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Distilled Spirits Council Honors Industry Leaders at Annual Conference

October 08, 2021 3:00 pm

Aaron Gregory (3rd from L), Executive Director of the USBG/USBG Foundation & in receipt of the 2021 DISCUS Humanitarian/Service Award for the USBG/USBG Foundation.

AUSTIN, Texas – Spirits industry professionals and media joined the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States (DISCUS) in honoring industry leaders today during the DISCUS annual conference at the Fairmont Hotel in Austin, Texas. The event was emceed by spirits industry trailblazer, Peggy Noe Stevens, bourbon expert, author and first female Master Bourbon Taster.

“The spirits community is honored to celebrate the outstanding contributions of these exemplary leaders who have each in their own way supported the growth of our great industry and the wider appreciation for our special products,” said Chris Swonger, president and CEO of DISCUS and

Each recipient was presented with an award created by Vendome Copper and Brass Works, a leading manufacturer of handcrafted batch and continuous distillation systems.

Award and Recipient Information:

DISCUS Lifetime Achievement Award – Fred Noe, Jim Beam Master Distiller

The DISCUS Lifetime Achievement Award honors an individual who supports the industry during their lifetime through significant innovation and promotion of the industry, commercial strategy, advocacy or responsibility.

Fred Noe, a Kentucky Bourbon Hall of Fame member, has been an industry stalwart for years and a pioneer for innovation during the bourbon renaissance. As master distiller of the world’s top-selling bourbon brand, Fred has propelled Jim Beam through an incredible period of global growth.

He has maintained the standards of his flagship White Label and award-winning Jim Beam Black while driving premium innovations and taking his family’s small batch bourbon collection to new heights, from the award-winning Booker’s Rye to Knob Creek Single Barrel, Knob Creek Rye, Baker’s Single Barrel, Basil Hayden’s Rye and Legent.

Fred has been an incredible bourbon ambassador, representing the bourbon industry around the globe and educating and inspiring others to discover America’s native spirit. Fred has left his mark on every single person he has met or raised a glass with.

DISCUS Dave Pickerell Memorial Craft Member of the Year – Amir Peay, Owner/Operator, James E. Pepper Distillery

The DISCUS Dave Pickerell Memorial Craft Member of the Year Award is in memory of Dave Pickerell, the “Johnny Appleseed of craft distilling” and is awarded to a leader in advancing the craft distiller community and supporting the association with its advocacy efforts.

Amir has been a long-time DISCUS advocate, serving on the Craft Advisory Council for many years and consistently participating in industry advocacy efforts that advance the entire industry. Amir has served as a “go-to” craft distiller spokesperson for DISCUS legislative and policy efforts, volunteering for numerous media interviews and always providing salient quotes on priority issues from the Craft Beverage Modernization and Tax Reform Act to tariffs.

Amir has worked to help preserve the history of American distilling through his efforts to renovate and rebuild the historic James E. Pepper Distillery, a National Historic Landmark, which had been abandoned for more than 50 years.

Additionally, Amir has contributed to DISCUS membership growth through his support for recruiting efforts and outreach to prospective members.

DISCUS Humanitarian/Service Award – U.S. Bartenders’ Guild (Aaron Smith, Executive Director)

The DISCUS Humanitarian/Service Award honors a company or organization that has made exemplary and extraordinary contributions to their community and/or the hospitality industry during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The U.S. Bartender’s Guild (USBG) has been at the forefront of providing direct assistance to displaced on-premise hospitality industry professionals. Through the Bartender Emergency Relief Fund’s COVID-19 Relief Grant Program, the USBG Foundation raised more than $9.6 million and awarded 32,000 grants to bartenders around the country. Aside from the COVID-19 Grant Program, the USBG Foundation continues to provide grants to those in the bar industry seeking financial assistance. USBG also provides bartenders with critical mental health, crisis and survivor resources.

DISCUS Impact Award for Emerging Leaders – Alex Castle, Master Distiller and Senior Vice President of Old Dominick Distillery

The DISCUS Impact Award for Emerging Leaders recognizes the achievements of an emerging young professional who has made significant contributions to their company and/or to the industry and has demonstrated the potential for leadership and continued service.

Alex Castle is the master distiller and senior vice president of Old Dominick Distillery in Memphis, TN. At the age of 33, Alex is the first female head distiller in Tennessee since Prohibition. A chemical engineer, Alex began her spirits career at Wild Turkey, and after five years, moved to Tennessee to build Old Dominick Distillery from the ground up. She created the distillery’s first batch of Tennessee Whiskey in 2016.

Alex serves as president of the Tennessee Distillers Guild, member of the DISCUS Craft Advisory Council and board member of The Spirit Hub Independent Distillery Preservation Fund. Alex was also recently chosen for DISCUS Academy’s Executive Leadership Program for promising young executives for her strong advocacy for the industry. At Old Dominick Distillery, Alex is also doing her part to ensure a more diverse industry by instituting more inclusive hiring practices and ensuring the distillery is a welcoming workplace for all.



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