The Kentucky Distillers’ Association today announced that O.Z. Tyler Distillery has advanced to the “Heritage” member level, the highest rank in the non-profit trade group that unites and leads the state’s signature Bourbon and distilled spirits industry.
O.Z. Tyler is the KDA’s eighth Heritage member and its first since 2015. To qualify as a Heritage member, distilleries must have at least 25,000 barrels of distilled spirits aging in Kentucky warehouses, according to KDA President Eric Gregory.
The distillery joined the KDA last year as a Craft-level member soon after it began production in the renovated Charles W. Medley Distillery. The KDA welcomed O.Z. Tyler to the Heritage level at the association’s 137th Annual Meeting of Members last week in Lexington.
“This is an exciting announcement as the addition of Heritage level members is a rare event and one to be celebrated,” said Ryan Ashley, Chairman of the KDA’s Board of Directors and Chief Operating Officer at Four Roses Distillery.
“Achieving the production and inventory requirements for this top-tier level in only one year truly reflects the investment and commitment that O.Z. Tyler has made in our signature industry and our Commonwealth,” Ashley said.
“We are proud of their growth and success, and welcome them as our newest Heritage member.”
As a Heritage Member, O. Z. Tyler will have an expanded leadership role in the management of the organization and the direction of Kentucky’s distilled spirits industry, Gregory said. Heritage members also are eligible to join the world-famous Kentucky Bourbon Trail® tour.
Other Heritage distilleries include Beam Suntory (Jim Beam and Maker’s Mark), Brown- Forman, Diageo North America, Four Roses, Heaven Hill Brands, Michter’s Distillery and Wild Turkey.
Founded in 1880, the KDA is the state’s voice for Bourbon and spirits issues. Its diverse membership produces 90 percent of the world’s Bourbon, from legendary, global brands to emerging micro distilleries that are building the next generation of the timeless craft.
O. Z. Tyler traces its roots back 130 years to the historic Green River Distillery, built on the Ohio River site in 1885. It was a major producer of Kentucky Bourbon before burning to the ground in 1918.
It was rebuilt after Prohibition and operated as the Charles W. Medley Distillery from 1936 to 1993 – with Charles and John Medley both serving on the KDA Board of Directors for decades – before shutting down.
The distillery was vacant until 2014 when it was purchased by Terressentia, a South Carolina company that invested more than $25 million in restoring the 26-acre site, including six warehouses and a 54-inch column still capable of producing 72,000 barrels annually.
Ashley and Gregory presented Terressentia CEO Earl Hewlette with an engraved barrel head commemorating the new membership level at the KDA’s annual State Dinner on Dec. 4. Hewlette thanked the KDA’s 35 members for their camaraderie and support.
“We are honored to become a Heritage member of the Kentucky Distillers’ Association and look forward to becoming an official stop on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail® tour,” Hewlette said. “Taking great care in preserving this historic facility that is steeped in tradition, the O.Z. Tyler Distillery is proud to integrate innovation into the time-honored craft of Bourbon making.”
Kentucky Bourbon is one of the Commonwealth’s most historic and treasured industries, a booming $8.5 billion economic engine that generates as many as 17,500 jobs with an annual payroll topping $800 million, and pours $825 million into tax coffers each year.
In addition, the industry is in the middle of a $1.2 billion building boom, from innovative new tourism centers to expanded production facilities, all to meet the growing global thirst for Kentucky Bourbon.
There are now 39 companies operating 52 distilleries in the Commonwealth making 6.8 million barrels of aging Bourbon – all modern records. Distillers also paid a record $19.2 million this year in barrel taxes that fund critical local programs such as education, public safety and health.
The KDA’s famous Kentucky Bourbon Trail® and Kentucky Bourbon Trail Craft Tour® also made history last year, with tourists making a record one million stops at 20 participating distilleries. Attendance has skyrocketed by 300 percent in the last 10 years.
KDA President Gregory congratulated the O. Z. Tyler team and thanked them for their dedication to the industry and to the KDA. “It’s been amazing to watch the Owensboro community rediscover and reclaim its Bourbon heritage as O. Z. Tyler has brought this legendary and historic icon back to life,” he said.
“We’re proud to welcome O.Z. Tyler as a Heritage member, and look forward to working with Earl and his expert team as we promote, protect and elevate Kentucky’s signature Bourbon industry and our timeless craft.”