Willett Distillery Advances Membership Rank in Kentucky Distillers’ Association

December 8, 2015

For Immediate Release – December 8, 2015

Willett -- KDA Proof Induction

Left to right: Pauline Rooney – Diageo, Hunter Chavanne, Britt Chavanne, Eric Gregory – KDA President, Chris Morris – Master Distiller for Brown-Forman.

BARDSTOWN, Ky. – The Kentucky Distillers’ Association announced today that the historic Willett Distillery has advanced in its ranks, becoming a “Proof” level member in the non-profit trade group that unites and leads the state’s signature Bourbon and distilled spirits industry.

“Proof” members are the second-highest tier in the group, following an organizational structure based on production and aging barrels, according to KDA President Eric Gregory. To qualify as a “Proof” member, distilleries must have at least 10,000 barrels aging in their warehouses.

“We’re honored that Willett has advanced in membership and will be taking more of a leadership role in the Association and our legendary industry,” said Pauline Rooney, Chair of the KDA’s Board of Directors and Vice President of Distilling, Maturation and Engineering for Diageo.

“The Kulsveen family has made tremendous strides over the past few years to restore its historic distillery and further its iconic brands,” Rooney said. “We applaud their commitment and dedication to our craft and look forward to working with them more in this new role.”

Britt Chavanne, the distillery’s Vice President of Administration, said their success is 150 years in the making. She is the granddaughter of founder Thompson Willett, and her ancestors Lambert and John David Willett trace their Kentucky distilling roots to shortly after the Civil War.

“After many years working with my father, Even Kulsveen, to refurbish and restore our family’s distillery, the fifth generation filled our first barrel of Bourbon on what would have been our grandfather’s 103rd birthday,” she said.

“This would not have been possible without the vision and sacrifice by our parents, of which we are forever grateful. Our passion is to continue our family’s tradition in the distilling business in a way that would make them proud.”

The Willett Distilling Co. was a vital part of the KDA in the 1950s through the 1970s, but left when the family ceased its distilling operations in the 1980s. Willett rejoined the KDA soon after resuming production in 2012, helping to found the Kentucky Bourbon Trail Craft Tour®.

The small, independent, family-owned distillery features eight traditional rickhouses on its picturesque Nelson County grounds, a gift shop and tasting bar, and a lake fed by a real limestone spring.

Construction is underway to expand the Visitors Center as well as an elegant bed and breakfast, which will have considerable meeting and event space. A new grist mill and open-air pavilion are scheduled to open in 2016.

Their boutique Whiskey brands include Willett Family Estate Bourbon and Rye, Willett Pot Still Reserve, Noah’s Mill, Rowan’s Creek, Johnny Drum, Old Bardstown, Pure Kentucky and more. For additional information, visit online at willettdistillery.com.

Willett is currently the KDA’s only Proof level member. The KDA also announced today that Michter’s Distillery has graduated from Proof to Heritage, the highest level of membership within the KDA.

Founded in 1880, the KDA is the state’s voice for Bourbon and spirits issues. There are currently 28 members, the most since the Repeal of Prohibition, and an all-time high of 19 members in 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.

Kentucky Bourbon is one of the Commonwealth’s most historic and treasured industries, a thriving $3 billion economic engine that generates more than 15,400 jobs with an annual payroll topping $700 million and pours $166 million into state and local coffers each year.

The KDA announced earlier this year that the state’s inventory of aging Bourbon barrels set a 40-year high in 2014 with 5,669,682 million charred oak casks gently sleeping in Bluegrass warehouses.

Production has soared more than 170 percent since the turn of the century, with only 485,020 barrels filled in 1999. Distilleries crafted 1,306,375 barrels last year – the highest production mark since 1970 and the third straight year with a million barrels born.

KDA President Gregory congratulated the Willett team and thanked them for their service.

“Willett’s commitment to excellence has propelled the distillery to new heights, and we couldn’t be more proud and thankful to the Kulsveen family for restoring this historic gem,” he said. “They are a true industry leader, and I’m certain the best is yet to come.”


For more information, contact:
Eric Gregory, KDA President, at (502) 875-9351.
Britt Chavanne, Willett Distillery, (502) 348-0081

Visit online at:


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., Diageo North America, Four Roses Distillery, Heaven Hill Brands, Michter’s Distillery and Wild Turkey Distillery. Proof members include 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, Kentucky Artisan Distillery, Kentucky Peerless Distilling Co., Limestone Branch Distillery, MB Roland Distillery, New Riff Distillery, The Old Pogue Distillery, Second Sight Spirits, Three Boys Farm Distillery, and Wilderness Trail Distillery. The Distilled Spirits Epicenter is the KDA’s official educational distillery.

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 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. For more information about joining the KDA’s distilling family, contact KDA President Eric Gregory at (502) 875-9351. Visit www.kybourbon.com and www.kybourbontrail.com to learn more.

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

Enjoy Like a True Kentuckian: Responsibly