6 Things You May Not Know About The KY Bourbon Hall of Fame® Class of 2022￼
Every September, whiskey lovers unite to celebrate the heart and soul of America’s spirit. There’s no doubt that Kentucky Bourbon Heritage Month® is a special time in the Bluegrass. From events across the Kentucky Bourbon Trail®’s world-famous distilleries to Bourbon & Beyond, the world’s largest Bourbon and music festival, the entire state comes alive–and the Kentucky Bourbon Hall of Fame® induction ceremony is at the center of the excitement.
Held annually around the time of the Kentucky Bourbon Festival® in Bardstown, the Bourbon Capital of the World®, the Kentucky Bourbon Hall of Fame® recognizes the individuals and organizations that have made a significant and transformational impact on Bourbon’s stature, growth and awareness. It’s the industry’s highest honor–and it’s a pretty big deal.
If you’ve been keeping up with the news, you already know six new members were inducted to the Kentucky Bourbon Hall of Fame®, but here are a few things you may not have known about this year’s esteemed class of whiskey visionaries, artisans and partners.
1. KY State Rep. Chad McCoy helped bring the world’s best Bourbon libraries to KY
Were it not for Chad McCoy, retiring state representative (R, Bardstown), you may not be able to buy “dusty” Bourbons from Kentucky’s bars, restaurants or retailers. To make it happen, McCoy led efforts to bring this progressive legislation to the state by sponsoring HB 100–a bill enacted in 2018 that allows distilled spirit license holders to buy “vintage spirits” from non-licensed individuals and then sell them by the pour or by the bottle.
The bill has not only made it possible for whiskey collectors to try rare, out-of-production vintage spirits, it’s enabled Kentucky distilleries, restaurants, bars and retailers to build the greatest Bourbon libraries in the world.
2. The late Stephen Francis Thompson pioneered Kentucky’s craft Bourbon movement
Stephen Francis Thompson built a successful career in Bourbon working for industry giants like Diageo (Heublein at the time) and Brown-Forman, but after retirement, he was ready for a new adventure.
In 2007, he created Hawaii Island Spirits Inc., a company that founded several micro distilleries that produced rums, pineapple and grain-based vodkas and Okolehao whisky. Then, in 2012, he and his business partners opened Kentucky Artisan Distillery in Crestwood, Kentucky–the first contract distillery in the state. The vision was to create a place for people to come and “bottle their dreams.”
As one of the few distilleries that produces Bourbon and spirits from the roots to the bottle, all by hand, Kentucky Artisan Distillery now has the ability to co-pack 100,000 cases a year, contract distill 5,800 barrels a year, store upwards of 38,000 barrels, and employ 25-plus team members. And with brands like Jefferson’s, Whiskey Row Bourbon, Billy Goat Strut Whiskey, Cream of Kentucky, Barrell Bourbon (and many more) now calling Kentucky Artisan Distillery home, Stephen’s legacy in craft distilling is more alive than ever today.
3. Julian P. Van Winkle, III was the first James Beard Award winner from Kentucky
To Bourbon lovers everywhere, the Van Winkle name is synonymous with whiskey excellence. But not every Bourbon lover knows that, Julian P. Van Winkle, III was the first Kentuckian to be honored with the prestigious James Beard Award.
Prior to receiving the 2011 James Beard Award for Outstanding Wine and Spirits Professional, Julian had been recognized for several achievements in the culinary world. For example, in 2009 he was nominated as a Fellow at the Southern Foodways Alliance annual fundraiser in Walland, Tennessee, and in 2010, he was inducted into the Fellowship of Southern Farmers, Artisans and Chefs.
As grandson of the illustrious Julian “Pappy ” Van Winkle and president of Old Rip Van Winkle Distillery in Louisville, Julian proudly carries on his family’s century-long tradition of producing premium Bourbon that’s coveted by whiskey collectors and culinary icons alike.
4. Andrea Maria Wilson blazed trails for women in Bourbon and STEM
When Andrea Maria Wilson went to college, she chose a path that few women at the time were taking: chemical engineering. As it turns out, the decision was well worth the risk.
After earning both Bachelor and Master of Science degrees in chemical engineering from the University of Louisville–where she was honored with the JB Speed School of Engineering Professional Award in Chemical Engineering–Andrea built a distinguished career at Diageo where she oversaw distillation and maturation for Diageo North America, led revitalization efforts for Stitzel-Weller, and helped bring the Bulleit Distillery in Shelby, Kentucky to life.Today, as Chief Operating Officer and Master of Maturation for Michter’s Distillery in Louisville, Andrea oversees everything from barrel procurement and heat cycling to temperature monitoring, whiskey filtration and innovation to continuously improve the aging process. Did we mention that in 2009 she also became the first woman to chair the Kentucky Distillers’ Association?
5. U.S. Rep. John Yarmuth co-founded a bipartisan group to strengthen Kentucky’s Bourbon industry
Few people are as committed to advancing Bourbon through advocacy and action as retiring U.S. Rep. John Yarmuth (D, Louisville), co-founder of the Congressional Bourbon Caucus and Chair of the House Budget Committee.
Since founding the Congressional Bourbon Caucus in 2009, John has fought tirelessly to strengthen Kentucky’s $9 billion signature industry. Members have led efforts to promote and protect the domestic distilled spirits industry, including recent successful efforts to make excise tax relief permanent.
With all of his efforts, Rep. Yarmuth’s dedication to ensuring that Kentucky always remains the one true home of Bourbon has proven to be unmatched.
6. Kaveh Zamanian was a clinical psychologist before he challenged the status quo in whiskey
Before founding Rabbit Hole in 2012, Iranian-born Kaveh Zamanian earned a Ph.D in clinical psychology. For nearly 20 years, he operated a successful practice as a clinical psychologist in Chicago–determined to carry on the unrelenting work ethic he saw from his father after they immigrated to America in 1979.
To put himself through school, Kaveh worked in the hospitality industry, and that’s where his passion for spirits took hold. And after meeting his wife Heather, a Louisville native, his passion for Bourbon became an obsession.
After years of rigorous research and planning, Kaven opened Rabbit Hole Distillery with a vision to honor the pioneers and rebels who laid the foundation for America’s spirit by constantly pushing past the status quo.
The rest, as they say, is history–and Kaveh’s innovative approach has not gone unnoticed. By blending immigrant whiskey maker traditions with time-honored methods, diverse perspectives and modernism aesthetics, Rabbit Hole isn’t just making great whiskey–they’re building a legacy. And for that, we have Kaveh to thank.
To learn more about the 2022 Kentucky Bourbon Hall of Fame® class, click here.