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Whisky Magazine News - Willett Distillery Joins Kentucky Distillers' Association

Fri 05 Oct 2012

Willett Distillery Joins Kentucky Distillers' Association

BARDSTOWN, Ky. - The historic Willett Distillery today announced that it has joined the ranks of the Kentucky Distillers' Association, the Commonwealth's foremost voice on spirits issues for more than 130 years.

"We are extremely impressed with the tremendous work that Even Kulsveen and his family have undertaken to restore this remarkable distillery," said Jeff Conder, Chairman of the KDA Board of Directors and Vice President, Global Supply Chain, for Beam, Inc.

"The Willett family's distilling legacy is etched deep in Bourbon history and we are excited about their plans for the future. We applaud their diligence and dedication to our signature craft, and we proudly welcome them to the KDA."

Located just on the outskirts of Bardstown, the Willett Distilling Company was built in 1936 on a farm purchased by Lambert Willett. Starting at the early age of 15, Lambert learned the whiskey business from his father, John David Willett, and many of Kentucky's most respected distillers at the time.

Thompson Willett and one of his brothers, Johnny, built the distillery and warehouses on some of the highest ground in Nelson County, offering one of the most scenic views among Kentucky distilleries and ensuring that a fresh breeze would aid in the maturation of their whiskey.

Having made their mark on the Bourbon industry, the Willetts retired in the early 1980s. Even G. Kulsveen, a native of Norway and son-in-law of Thompson Willett, purchased the property in 1984. He formed Kentucky Bourbon Distillers, Ltd., and began restoring the distillery to its original glory.

This small, independent, family-owned distillery resumed production in January of this year. Its picturesque grounds features eight traditional rickhouses, a gift shop and tasting bar, a lake fed by a real limestone spring and the beginnings of an elegant bed and breakfast at the water's edge.

The property has been rechristened Willett Distillery and is fully owned and operated by Kulsveen, his son Drew, who runs the distillery, Drew's wife Janelle, who runs the gift shop and tasting room, Even's daughter Britt Chavanne, who handles the day-to-day operations and her husband, Hunter Chavanne, who does sales and marketing.

"It's a real honor and pleasure for us to be involved with such a historic institution as the Kentucky Distillers' Association, an organization which, for many, many years has been a tremendous advocate of Kentucky distillers and their world-famous whiskey," said Hunter Chavanne, Marketing Director.

"Our founder, Thompson Willett, was a long-time Director of the KDA and a tremendous advocate for the Kentucky whiskey industry. He went to bat many times for what he thought was fair and right for the industry as a whole - ideals which I know the KDA holds near and dear to its heart."

Current day, the distillery's boutique brands include Willett Pot Still Reserve, Willett Family Estate Bottled Bourbon and Rye, Noah's Mill, Rowan's Creek, Johnny Drum, Old Bardstown, Pure Kentucky, and Kentucky Vintage. For more information, visit online at

Willett Distillery becomes KDA's 14th member and the eighth Kentucky craft distillery to join.

The KDA is a non-profit trade association founded in 1880. Members include Beam Inc. (Jim Beam and Maker's Mark), Brown-Forman Corp., Diageo North America, Four Roses Distillery, Heaven Hill Distilleries, Inc., and Wild Turkey Distillery.

Craft distillery members include Alltech's Town Branch Distillery, Barrel House Distilling Co., Corsair Artisan Distillery, Limestone Branch Distillery, MB Roland Distillery, The Old Pogue Distillery, Silver Trail Distillery and Willett Distillery.

The KDA's craft membership is available to licensed Kentucky distillers that maintain an inventory of less than 25,000 barrels of distilled beverage spirits, according to KDA President Eric Gregory. Applicants must be sponsored by a KDA member and approved by the Board.

"The restoration and success of the Willett Distillery is a testament to the hard work and vision of the Kulsveen family, and we truly are grateful for their investment, perseverance and passion for our iconic industry," Gregory said.

"This is a great example of why Kentucky remains the one, true and authentic home for Bourbon. We look forward to working with Willett Distillery and our craft partners to promote our rich heritage, to advocate fair treatment of our industry and to continue our commitment to responsible drinking."

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