Celebrating the biggest names in the industry
Since its inception in 2004, our sister magazine’s Whisky Magazine Hall of Fame has built up an impressive archive of whisk(e)y greats. Here are the American legends who have been inducted so far.
From the first inductee through to the most recent, making the list truly sets these individuals among the most iconic in the industry. Drawn from distillers, blenders, company owners and writers, the Hall of Fame is the highest accolade the magazine can bestow and is our permanent tribute honouring individuals who have made a lasting contribution to the whisk(e)y world.
The Hall of Fame is sponsored by:
Inductee No. 66
Senior advisor to the CEO
Distilled Spirits Council
From 2001 Frank was senior vice president, public affairs and communications and has been responsible for developing and communicating the industry’s key messages.
He led the campaign to get spirits back on TV networks, launched the annual economic briefing for Wall Street, co-managed the USDA-funded MAP program from 2006 to 2015, promoted industry heritage through the partnership with George Washington’s Distillery, created Drinkinmoderation.org and moderate drinking partnerships and executed dozens of memorable and compelling media events.
In 2010 the French government inducted him into the Ordre du Mérite Agricole for his work promoting Cognac. Also that year, Whisky Magazine named him American Ambassador of the Year. In 2008 he was named a Keeper of the Quaich for his efforts in promoting Scotch in the US market. In April 2019 he was promoted to Master of the Quaich.
He began his career as a journalist writing for Newsday. A father of four adult children, Frank resides in McLean, Virginia with his wife Antoinette.
Inductee No. 65
Peggy Noe Stevens
Founder and president
Peggy Noe Stevens & Associates
In many ways Peggy has been a trailblazer for women. In 2011 she created the Bourbon Women Association. Because of her accomplishments, she was given the prestigious “Networking Award” by the Kentucky Distillers’ Association in 2016.
Peggy has authored two books, Professional Presence: A Four-Part Guide to Building Your Personal Brand and The Culinary Cocktail Tour. Her new book, Which Fork do I use with my Bourbon, is available in May 2020.
Author, global speaker, whiskey taster and experience maker, Peggy brings a gracious, fresh and relevant approach to establishing image and creating experiences for consumers.
Inductee No. 57
Bar owner & whiskey aficionado
It is said that many of the US Bourbon bars owe their existence to Delilah’s. Mike opened the iconic bar in 1993 and legend has it, it has been open every day since. It is reputed he once said that he comes to the bar every day because he enjoys it, and that if it is no longer fun he would sell it. All we can say is that it must still be fun as the bar goes from strength to strength, and is one of the go-to places in Chicago, if not the US, for Bourbon lovers.
While many refer to Delilah’s as a whiskey bar, which it certainly is, Miller prefers to call it, “A bar with a great selection of whiskey.” Obviously any place with such an impressive list is deserving of that description. But Miller, an outgoing man who obviously relishes having created a welcoming bar and is also involved in his neighbourhood association, has a somewhat wider vision.
The “different elements” at Delilah’s include classic movies (Miller studied cinematography in college), a rotation of DJs presenting recordings, and one of the country’s greatest selections of whiskeys, more than 875 bottles.
In all this, one thing resounds, Miller created a go to destination that was drenched in Bourbon, before Bourbon was cool.
Inductee No. 56
Oak View Spirits
Considered to be one of the founding fathers of the American craft distilling movement, Dave Pickerell’s impact on the industry was considerable.
The master distiller was a colourful character, an engaging raconteur who liked to tell stories and could often be found dressed in period costumes for marketing events, and a former college football player.
He was also a well-educated chemical engineer who enforced the highest quality standards in distilling, whether at a major company like Maker’s Mark or at the hundreds of smaller operations he helped during the years.
After leaving the army in 1989, Dave became a chemical engineer and distilling consultant at Ro-Tech in Louisville, Kentucky.
In 1994, he joined Maker’s Mark Bourbon as a corporate vice president and master distiller, and was with the company for 14 years, during which he presided over a period of great growth.
After leaving Maker’s Mark, he established a consulting firm called Oak View Spirits, where he advised more than 100 other distilleries.
In one of his final projects before his death in November 2018, he worked with rock band Metallica to release a product called Blackened American Whiskey.
Inductee No. 47
Fritz Maytag III
Inductee No. 40
Master distiller emeritus
A true native son of Kentucky, Willie Pratt was born to a family living in Hazard, a town in the coal-mining area of Eastern Kentucky. After moving to Louisville, he joined Brown-Forman at age 20. While working full-time, he attended evening classes and earned his degree from the University of Louisville.
Working at Brown-Forman for over four decades, he served in various positions at the company, and for a period of years joined his close friend Lincoln Henderson on Brown-Forman’s committee studying distillation, cooperage, and ageing conditions.
Willie retired from Brown-Forman at age 65 but his love of whiskey and whiskey people brought him back to the industry from retirement. He joined Michter’s as the company’s master distiller and initially oversaw its production program conducted at another Kentucky distillery before Michter’s decided to develop its own bricks and mortar.
Willie embarked on the daunting task of designing and building a new distillery for Michter’s in the Shively section of Louisville. In this state of the art distillery, Willie has combined science and modern methodology with traditional Kentucky whiskey practices.
Perhaps the only master distiller to share the name of a James Bond villain, Willie was nicknamed ‘Dr No’ by the Michter’s sales force because of his refusal to release stocks for bottling until he felt they were properly matured and just right. Willie currently serves Michter’s in the position of master distiller emeritus.
Willie lives in Louisville with his wife, their two children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Over the years, his hobbies have included driving motorcycles, piloting planes and fishing.
Inductee No. 39
Julian Van Winkle III
Old Rip Van Winkle Distillery
Julian Van Winkle III is the third generation Van Winkle to be involved in the Kentucky Bourbon whiskey business. His grandfather, who was known as ‘Pappy’, started the family in the business back in the 1870s when he was a salesman for the W L Weller & Sons liquor wholesalers in Louisville. He later built and was president of the Stitzel-Weller Distillery in Louisville, which opened its doors on Derby day, 1935.
Their prominent brands were W L Weller, Rebel Yell, Cabin Still and Old Fitzgerald Bourbons. Julian’s father, Julian Jr, operated the distillery until the family sold it in 1972. At that time, Julian Jr started the Old Rip Van Winkle brand with some of the whiskey he made while he was at Stitzel-Weller. Julian joined his dad in 1977 and continued to operate the business after his father’s death in 1981.
Julian now has his whiskey produced by Buffalo Trace under his grandfather’s original wheated Bourbon recipe, and ages and bottles the Old Rip Van Winkle brands in Frankfort, Kentucky. His whiskeys are the highest rated whiskeys available. The 20-year old Pappy Van Winkle’s Family Reserve has won numerous awards and his 13-year old rye whiskey was the first premium aged rye whiskey.
Recently, Julian’s son Preston has joined the business with his dad, making him the fourth Van Winkle to sell these premium Bourbon and rye whiskeys.
Inductee No. 34
Woodford Reserve (Brown-Forman)
Chris Morris is Master Distiller for Brown-Forman Corporation, the seventh since the company began in 1870. A Louisville native, Chris has spent his working life in the Bourbon industry. He is responsible for maintaining the award-winning taste of the Woodford Reserve Family of Brands. Additionally, he serves as Brand Ambassador for Brown-Forman at numerous trade and consumer functions.
Chris grew up around Bourbon and has been involved with it his entire life. He is one of three generations of his family to work at Brown-Forman and his career with the company began in 1976 as a trainee in the central lab working for the Master Distiller.
In 1988, he transitioned to Glenmore Distilleries Company and joined United Distillers through its acquisition of Glenmore in 1991. In 1997, Chris returned to Brown-Forman and was chosen to begin training as Brown-Forman Master Distiller, a position he has held since 2003. In 2002 he developed the Old Forester Birthday Bourbon product and more recently the brand’s Whiskey Row Series.
At Woodford Reserve, Chris developed the Master’s Collection, Woodford Reserve Double Oaked, Rye and Distillery Series products, and in 2015 he was given the additional responsibility of Vice President of Whiskey Innovation for Brown-Forman.
As a student of the industry, Chris authored the Society of Wine Educator’s Certified Spirits Specialist program, introduced the use of taste notes for Bourbon in 1992 and developed the Bourbon Flavor Wheel in 2004.
Through his nearly 40 year association with Bourbons and other distilled spirits, Chris Morris has become a recognised authority within the alcohol industry and at Brown-Forman carries the title Spirits Historian. Chris has served on the Kentucky Distillers Association and Kentucky Bourbon Festival’s boards. He is also Co-chair of the DISCUS Master Distillers Committee.
Inductee No. 33
Heaven Hill Brands
As the only son of Ed Shapira, one of the five brothers who founded Heaven Hill Distilleries following the repeal of Prohibition, Max Shapira was born into the Bourbon business in January of 1944.
After spending his childhood growing up in the shadow of his family’s distillery in Bardstown, Kentucky, Max left to earn his undergraduate degree at Washington and Lee University in 1965 and an MBA from the Harvard Business School in 1967. Following graduate school, he accepted a position at what is now J.P. Morgan & Co., the Wall Street investment firm.
After spending four years in corporate finance, he returned to his family’s company in 1970 as Director of Corporate Planning for Heaven Hill. Holding a variety of positions within the company, Max ultimately became president in 1996 following the death of his uncle George Shapira, the last surviving member of the five founding brothers.
Max has overseen a period of rapid expansion, through internal product development and brand acquisitions, which has taken Heaven Hill beyond its traditional roots as a Bourbon distiller to become the country’s sixth largest overall distilled spirits producer and marketer by case volume.
With such well-known brands as Evan Williams and Elijah Craig Bourbons, Heaven Hill has grown to become the nation’s largest independent family owned and operated distilled spirits company and the world’s second largest holder of ageing Bourbon. It is also the only distiller with two official stops on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail, including the new Evan Williams Bourbon Experience in Louisville.
In addition, Heaven Hill has seen its export business grow significantly with products now shipped to over 60 countries worldwide. The continuity of leadership of the Shapira family at Heaven Hill through a third generation is now assured with the ascendance of Max’s son Andy Shapira as Vice President of Marketing, daughter Kate Shapira Latts as Director of Corporate Analysis and son-in-law Allan Latts as Chief Operating Officer.
Inductee No. 27
Bill Samuels Jr.
Maker’s Mark Distillery
While his father forever changed the bourbon industry with the introduction of Maker’s Mark Bourbon in the 1950s, Bill Samuels Jr. was born into a family making whisky in the US for six generations.
In 1784, Robert Samuels mustered out of George Washington’s Army, resettled in Kentucky with his father’s 60-gallon copper still, and began a tradition of distilling success. Bill Jr. carried that torch as President and CEO of Maker’s Mark for 35 years and today that success continues under the guidance of his son, Rob Samuels.
Born in 1940 as the godson of Jim Beam, Bill Jr. grew up on Distiller’s Row in Bardstown, Kentucky. His early education included a PhD in salesmanship by driving Colonel Harland Sanders around Kentucky just as he was launching his new chicken business.
Later, he earned a degree in engineering physics, helped design both the Gemini and Polaris missiles, and became friends with the founding administrator of NASA. Then, it was on to law school and the White House (as an intern) before joining his father in the family business.
Bill Samuels Jr. assumed leadership of Maker’s Mark in the mid-1970s and looking back, he followed his father’s stern, but simple piece of advice to not “screw up the whisky.”
To this day, Bill humbly attributes the success of Maker’s Mark to having really smart parents and some very good luck. He is a true champion for his community, having chaired the board of more than 25 different non-profit organisations over the course of his career.
For all of his efforts, he’s been recognised as Kentucky’s Entrepreneur of the Year on three occasions and was named Louisville’s 2004 Citizen of the Year. Further, he was honored by Ernst & Young as Kentucky’s 2011 Lifetime Achievement Entrepreneur, was inducted into the Kentucky Business Hall of Fame in 2006, and was part of the inaugural class of the Kentucky Bourbon Hall of Fame in 2001.