headshot for KDA staff member Sara Barnes

Kentucky Distillers’ Association Welcomes Sara Barnes as Director of Industry Responsibility & Sustainability

January 12, 2021

For Immediate Release – January 12, 2021

FRANKFORT, Ky. – The Kentucky Distillers’ Association today announced that industry veteran Sara Barnes has joined the non-profit trade group as Director of Industry Responsibility and Sustainability.

Barnes comes to the KDA from the Bourbon Women Association where she spent two years as Managing Director. She previously served for over two years at Boone County Distilling Co. as Marketing and Events Coordinator and guided many public relations, responsibility, marketing and other duties.

A South Carolina native, Barnes is a graduate of the University of South Carolina, an Executive Bourbon Steward through the Stave & Thief Society, trained in responsibility measures through STAR, TIPS and ServSafe, and a member of the KDA DEI Advisory Panel.

“Sara is well-known and widely respected throughout our signature Bourbon and distilled spirits industry for her professional, thoughtful and visionary approach,” KDA President Eric Gregory said. “She is driven, determined and passionate about our industry’s standing and success.

“She has been a key voice in our diversity, equity and inclusion panel to create meaningful change and systemic reforms within our industry. Combined with an outstanding work ethic, she is a perfect fit to help lead our members in these critical areas. We proudly welcome her to our team.”

Barnes said, “I am excited about the challenge and the thought-provoking work of the legacy projects with the KDA in sustainability, social responsibility and diversity, equity and inclusion.  I look forward to leading change and strengthening the industry’s commitment to these goals for the future.”

The KDA created the position in 2016 to strengthen the industry’s significant commitment to social responsibility and sustainability through collective action. Barnes also will coordinate educational and workforce development opportunities in partnership with Kentucky higher education institutions.

“Sara has been a driving force behind Bourbon Women for the past two years and we are incredibly proud of her work being recognized by the KDA,” said Bourbon Women Chair Heather Wibbels. “We look forward to our continued relationship.”

Founded in 1880, the KDA is the state’s voice for Bourbon and spirits issues. Its diverse membership produces the overwhelming majority 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 $8.6 billion economic engine that generates more than 20,100 jobs with an annual payroll topping $1 billion million each year.

In addition, the industry is in the middle of a $2.3 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 nearly10 million barrels of Bourbon and other spirits aging in Kentucky warehouses, the highest number in the modern era of American Whiskey. Of that, 9.3 million are just Bourbon, the first time since 1967 that the number of Bourbon barrels topped nine million.

Bourbon production has skyrocketed more than 360 percent since the turn of the century, with Kentucky distillers filling 2.1 million barrels in 2019. That was the second year in a row that distillers filled two million barrels – and the first time in the modern era.

Gregory said KDA members have greatly benefited from collaborative responsibility and sustainability initiatives over the years, from state-of-the-art ID verification technology to ride-sharing partnerships and sustainability efforts like the University of Kentucky’s White Oak Initiative.

“We have much more work to do to ensure the responsible and moderate consumption of alcohol, prepare our industry and our workforce for generations to come, and cultivate a culture of diversity, inclusivity and meaningful engagement.

“We look forward to introducing Sara to our partners and stakeholders in these areas and working together to grow our signature industry in the right way. We can only succeed when the communities in which we work and live thrive as well.”


For more information, contact: KDA President Eric Gregory at [email protected] 

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 www.kybourbon.com and www.kybourbontrail.comMake It Memorable – Enjoy Responsibly. KENTUCKY BOURBON TRAIL®, KENTUCKY BOURBON TRAIL CRAFT TOUR®, KENTUCKY BOURBON AFFAIR™, KBT®, BOURBON TRAIL™, KENTUCKY BOURBON HALL OF FAME® and BOURBON WITHOUT BORDERS® are trademarks/service marks of the Kentucky Distillers’ Association. 

Enjoy Like a True Kentuckian: Responsibly