LOUISVILLE, Ky. – The Kentucky Distillers’ Association this week honored Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer with its prestigious “100 Proof Award” for his leadership in championing the state’s signature Bourbon and distilled spirits industry.
Mayor Fischer is the first local official to ever receive the award, which is the highest honor that the KDA bestows to elected officials. KDA members presented him with a commemorative “100 Proof Award” barrel head Monday at KDA’s Annual Meeting in Louisville.
“At a time when Louisville’s Whiskey Row and Urban Bourbon Trail was beginning to experience tremendous growth, Mayor Fischer stepped up and provided real leadership as our industry elevated tourism and expanded into the local food scene,” KDA President Eric Gregory said.
“He coined the phrase ‘Bourbonism,’ convened Bourbon-related workgroups and collaborated with the KDA to develop partnerships with Louisville’s culinary and cosmopolitan endeavors, as well as other tourism-related opportunities.”
Rob Samuels, chairman of KDA’s Board of Directors and chief distillery officer at Maker’s Mark, said, “The city of Louisville and Mayor Fischer are partners in the truest sense of the word, and he knows that Bourbon is more than just a drink. It’s jobs and investment and economic impact.”
The KDA and its 39 members thanked Mayor Fischer for his leadership role in making Louisville an official Gateway to the Kentucky Bourbon Trail tour, and for hosting the annual Kentucky Bourbon Affair, a Bourbon “fantasy camp” for thousands of visitors from around the world.
“I would like to thank the Kentucky Distillers’ Association for honoring me with its ‘100 Proof Award,” Mayor Fischer said. “Beyond the real economic impact of the industry on our city, Bourbonism adds to the ‘cool’ factor we need to attract bright, new talent and makes us a place where people want to live and work.
“And there’s still much room for growth,” Fischer said. “We are only in the first few innings of this amazing capital investment in Louisville. Bourbon is fueling our food renaissance, hotel growth and revitalization of Main Street.”
In presenting the award, Gregory noted Mayor Fischer’s leadership in creating a collaborative working relationship with the tourism, convention and hospitality industry in Louisville. “The results of the community uniting behind the Kentucky Bourbon Trail experience has been a win-win for the city and state,” Gregory said.
“The Kentucky Bourbon Trail is a brand that is driving huge tourism dollars into local communities,” he said, noting that the River City has more KBTÔ experiences than anywhere else in the Commonwealth. “Mayor Fischer recognizes that and wants to capitalize on it to the community’s benefit.”
Mayor Fischer is only the 10th 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 timeless 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.
Previous recipients of the non-partisan award are:
- Rep. 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
- Gov. 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
- Rep. Dennis Keene in 2015 for his tireless six-year effort in passing legislation that requires ignition interlocks for drunken drivers
- Sen. John Schickel, R-Union, and Rep. Linda Belcher, D-Shepherdsville, in 2016 for passing landmark tourism legislation that authorizes cocktail sales at distilleries
- U.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
- Senate Majority Leader Damon Thayer and Rep. Chad McCoy in May for their skilled leadership in passing legislation that gives visitors the ability to ship bottles home, and their staunch defense of key tourism development incentives during tense budget negotiations
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 7.5 million barrels of aging Bourbon – all modern records. Distillers also paid a record $23 million this year in barrel taxes that fund critical local programs such as education, public safety and health.
Attendance at the KDA’s Kentucky Bourbon Trail and Kentucky Bourbon Trail Craft Tour distilleries has skyrocketed by 314 percent in the last 10 years. Visitors made more than 1.2 million stops at participating distilleries last year, the second straight year topping that milestone.