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Bardstown’s historic Willett Distillery promotes Britt Kulsveen to president and chief whiskey officer


BARDSTOWN, Ky. – The historic Willett Distillery, family owned and operated since its founding in 1936, today announced the promotion of Kristin Martha-Britt Kulsveen to the role of President and Chief Whiskey Officer.

Britt Kulsveen

Kulsveen is the great-granddaughter of founder A. Lambert Willett and succeeds her mother, Martha Harriett Willett Kulsveen, as President. The landmark announcement also comes on Britt Kulsveen’s 39th birthday and coincides with the nation’s celebration of National Bourbon Day and Flag Day – all reasons to cheer for American’s only native spirit.

“This is a tremendous honor and I’m incredibly thankful for the teachings and traditions that have been passed down from generations of strong Willett women, especially my mother, that have guid- ed my personal and professional life,” Britt Kulsveen said.

“The importance of gratitude, kindness and serving others have been instilled in my beliefs since birth and are firmly rooted in my plans for our distillery’s future. Like our Bourbon, the Willett brand of Southern hospitality is unique, timeless, authentic and welcoming without prejudice.

“As President and Chief Whiskey Officer, I pledge to honor these fundamental family values as we continue to shape our distillery, our signature industry, and our beloved Commonwealth for generations to come.”

The Willett distilling legacy traces its roots back to the mid-1800s when John David Willett was the Master Distiller for the Moore, Willett & Frenke Distillery in Bardstown, as well as four other Kentucky distilleries in his lifetime. He died in 1914.

In 1936, three short years after the Repeal of Prohibition, his son, Aloysius Lambert Willett and grandson A.L. “Thompson” Willett purchased a farm on the highest point in Nelson County to begin construction on what is now the Willett Distillery.

Authors of memorable Kentucky Bourbon & Kentucky Rye Whiskey 

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Using John David Willett’s original recipes as the basis of its famous Old Bardstown brand, the com- pany produced its first batch of Bourbon and rolled its inaugural barrels on St. Patrick’s Day in 1937 into Warehouse A.

Now, after more than 80 years, the Willett Distillery remains independent and truly family owned and operated. Descendants of the Willett family can be found every day working throughout the pic- turesque 130-acre property.

Thompson Willett passed the reins over to his daughter, Martha, and her husband, Even Kulsveen. Their son, Drew Kulsveen, serves as Master Distiller. In addition to producing the traditional family whiskey recipes, Drew has developed his own set of mash bills earning him three consecutive James Beard Award Nominations. Drew’s wife Janelle is focused on leading the growing guest experience at Willett Distillery. Janelle hosts visitors at the newly expanded gift shop, coffee shop and tasting rooms with that special Willett variety of southern hospitality.

Britt Kulsveen is a graduate of Louisiana State University where she studied political science and responsible consumption. She also studied distillation at L’allemond Ethanol Tech in Montreal, Que- bec.

She returned to Kentucky and the family business in 2005 following Hurricane Katrina. As President and Chief Whiskey Officer, she will be responsible for all day-to-day operations, compliance, strategy and development, including a new onsite restaurant and bed and breakfast.

“For the last 13 years I have observed daily demonstrations of Britt’s natural leadership abilities. We couldn’t be more excited for the future of the Willett Distillery with Britt at the helm” Drew Kulsveen said.

The announcement was made at the new Kentucky Bourbon Trail Welcome Center at the Frazier History Museum on Louisville’s famed Whiskey Row. The “Britt” cocktail was toasted in the museum’s newly opened vintage event space, the Champagne Parlor. Eric Gregory, president of the Kentucky Distillers’ Association, introduced Britt Kulsveen and applauded her infectious spirit.

“There are few people who can hold their own with Britt when it comes to passion and devotion to our signature craft,” Gregory said. “With her trademark boots and fiery personality, Britt is a driving, determined force for Kentucky Bourbon – and we wouldn’t want it any other way.

“On behalf of the KDA and our 39 members, we are proud of her success and offer our sincerest congratulations on becoming President and Chief Whiskey Officer of Willett Distillery. We are honored to call you a member and most of all, our fearless friend.”

Willett Distillery


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