Kentucky Distillers’ Association Announces New Board Officers, Directors

January 4, 2018

For Immediate Release – January 4, 2018

FRANKFORT, Ky. – The Kentucky Distillers’ Association today announced that Rob Samuels, Chief Operating Officer at Maker’s Mark Distillery, has been named Chairman of the historic group’s Board of Directors for 2018.

Samuels, 43, is the fourth generation of his legendary family to serve as Chairman of the non-profit trade group that unites, promotes, protects and elevates the state’s signature Bourbon and distilled spirits industry.

Samuels follows in the footsteps of his father, Bill Samuels, Jr., and grandfather, the late T. William Samuels, Sr., both of whom have been bestowed the prestigious title of Lifetime Honorary Members of the KDA Board in recognition of their outstanding service and leadership.

The elder Samuels served as KDA Chairman in 1961, not long after he founded the Maker’s Mark brand, with Bill Samuels, Jr., leading the group in 1982 and 1983. Rob Samuels said his great-grandfather, Leslie Samuels, also chaired the KDA in the early 1900s before Prohibition.

Rob Samuels will serve as KDA Chairman through December 2018. He is an 8th generation whisky maker and leads the iconic brand’s innovation strategy, offering new products, increasing production and boosting its unique and enduring tourism program.

“I’m excited about this opportunity for a couple of reasons,” Samuels said. “One, this is clearly one of the most dynamic times in the history of our industry, and the KDA is uniquely positioned to provide leadership for the greater good of the entire Commonwealth.

“And secondly, I’m humbled to be the fourth generation of the Samuels family to chair the KDA. I’m looking forward to carrying on that tradition.”

The KDA Board selected officers during its 137th Annual Meeting recently in Lexington.

The Board also appointed Rick Robinson, Vice President of U.S. Product Supply Chain for Wild Turkey Distillery as Vice Chairman, and Larry Kass, Director of Trade Relations for Heaven Hill Brands, as Secretary-Treasurer.

Other Board members for 2018 include:

  • Diageo: Pauline Rooney, Vice President of Distilling, Maturation and Engineering
  • Michter’s: Joseph J. Magliocco, President
  • Brown-Forman: Campbell Brown, President, Old Forester
  • Four Roses: Ryan Ashley, Chief Operating Officer and Director of Distillery Operations
  • O.Z. Tyler: Earl Hewlette, President & CEO

Founded in 1880, the KDA is the state’s voice for Bourbon and spirits issues. There are currently 36 members, the most since the Repeal of Prohibition, and an all-time high of 23 destinations on its popular Kentucky Bourbon Trail® and Kentucky Bourbon Trail Craft Tour® experiences.

The KDA’s diverse membership produces 90 percent of the world’s Bourbon, from legendary, global brands to emerging micro distilleries that are building the next generation of the timeless craft and strengthening Kentucky’s rightful place as the one, true authentic home for Bourbon.

Member benefits include media relations, international trade development, private sampling events, technical assistance, economic development support, networking, legal defense, marketing strategies, governmental and regulatory advocacy and innovative tourism experiences.

The KDA maintains an open membership policy, champions a strong commitment to the responsible and moderate consumption of spirits, and fights to curb underage drinking and drunk driving. Learn more at and

Kentucky Bourbon is one of the Commonwealth’s most historic and treasured industries, a thriving $8.5 billion economic engine that generates more than 17,800 jobs with an annual payroll topping $800 million and pours $825 million into state and local coffers each year.

There are currently 6.8 million barrels of Bourbon gently aging in Kentucky warehouses – a modern record. Distillers also paid a record $19.2 million last year in barrel taxes that fund critical local programs such as education, public safety and health.

KDA President Eric Gregory, who is entering his second decade as president, applauded the Board for its longstanding support and global vision. “Just as our forefathers recognized more than a century ago, we are stronger by working together,” he said.

“The entire KDA team is looking forward to an extraordinary year with many opportunities and activities to showcase America’s only native spirit and our Kentucky Bourbon Trail® adventures. We hope everyone enjoys 2018 like a true Kentuckian – responsibly.”


For more information, contact:

Eric Gregory, KDA President, at (502) 875-9351.

The KDA is a non-profit trade association founded in 1880 to promote, protect and elevate Kentucky’s signature Bourbon and distilled spirits industry. Heritage members include Beam Suntory (Jim Beam and Maker’s Mark), Brown-Forman Corp. (Old Forester and Woodford Reserve), Diageo North America, Four Roses Distillery, Heaven Hill Brands, Michter’s Distillery, O Z. Tyler Distillery and Wild Turkey Distillery. Proof members include the Bardstown Bourbon Company, Louisville Distilling Company and Willett Distillery.

Craft members include Alltech’s Town Branch Distillery, Barrel House Distilling Co., Bluegrass Distillers, Boone County Distilling Company, Boundary Oak Distillery, Casey Jones Distillery, Copper & Kings American Brandy Distillery, Corsair Artisan Distillery, Dueling Grounds Distillery, Hartfield & Co. Distillery, Jeptha Creed Distillery, Kentucky Artisan Distillery, Kentucky Mist Moonshine, Kentucky Peerless Distilling Co., Limestone Branch Distillery, MB Roland Distillery, Neeley Family Distillery, New Riff Distillery, The Old Pogue Distillery, Second Sight Spirits, Silent Brigade, Wadelyn Ranch Distillery and Wilderness Trail Distillery. The Distilled Spirits Epicenter is the KDA’s official educational distillery.

KENTUCKY BOURBON TRAIL®, KENTUCKY BOURBON TRAIL CRAFT TOUR®, KENTUCKY BOURBON AFFAIR™, KBT™ and BOURBON TRAIL™ are trademarks/service marks of the Kentucky Distillers’ Association. Please drink responsibly.

Enjoy Like a True Kentuckian: Responsibly