The Kentucky Bourbon Benefit auction of rare and signed bottles, private barrel selections and more raised over $1.4 million to help ease suffering and restore hope for Eastern Kentucky residents whose communities were ravaged by historic flooding last month.
The Kentucky Distillers’ Association partnered with the Bourbon Crusaders charitable organization, Bourbon curator Fred Minnick and Louisville-based Westport Whiskey & Wine on the 10-day auction at www.kybourbonbenefit.com.
All proceeds are going directly to the state’s official Team Eastern Kentucky Flood Relief Fund. To learn more, visit https://secure.kentucky.gov/FormServices/Finance/EKYFloodRelief. The state-operated fund assesses no fees on donations.
A similar auction in December raised $3.4 million for tornado relief in Western Kentucky – the single largest donation to the state’s fund for that disaster – bringing the total for both auctions to nearly $5 million.
The floods hit overnight on July 27 and from first light, KDA members began sending totes, tankers and bottles of fresh water to impacted areas. They donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to relief funds and organized drives for supplies and critical needs as well.
To date, their combined monetary and supply donations toward flood relief total more than $275,000, including a $100,000 cash donation from Brown-Forman Corp. and $50,000 each from Beam Suntory, Four Roses and Campari / Wild Turkey.
“Once again, we are humbled and honored by the outpouring of support from the Bourbon community to help our fellow Kentuckians,” KDA President Eric Gregory said. He added, “As a signature industry, it’s our duty to go above and beyond and give back, especially in times of need. It was heartwarming to see our distilleries spring into action when this tragedy occurred. We pray that it never happens again, although we are proud and comforted to know that our industry’s centuries-long tradition of caring for Kentuckians continues to this day.”
Minnick, a best-selling author and Bourbon expert, said the auction’s success demonstrates the fabric of the distilling industry, enthusiasts, nonprofits and others in its sphere. He went on to say, “I am so proud of the Bourbon community for its philanthropic heart and how it always shows up for people in need. This Kentucky Bourbon Benefit is a testament to every collector and distiller in the Bourbon community. However, I hope we don’t have to do this again, but if we do, the Bourbon community will be there for people in need.”
R.J. Sargent, founder of the Bourbon Crusaders, said the outpouring of support has been outstanding. “The Bourbon Crusaders are once again humbled and grateful to the Bourbon community for using our shared passion to help those in need. From distilleries and enthusiasts donating amazing bottles and experiences, to the people across the nation who bid and won, your generosity will help the people of Eastern Kentucky whose lives and homes were devastated by the recent flooding. This is what makes the Bourbon community great – we celebrate in times of joy and rally together in times of need.”
Chris Zaborowski, owner of Westport Whiskey & Wine, also expressed hope and condolences. “We are extremely proud to represent the retail sector in this endeavor and bring new hope and rebuilding to our neighbors and friends affected by the tragic flooding. The behind-the-scenes work of my staff and our partners to facilitate this auction is merely a tribute to the incredible efforts in Eastern Kentucky so far and the work ahead for the many residents, businesses and organizations in rebuilding the affected communities.”
A total of 3,626 bidders representing all 50 states and Washington D.C. vied for the auction’s 533 lots, placing more than 17,300 bids in total.
Kentucky led the way by far with nearly 775 registered bidders, followed by Ohio (295), Tennessee (203), Florida (198) and Indiana (190).
- A private barrel selection at Four Roses Distillery, aged 13 to 16-years, sold for $157,250. The historic Anderson County distillery then contributed a matching barrel to the second-place bidder for the same price.
- Four Roses donated 15 other lots, including two rare 20-year old bottles that commemorated its new visitors center, a 109th Rose Bowl game package and the first six numbered bottles of its annual small batch limited release, bringing the distillery’s final tally to $357,909 raised.
- In addition, Four Roses is selling a limited number of 16-year-old private selection bottles on Monday, Aug. 29., at its Lawrenceburg and Cox’s Creek distilleries. The cost is $200 each, and all proceeds benefit the Team Eastern Kentucky Flood Relief Fund.
- Private barrel selections donated by Willett Distillery in Nelson County brought both the largest and third-largest bids on single items. Willett’s 10-year Bourbon barrel experience sold for $168,099 and a 10-year rye barrel experience ended at $137,000.
- Winning lots from Angel’s Envy totaled more than $106,000, including a private barrel experience of its cask-strength finished Bourbon that went for $89,402 and two sets of 10 bottles from each year of its barrel proof bottles.
- Other private barrel experiences and their winning bids include: Wild Turkey, $48,000; Maker’s Mark, $46,000; New Riff, $45,000; Elijah Craig, $27,199; Bulleit Bourbon, $24,500 and Wilderness Trail, $20,000.
- Jefferson’s Ocean, which donated 300 bottles, and Smooth Ambler – with 372 bottles donated – helped draw in thousands of “Buy it Now” bidders. In total, the Jefferson’s bottles raised nearly $35,000 and Smooth Ambler’s brought in more than $21,000.
- Longtime Eastern Kentucky resident Barbara Lawwill donated her late husband’s collection of decanters and bottles, which raised $5,529 in total.
Gregory said many KDA members continue to organize and deliver needed supplies to Eastern Kentucky and several are exploring ways to help raise money and awareness during September, which is “Bourbon Heritage Month” in Kentucky.
Bourbon is one of Kentucky’s most treasured industries, a homegrown $9 billion economic and tourism engine sustaining 22,500 jobs with a yearly payroll topping $1.23 billion each year, and paying over $285 million in local and state taxes and $1.8 billion in federal alcohol taxes annually.
“Kentucky distillers are a vital part of the Commonwealth’s agriculture, tourism and manufacturing industries and a backbone of local economies through jobs, tax revenue, investment and charitable giving. Making the world’s best Bourbon is an honor and a privilege we don’t take lightly. This effort has been proof once again that Bourbon brings us together, in good times and bad. Please join us in keeping our families, friends and neighbors in Eastern Kentucky in your hearts and prayers.”