The Kentucky Distillers’ Association announced that Chris Morris of Brown-Forman has been elected Chairman of the 142-year-old non-profit trade group that unites, promotes and protects the state’s signature Bourbon and distilled spirits industry. 

Morris, who is Master Distiller and Vice President of Whiskey Innovation for Brown-Forman, will begin his term on Jan. 1, 2023, and serve through December 2023. The KDA Board of Directors elected officers during its Annual Meeting in November. 

This will be the third time that Morris has served as Chairman, with the first in 2010 and again in 2016.

“It is an honor again to represent the industry as Chair of the venerable KDA as it continues to elevate America’s distinctive spirit to a level of appreciation enjoyed globally by the Cognac and Scotch Whisky industries,” Morris said. 

A Louisville native, Morris has spent his entire 46-year career in the Kentucky Bourbon industry. He is responsible for maintaining the award-winning taste of the whiskies produced at the Woodford Reserve and Old Forester distilleries. 

A 2016 inductee into the Whisky Magazine Hall of Fame and a 2017 inductee into the Kentucky Bourbon Hall of Fame, Morris also is Governor of the KDA’s Order of the Writ – Spirit of Kentucky Bourbon Society and is a respected authority on Bourbon and Kentucky history. 

The Board also named Jessica Pendergrass, General Counsel & Chief Compliance Officer for Heaven Hill, as Vice Chair; Kaveh Zamanian, Founder, Whiskey Maker and CEO of Rabbit Hole Distillery, as Secretary; and Ryan Ashley, Chief Operating Officer and Director of Distillery Operations at Four Roses as Treasurer.

Other Board members for 2023 include:

  • Bardstown Bourbon Co.: Ingrid Gentry, Chief Financial Officer
  • Castle & Key Distillery: Will Arvin, Co-Founder 
  • Diageo North America: Antoine Smith, Vice President of Distillation and Maturation North America
  • James B. Beam Distilling Co.: Kevin Smith, Vice President of Bourbon Affairs in Kentucky
  • Louisville Distilling Co.: Gigi DaDan, General Manager
  • Lux Row Distillers: Erika Lapish, Vice President of Human Resources
  • Michter’s Distillery: Andrea Wilson, Chief Operating Officer & Master of Maturation
  • White Dog Trading & Storage: Tyler Harris, President
  • Wild Turkey: Marco Barassi, Government Relations and Sustainability Director, North America 
  • Wilderness Trail Distillery: Shane Baker, Co-Founder & CEO
  • Willett Distillery: Britt Kulsveen, President

Founded in 1880, the KDA is the voice for Bourbon and spirits issues. Its diverse membership produces the overwhelming majority of the world’s Bourbon, from legendary, global brands to emerging micro distilleries that are building the next generation of the timeless craft.

KDA President Eric Gregory thanked the Board of Directors for its bold and visionary leadership that has guided the association on an unprecedented path of success. This year saw the largest expansion of KDA members in its history – now standing at 83 and counting. 

Gregory, who is finishing his 15th year as KDA President, said he looks forward to working again with Morris as Chairman in 2023 as the KDA develops its next five-year strategic plan and seeks an end to the discriminatory barrel tax. Kentucky remains the only place in the world that taxes aging barrels of spirits.

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