HISTORY OF KENTUCKY DISTILLERS’ ASSOCIATION
The Kentucky Distillers’ Association traces its roots back to 1880, when 32 distillers met at the Galt House in Louisville and organized to protect our signature spirit from “needless and obstructive laws and regulations.”
The powerful group fought for decades to reduce whiskey taxes, shrink insurance fees and address other important measures of the time. But Prohibition whittled its ranks, and it eventually folded.
Ironically, Prohibition was responsible for the KDA’s rebirth in 1935.
A group representing National, Brown-Forman, Glenmore, Frankfort and Medley distilling companies banded together to end Prohibition in Kentucky, leading to its successful repeal in November that year.
This core team expanded to 27 member companies, and the KDA was formed again in early 1936.
Since that time, the KDA has been a leading voice in Bourbon and distilled spirits issues. It served as a liaison during World War II on alcohol production, battled state and federal efforts to increase taxes and promoted Bourbon as a key global export for the Commonwealth.
In 1999, the KDA created the Kentucky Bourbon Trail® tour, which has quickly become one of the state’s most famous and fastest-growing tourism attractions. Nearly 2 million people – from all 50 states and more than 50 countries – have visited our legendary distilleries in the last five years alone.
KDA’s current membership consists of six Heritage Distilleries and eight Craft Distilleries. Heritage Distilleries include: Beam Global Spirits & Wine (Maker’s Mark is a Jim Beam Brand), Brown-Forman, Diageo North America, Four Roses, Heaven Hill, and Wild Turkey. Craft Distilleries include: Alltech, Barrel House, Corsair, Limestone Branch, MB Roland, Old Pogue, Silver Trail and Willett.
A lot has changed in 130 years. But the mission of this venerable association has remained steadfast—to protect the trade interests of the industry whenever they may be threatened and to handle common problems in a concerted action.
The KDA, a non-profit organization, is proud of the high standing it has always enjoyed with local, state and federal officials and in its community relations.
And it’s equally as proud that Bourbon is “America’s Official Native Spirit,” a leading export and growing international symbol of Kentucky craftsmanship and tradition.
An early KDA memo quoted the late Owsley Brown and his associates, who revived the group in 1936: “The best sign that the fire prevention system is working well is when there is no fire to be put out.”
That’s the reason KDA was formed in 1880. It’s the reason it exists today. And it looks forward to a bright – and spirited – future.