Several bourbon industry stalwarts were elected into the Kentucky Bourbon Hall of Fame, and one bourbon giant earned the even more rare honor of the Parker Beam Lifetime Achievement award.
A joint effort between the Kentucky Distillers’ Association and the Kentucky Bourbon Festival since 2001, the Bourbon Hall of Fame recognizes those who transformed bourbon. According to a press release, KDA member distillers nominate candidates from four categories: industry, journalism, roll of honor and lifetime achievement. The KDA Board of Directors make the final selection.
“This year’s distinguished class has a shared theme – they served behind-the-scenes to promote, protect and elevate our timeless craft,” said Eric Gregory, president of the Kentucky Distillers’ Association, in a press release.
This year, the inductees are: Barry Becton, Senior Director of State Government Affairs, Diageo North America; Joy Perrine, author and veteran award-winning bartender at Equus Restaurant and Jack’s Lounge in Louisville; John Rhea, former Chief Operating Officer, Four Roses Distillery; Jimmy Russell, Master Distiller, Wild Turkey (Lifetime Achievement); and William M. Street, former President, Brown-Forman Corp. Read condensed bios below.
Due to the high-level decisions this collective group made, this is one of the strongest classes elected. View past classes.
Russell needs no introduction and deserves every honor available in food and drink for his dedication to bourbon. This lifetime achievement means a little more to Russell since it’s named after his friend, Parker Beam, who’s battling ALS.
“It is truly an honor and a privilege to receive this award because not only is Parker a true Kentucky legend, but one of my closest friends,” Russell said. “We grew up over Bourbon together, and I’ve lost count on the number of evenings we’ve swapped stories over a glass of my whiskey or his whiskey. All I can tell you is there have been a lot of laughs.”
After Russell, I probably know Perrine best. She co-wrote Kentucky Bourbon Cocktails and for a long time was the only person in Louisville who could make a mint julep. If she lived in New York, Perrine would be heralded as one of the greatest all-time bartenders for her balanced concoctions that were layered in flavor. I’d put her bourbon cocktails up against anybody’s, mostly because the bourbon shined.
I recommend anybody visiting Louisville to call Equus and Jack’s to reserve a night the semi-retired Perrine’s working, so you can see why she’s now in the hall of fame. She got there one cocktail at a time.
Barry Becton has worked in several corporate relations capacities, including leading Diageo’s Government and Community Relations agenda in Kentucky for the past nine years. He secured stakeholder support for the construction of a new distillery in Shelby County and renovations to the historic Stitzel-Weller Distillery in Louisville. He served as the Chairman of the Kentucky Distillers’ Association’s Governmental Affairs Advisory Group from 2010-2016.
Bill Street was born September 23, 1938, in Louisville, Kentucky, to Dan and Frances Street. At the time, Bill’s father was Brown-Forman’s general counsel, and would go on to a 35-year career at Brown-Forman retiring as President in 1969 and serving on its board for nearly 40 years. Street joined Brown-Forman as a summer sales trainee in 1956. Between 1956 and 1962, he held several part-time summer positions with Brown-Forman at the Bluegrass Cooperage and in the areas of sales and finance. Beginning in 1986, Bill headed up Brown-Forman’s beverage business, first as COO and president of the Brown-Forman Beverage Company, and later as president and CEO of Brown-Forman Beverages Worldwide. He was named president of Brown-Forman Corporation in 1999, and retired from the company in 2003.
Over the past 60-plus years, Jimmy Russell has been responsible for the launches of a number of new Wild Turkey brands and expressions, such as Tradition, Tribute, 17-year-old Wild Turkey for Japan, Rare Breed, American Spirit, Kentucky Spirit and Russell’s Reserve, which he co-created with his son and distilling partner Eddie Russell. Nicknamed the Buddha of Bourbon, Russell in a word is consistency.
A 40-year veteran of Four Roses Distillery, John Rhea has been a key leader in elevating Kentucky Bourbon and played a vital role in the historic resurgence of Four Roses and its legendary brands. Rhea, a native of Bullitt County, began his career at Four Roses as a Maintenance Supervisor after graduating from the University of Kentucky with a Bachelor of Science degree.
Joy Perrine first worked the bar in the Caribbean in the 1970s. She moved to Kentucky in 1978. For more than 30 years, she has been promoting the versatility of Bourbon at Equus Restaurant
and Jack’s Lounge. She serves on the faculty of Moonshine University and co-authored Kentucky Bourbon Cocktails.