Angel's Envy

Angel's Envy is one of the distilleries opposing a bill that would allow the direct shipment of wine to Kentucky customers, unless it gives bourbon equal treatment. (WDRB Photo)

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Bourbon is everything for Angel's Envy co-founder Wes Henderson.

It's family, it's tradition, and it's history.

"We're finished in port wine barrels, which makes us very unique," he said proudly. "We started off as a teeny-tiny little brand, and look at us now."

But for the past few weeks, win, along with bourbon, has been on his mind, because lawmakers are trying to make it easier for out-of-state vineyards to sell wine directly to customers in Kentucky. Right now, complicated law prevents that, for the most part. In fact, the Wine Institute, which is the voice of many California vineyards, recommends its members against shipping of wine to Kentucky because of complicated Kentucky law. According to the institute, Kentucky is one of just seven states where it's prohibited.

"It's convenient to be able to order wine and have it shipped to your home," Henderson said. "You can also have access to things you might not be able to buy in a store here. I totally get it and totally understand it."

But Henderson isn't a fan of the bill, and neither is David Mandell, the president of the Bardstown Bourbon Company, because bourbon isn't getting the same treatment in the legislation, Senate Bill 99.

"We're simply saying, 'That's great, but include us in that,'" Mandell said.

Mandell said, right now, he's not allowed to ship his bourbon directly to customers in other states because of Kentucky law.

"So we are asking to be treated the same way as the wineries and the beer companies," he said.

In fact, he's one of dozens of distilleries, all members of the Kentucky Distillers' Association, now asking lawmakers to make the bill more fair.

"As any business knows, it's tough to compete when there's not a level playing field," the association wrote in a new info sheet. "Including distilled spirits in any shipping legislation will create parity, and it won't put our homegrown whiskey industry over a barrel."

"Bourbon is the signature industry of Kentucky — 20,000 jobs. Billions of dollars of revenue," Henderson added. "It just makes sense."

Mandell believes that parity would allow the bourbon industry to expand its reach and attract more tourists to the Bluegrass State.

"If we're going to stay competitive with Napa Valley, and we are going to continue to grow as an industry, we have to have the same ability and flexibility that they have," he said. "As the bill currently stands, it most likely benefits the state with the most wineries, and that could be California, obviously."

The bill passed the Senate by an overwhelming margin of 29-5. Now, it heads to the House.

The bill's sponsor, Sen. Max Wise (R-Campbellsville), said he's optimistic the measure will become law. Despite the demands from the bourbon industry, he said a number of his constituents asked for the change after visiting vineyards in California and Oregon. Wise said they were surprised to learn they couldn't buy wine from those vineyards and have it shipped to their homes once they returned to Kentucky. For that reason, Wise hopes his bill will remain focused on wine.

To learn more about the bill, click here.

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