While they certainly had a hand in Bourbon’s current success, there are many less-than-obvious folks who had just as much impact on the Bourbon industry throughout history, though they may not be the first to come to mind.
1. Jimmy Johnson, Sr.
His tenure at Buffalo Trace also paved the way for future African-Americans to gain access to well-paying distillery jobs, including his own son, Jimmy Johnson, Jr. and his grandson, Freddie Johnson.
2. Margie Samuels
Samuels’ contributions were only recently recognized when she was inducted into the Bourbon Hall of Fame in 2014, almost 20 years after her death in 1985.
3. Isaac Wolfe Bernheim
His belief that Abraham Lincoln freed the slaves so they could have an opportunity to create their own destiny and to prosper led him to employ many African-Americans, paving the way for greater future opportunities for African-Americans in the 20th century.
4. Colonel E.H. Taylor
His distilleries were built to be showpieces where guests could enjoy the grounds, and his Old Taylor Distillery, now being revitalized as Castle & Key, boasted sunken gardens, a limestone castle, and a key shaped spring house.
5. Frederick Stitzel
Frederick, however, only did something that revolutionized Whiskey aging worldwide - he developed and patented the barrel ricking system used to store barrels in rick houses the world over. The patent is in the collection at Louisville’s Filson Hisorical Society.
6. Peggy Noe Stevens
There have always been women working in the Bourbon Industry, but Stevens became the first to achieve such a high rank, shattering the glass ceiling so that people like Marianne Barnes and Pam Heilmann could rise through the ranks.
7. The Shapira Brothers
8. The Tarascon Brothers
9. Dr. James Crow
He moved the livestock away from the distillery so as not to contaminate the product and he kept meticulous records and followed a strict process aimed at cutting down on contamination.
The only problem? He might not have actually been a doctor at all. Regardless, his contribution to sanitation in the Bourbon industry has endured for generations.
10. President William Howard Taft
Nathan "Nearest" Green was one of the most remarkable yet forgotten master distillers in history. Called Uncle Nearest by his family, he was the first known African-American master distiller.
11. Nathan “Nearest” Green
Born into slavery and emancipated after the Civil War, Green was a virtuoso in distilling, specializing in a unique process known as sugar maple charcoal filtering or the “Lincoln County Process” (it is believed by many to have been brought to the U.S by enslaved West Africans, who used charcoal to filter their water and purify their foods in West Africa).
Jack Daniel became Green’s apprentice, later founding his famous distillery. Green was hired as the first master distiller for the Jack Daniels Distillery but his pivotal role remained unrecognized until 2016. The Lincoln County Process remains the only difference between Bourbon and Tennessee Whiskey.