Bluegrass State.
- Mr. Trey Zoeller, Founder, Whiskey Maker & Chief Strategist, Jefferson’s Bourbon. Since founding Jefferson’s Bourbon in 1997, Trey has developed dozens of award-winning Bourbon and rye expressions using unique blending and maturation techniques.
Candidates are nominated each year by the KDA and its member distilleries. A blue-ribbon committee – including all living recipients of the Parker Beam Lifetime Achievement Award – painstakingly reviews and selects applicants in three categories: Industry, Roll of Honor and Lifetime Achievement.
Representatives of the prestigious Parker Beam award include Jimmy Russell, Master Distiller of Wild Turkey; Bill Samuels, Jr., Chairman Emeritus of Maker’s Mark; Max Shapira, Executive Chairman of Heaven Hill Brands and Even Kulsveen, Executive Director of Willett Distillery.
Other member of the 2023 selection committee were Chris Morris, Governor of the Order of the Writ and Master Distiller Emeritus at Brown-Forman Corp.; Kevin Smith, immediate past chair of the KDA Board and Vice President of Kentucky Bourbon Affairs for Beam Suntory; and noted author Dixie Hibbs of Bardstown, who was appointed by KDA President Gregory.
Since the event was sold out, the KDA worked with noted Bourbon author Fred Minnick for day-of-event live streaming coverage in celebration of the ceremony, which can be viewed and shared at Live Stream Event @FredMinnick.
The 2023 Kentucky Bourbon Hall of Fame® ceremony was sponsored by Blue & Co., LLC, Independent Stave Company, Joseph & Joseph Architects, Mint Julep Experiences, Shepherdsville/Bullitt County Tourism, and Vendome Copper & Brass Works Corp.
Bardstown-Nelson County Tourist and Convention Commission was the presenting sponsor of the luncheon and the signature toast with spirits from the annual Bardstown Collection of hand-picked expressions from local distilleries celebrating the rich heritage of Bardstown and Nelson County.
The KDA once again 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, copper and water.
For the first time ever, the award bases are made of Kentucky limestone from Kentucky Cut Stone in Lancaster, Ky. Limestone is one of the chief reasons why Kentucky continues to produce the overwhelming majority of America’s only native spirit.
Limestone acts as a natural filter for water used in the Bourbon-making process, removing iron and other impurities that could damage the whiskey’s color and taste. It also adds important minerals that are used by the yeast during the fermentation process.