Kentucky Distillers’ Association Announces New Board Officers, Directors

The Kentucky Distillers’ Association announced that Jessica Pendergrass of Heaven Hill Distilleries has been elected chair of the 143-year-old nonprofit trade group that unites, promotes and protects the signature Kentucky Bourbon and distilled spirits industry. 

Pendergrass, who is general counsel and chief compliance officer at Heaven Hill, will begin her term Jan. 1, 2024, and serve through December 2024. The KDA board of directors elected officers during its Annual Meeting last month in Louisville.

Pendergrass first served as chair in 2020, leading KDA through the global pandemic when the industry came together to create hand sanitizer and fill the supply chain void. She was the third woman to ever serve as chair of the KDA board of directors when she assumed the role in 2020. 

“The KDA leads the way for Kentucky Bourbon, America’s native spirit, and to be given the opportunity to serve as Board Chair once again is an honor,” Pendergrass said. “We have a bold strategic plan that will cement Kentucky Bourbon and KDA as the voice of this signature industry and spirit around the world.

“It’s such a dynamic time for our industry, and I’m ready once again to lead us forward.”

Pendergrass was the first woman to receive the KDA’s Esprit de Corps award for camaraderie in the distilled spirits industry in 2020 during her term as chair. She also is the founder of the KDA’s DEI Advisory Panel to the distilled spirits industry and she led the formation of the KDA’s Lifting Spirits nonprofit arm. 

Pendergrass also represents Heaven Hill on the board of the American Distilled Spirits Alliance in D.C. She is the executive sponsor of Heaven Hill’s Environmental Sustainability Strategy and is a member of the board of trustees of Bernheim Forest and Arboretum.

The board named Ken Lewis of New Riff Distilling as vice chair; Gigi DaDan, general manager of Louisville Distilling Co. as Secretary; and Ryan Ashley, chief operating officer and director of distillery operations at Four Roses as treasurer.

Other board officers include Chris Morris, master distiller Emeritus at Brown-Forman, the immediate past chairman; Ray Franklin, founder and president of Garrard County Distilling Co., representing “Proof” level members; and Lynne Dant, head distiller, chief operating officer and co-founder of Log Still Distillery, representing “Craft” level members. 

Other Board members for 2024 include:

  • Bardstown Bourbon Co.: Mark Erwin, president and CEO
  • 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.: Crady deGolian, director of public affairs 
  • Lux Row Distillers: Erika Lapish, vice president of human resources
  • Michter’s Distillery: Andrea Wilson, chief operating officer & master of maturation
  • Rabbit Hole Distillery: Kaveh Zamanian, founder, whiskey maker & CEO
  • White Dog Trading & Storage: Tyler Harris, president
  • Wild Turkey: Marco Barassi, government relations and sustainability director, North America 
  • Willett Distillery: Britt Kulsveen, president
  • Jackson Purchase Distillery: David Salmon, chief operating officer
  • Kentucky Artisan Distillery: Jade Peterson, master distiller
  • Lexington Brewing & Distilling Co.: Robert Krass, managing director
  • Moonshine University: Clay Smith, distillery operations manager

KDA president Eric Gregory, who is finishing his 16th year leading the historic organization, said he looks forward to working with Pendergrass and the entire board of directors as it implements the new three-year strategic plan to strengthen the KDA as the worldwide voice for bourbon. 

“The tremendous economic and tourism impact of Kentucky bourbon continues to shape communities across the Commonwealth,” Gregory said. “We are excited to continue sharing that story of success around the globe.

“Bourbon brings people together, and that mission of unity and camaraderie has been the hallmark of the KDA since our founding in 1880. We have elevated Bourbon to an unprecedented level of success by working with industry leaders, elected officials, community members and farm families. 

“We still have many challenges at home and abroad, especially with a looming crisis from retaliatory tariffs, but I know we can accomplish more by standing together than working apart. The sky’s the limit for where Kentucky bourbon goes next.”

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