KDA announces new officers, directors

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The Kentucky Distillers’ Association announced Jan. 4 that Rob Samuels, chief operating officer at Maker’s Mark Distillery, has been named chairman of the group’s board of directors for 2018.

Samuels, 43, is the fourth generation of his family to serve as chairman of the non-profit trade group that unites, promotes, protects and elevates the state’s signature bourbon and distilled spirits industry.

Samuels follows in the footsteps of his father, Bill Samuels Jr., and grandfather, the late T. William Samuels Sr., both of whom have been bestowed the title of Lifetime Honorary Members of the KDA Board in recognition of their service and leadership.

The elder Samuels served as KDA chairman in 1961, not long after he founded the Maker’s Mark brand, with Bill Samuels, Jr., leading the group in 1982 and 1983. Rob Samuels said his great-grandfather, Leslie Samuels, also chaired the KDA in the early 1900s before Prohibition.

Rob Samuels will serve as KDA chairman through December. He is an 8th generation whisky maker and leads the iconic brand’s innovation strategy, offering new products, increasing production and boosting its unique and enduring tourism program.

“I’m excited about this opportunity for a couple of reasons,” Samuels said. “One, this is clearly one of the most dynamic times in the history of our industry, and the KDA is uniquely positioned to provide leadership for the greater good of the entire Commonwealth.

“And secondly, I’m humbled to be the fourth generation of the Samuels family to chair the KDA. I’m looking forward to carrying on that tradition.”

The KDA Board selected officers during its 137th Annual Meeting recently in Lexington.

The Board also appointed Rick Robinson, Vice President of U.S. Product Supply Chain for Wild Turkey Distillery as vice chairman, and Larry Kass, Director of Trade Relations for Heaven Hill Brands, as secretary-treasurer.

Other Board members for 2018 include:

• Diageo: Pauline Rooney, vice president of distilling, maturation and engineering

• Michter’s: Joseph J. Magliocco, president

• Brown-Forman: Campbell Brown, president, Old Forester

• Four Roses: Ryan Ashley, chief operating officer and director of distillery operations

• O.Z. Tyler: Earl Hewlette, president and CEO