The Kentucky Distillers’ Association announced that Les Fugate of Brown-Forman Corp. is the recipient of an elite industry award honoring leaders who personify the legendary group’s spirit of camaraderie and integrity. 

The esteemed Esprit de Corps Award can be bestowed by the Chair of the KDA’s Board of Directors to individuals who have, “by demonstrable and honorable action,” gone above and beyond the call of duty to advance the mission of the KDA and Kentucky’s signature Bourbon and distilled spirits industry. 

“As Chairman of the KDA’s Governmental Affairs Advisory Group, Les devoted tremendous time, energy and leadership to the successful passage of House Bill 5, which phases out the annual discriminatory tax on aging barrels of Bourbon and spirits in Kentucky,” KDA President Eric Gregory said. 

KDA Board Chairman Chris Morris conferred the award to Fugate at the KDA’s 2023 annual State Dinner in Louisville. Fugate received a commemorative plaque and engraved medal in recognition of his exceptional service. 

“The KDA has been working for generations on a reasonable and responsible solution to the ever-growing barrel tax which had put our signature industry at a competitive disadvantage and remained a disincentive for distilleries to build or expand in the Commonwealth,” Morris said. 

“By communicating and collaborating with our member distilleries and key stakeholders, Les and the industry’s team of advocates reached  a compromise that puts our state and homegrown Bourbon industry on a path to a more competitive and sustainable tax code.”

The bipartisan House Bill 5 compromise signed into law earlier this year phases out the barrel tax over 20 years while protecting funds for schools, fire departments and EMS districts, and gives local governments plenty of time to plan and diversify their tax base.

“Leaders like Les are why our industry is what it is today. He navigated an ever-changing legislative landscape while making sure all of our members, legacy and craft, were included in the process and the outcome,” Gregory said. 

Fugate, a native of Prestonsburg, Ky., and graduate of Centre College said, “I’m humbled and filled with gratitude to be honored with the ‘Esprit de Corps’  award. So many legends within the industry worked together and paved the way to get us where we are today, and I am constantly inspired by their foresight, collegiality, and innovation to keep our industry thriving. 

“The collaborative spirit that is woven throughout the history of Bourbon allowed us to come together and find a solution to lead our industry into an exciting future. This effort forever strengthens the relationship with the state that we love, our old Kentucky home.”

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