COPY-Ky. Bourbon Hall of Fame welcomes four new members - WDRB 41 Louisville News

COPY-Ky. Bourbon Hall of Fame welcomes four new members

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BARDSTOWN, Ky. (WDRB) – The prestigious Kentucky Bourbon Hall of Fame today honored five individuals for their service and support of the Commonwealth’s signature industry, including the first-ever Lifetime Achievement Award to a renowned Master Distiller.

“This is one of our largest and most diverse classes in years, yet all are distinguished by their remarkable achievements in promoting, protecting and elevating our legendary craft,” said Eric Gregory, president of the Kentucky Distillers’ Association. “For their many contributions, our industry offers its genuine thanks – and congratulations.”

This year’s inductees are, in alphabetical order:

  • Parker Beam, Master Distiller Emeritus, Heaven Hill Brands
  • Owsley Brown II, former CEO and Chairman, Brown-Forman
  • Kathleen DiBenedetto, Senior Director of Commercial Marketing, Luxury, Beam Suntory
  • U.S. Senator Wendell Ford
  • Donna Nally, co-creator of the Kentucky Bourbon Festival

Parker Beam was honored with the inaugural Lifetime Achievement Award. Gregory announced that the KDA Board of Directors had unanimously voted to name the award after Beam, now in his 55th year at Heaven Hill. He was elected a charter member of the Hall of Fame in 2001.

“It is a great honor to not only receive this award, but to have it be established in my name,” he said. “Linda and I are just thrilled by the recognition and humbled that the KDA and Kentucky Bourbon Hall of Fame would make this gesture.

“I accept the honor on behalf of my father, my cousin, Booker Noe, Elmer T. Lee and all the others who came before and who also devoted their lifetimes to making great Bourbon, and to making Bourbon great.”

Parker Beam joined Heaven Hill in 1960 working under his father, Earl, as a sixth-generation distiller in his storied family. He became Master Distiller in 1975 and has earned numerous awards for distilling, aging and selecting some of the world’s most acclaimed Bourbons. 

He was named Master Distiller Emeritus in 2013 shortly after being diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), or Lou Gehrig’s disease. His public advocacy for ALS research, care and awareness has generated more than a half million dollars for his “Promise of Hope” fund.

“For more than half a century, Parker Beam has represented Heaven Hill, the Commonwealth and our iconic industry with unmatched integrity, gentleman class and old-fashioned work ethic,” Gregory said. “His passion and loyalty to our amber art is beyond reproach. “With this award, we salute Parker for not only his accomplishments but also the camaraderie and high regard that we hold for him and his tireless spirit. He is the personification of the premium craftsmanship and unwavering friendship that we all should strive to achieve.”

Gregory and Chris Morris, Vice Chairman of the KDA Board and Master Distiller at Brown-Forman, presented Beam with a distinctive hand-blown glass barrel in recognition of the award. 

It was made by artist Brook White of Flame Run Glass Studio and Gallery in Louisville.

Created by the KDA in conjunction with the Kentucky Bourbon Festival in 2001, the Kentucky Bourbon Hall of Fame recognizes individuals and organizations that have made a significant and transformational impact on Bourbon’s stature, growth and awareness.

It is the highest honor given by the signature industry and is presented annually during the Kentucky Bourbon Festival, which runs through Sunday in Bardstown.

Candidates may be nominated each year by the KDA, its member distilleries and the Kentucky Bourbon Festival from four categories: Industry, Journalism, Roll of Honor and Lifetime Achievement. Nominees are then sent to the KDA Board of Directors for final selection.

The induction ceremony was held on the grounds of My Old Kentucky Home in Bardstown, one of the state’s most revered historic sites.

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