Kentucky Distillers’ Association Honors Senate Majority Leader Damon Thayer With “100 Proof” Award

May 2, 2018

For Immediate Release – May 2, 2018

FRANKFORT, Ky. – The Kentucky Distillers’ Association honored Senate Majority Leader Damon Thayer on Monday with its prestigious “100 Proof Award” for his exemplary efforts in the 2018 legislative session to promote and protect the Commonwealth’s signature Bourbon and distilled spirits industry.

KDA President Eric Gregory cited Sen. Thayer’s skilled leadership in guiding House Bill 400 in that chamber – a measure that gives visitors the ability to ship bottles home – and his staunch defense of key tourism development incentives during tense budget negotiations.

“Sen. Thayer has proven, time and again, to be one of the leading legislative champions for Kentucky Bourbon,” Gregory said. “He understands that Bourbon is more than a drink – it’s a thriving economic driver, and he has worked tirelessly to carry that message throughout his caucus and the Commonwealth.

“The KDA and its 39 members thank Sen. Thayer for his outstanding work to modernize our state’s archaic alcohol laws, create jobs, spur investment and strengthen Kentucky’s rightful title as the one, true and authentic home for Bourbon and distilled spirits. We are honored to present him with this award.”

Sen. Thayer, R-Georgetown, is only the eighth person to ever receive the award, which the KDA created in 2009 to recognize elected officials who demonstrate tremendous care, diligence and initiative in promoting and protecting Kentucky’s signature Bourbon industry.

Nominees must receive a unanimous vote of both the KDA’s Governmental Affairs Advisory Group and the KDA Board of Directors. It is the highest honor that the state’s iconic Bourbon industry gives to elected officials.

Sen. Thayer has served in the Senate since 2003. Gregory and KDA member executives presented him with a commemorative “100 Proof Award” barrel head Monday in Frankfort during an industry reception celebrating HB 400 at the Kentucky History Center.

“It’s an honor to receive this award from the Kentucky Distillers’ Association,” Sen. Thayer said. “I’m proud of our work removing artificial barriers to free enterprise so we can increase tourism and create good-paying private sector jobs.”

Previous recipients of the bipartisan award include:

  • Susan Westrom, D-Lexington, received the first “100 Proof Award” for her tireless efforts in the 2010 legislative session to modernize Kentucky’s Bourbon sampling laws
  • Steve Beshear earned the award in 2012 for his leadership and global support of the industry
  • Senate President Robert Stivers in 2014 for his bold leadership that led to the passage of several of the KDA’s top priorities, including the Bourbon Barrel Reinvestment Tax Credit
  • Dennis Keene accepted the award in 2015 for his tireless six-year effort in passing legislation that requires ignition interlocks for drunken drivers.
  • John Schickel and Rep. Linda Belcher received the award in 2016 for passage of sweeping tourism reforms that allowed distilleries to sell cocktails, increased sample sizes and expanded the number of bottles visitors may purchase at a distillery.
  • S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in March for championing Kentucky Bourbon at the federal level, including passage of the first decrease of the federal tax on spirits in generations.

Founded in 1880, the KDA is the state’s voice for Bourbon and spirits issues. Its 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.

Kentucky Bourbon is one of the Commonwealth’s most historic and treasured industries, a booming $8.5 billion economic engine that generates as many as 17,500 jobs with an annual payroll topping $800 million and pours $825 million into tax coffers each year.

In addition, the industry is in the middle of a $1.2 billion building boom, from innovative new tourism centers to expanded production facilities, all to meet the growing global thirst for Kentucky Bourbon.

There are now 39 companies operating 52 distilleries in the Commonwealth making 6.8 million barrels of aging Bourbon – all modern records. 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.

The KDA’s famous Kentucky Bourbon Trail® and Kentucky Bourbon Trail Craft Tour® announced recently that visitors made more than 1 million stops at participating distilleries for the second straight year. Attendance has skyrocketed by 314 in the last 10 years.

Visit and to learn more.

KDA President Gregory said the tremendous growth and impact of the Kentucky Bourbon Trail® tourism attractions will increase thanks to HB 400. More than 70 percent of distillery visitors are from outside Kentucky, he said, and 86 percent purchase a souvenir bottle during their trip.

“We’re confident the impact will increase with visitors purchasing more bottles to ship home, which will boost tourism and add valuable tax dollars to local and state coffers. It’s only a matter of time before more states allow reciprocity with Kentucky and embrace the shipping of spirits, just like they have wine.

“Thanks to leaders like Sen. Thayer, the 2018 legislative session has been a win-win for Bourbon and our beloved Commonwealth. We appreciate and applaud his tireless advocacy and unwavering support and look forward to working with him for many years to come.”


For more information, contact KDA President Eric Gregory at (502) 875-9351.

Founded in 1880, the Kentucky Distillers’ Association is the historic voice for Kentucky’s signature Bourbon and distilled spirits industry. Its diverse and growing membership produces 90 percent of the world’s Bourbon, from legendary, global brands to emerging micro distilleries that are fostering the next generation of the Commonwealth’s timeless craft and treasured economic engine. 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 through the KDA’s world-famous Kentucky Bourbon Trail® and Kentucky Bourbon Trail Craft Tour® adventures. 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 TRAIL®, KENTUCKY BOURBON TRAIL CRAFT TOUR®, KENTUCKY BOURBON AFFAIR™, KBT™, and BOURBON TRAIL™ are trademarks/service marks of the Kentucky Distillers’ Association.


Please savor our Bourbon and distilled spirits like a true Kentuckian – Responsibly.

Enjoy Like a True Kentuckian: Responsibly