As leaders in the industry since 1935, we know that part of making some of the world’s best American Whiskeys includes supporting the communities where it’s made. Here at Heaven Hill Distillery, our home is Bardstown and Louisville, Kentucky. This is where our employees work and live. It’s also where they’re connected to—and supportive of—a wide range of community initiatives that we also believe in.
“We’re impacting our employees, their families, friends and neighbors by helping different causes,” says Jeff Crowe, director of our visitor experiences. “If you want the community to invest in you, you must invest in the community. That belief and commitment are part of who we are.”
Our community commitment comes to life in different ways, from simple product donations of auction items for charitable fundraisers to direct financial gifts and scheduled contributions from sales of special whiskey releases. Our hope is that every contribution, whether large or small, improves others’ welfare and supports broader causes such as land preservation and environmental sustainability.
GIVING IN THE MOMENT. GIVING CONSISTENTLY. GIVING GENEROUSLY.
- In the winter of 2021 and the summer of 2022, Kentuckians suffered two catastrophic weather events: a tornado outbreak in the state’s western end and record flooding in its eastern end. Combined, the violent weather events claimed the lives of 123 residents and racked up nearly a half-billion dollars in damage. To help victims, the Kentucky Distillers’ Association launched two whiskey-centered auctions that raised a total of $5.9 million for victims. In addition to cash donations, we contributed a barrel to the relief efforts.
- Since 2020, Evan Williams’ American-Made Heroes Foundation has contributed more than $500,000 to veterans causes through the sale of bottles featuring the faces and stories of 48 military veterans.
- Elijah Craig’s annual Old Fashioned Week partnerships have raised more than $300,000 to help workers in the hospitality industry.
THE ALS ASSOCIATION AND THE PARKER’S HERITAGE COLLECTION
When Parker Beam, our master distiller for 56 years, was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) in 2010, he asked our leaders what Heaven Hill Distillery could do to support research for a cure to this debilitating condition, which took his life in 2017. Their answer was the Parker’s Heritage Collection (PHC), an annual fall release originally chosen and blended by Beam. Knowing that a premium product would command a premium price, we committed to donating a portion of sales from each bottle to the Kentucky chapter of the ALS Association.
“When he told us about it, Parker figured the proceeds we’d get would be $5 to $10 per bottle,” says Patricia Peak, director of care service for the chapter. “But when in that first year we received a $400,000 donation—and those funds came to our chapter—I about had a heart attack! That this many people became supporters of ALS through Parker Beam…his notoriety got this going to where it is now.”
Over the years as Beam received assistance through Kentucky’s ALS chapter, Peak got to know Beam personally, and learned more about his hobby as a cattle rancher rather than his work as a distiller. But when she joined him at WhiskyFest in New York in 2014, she got a firsthand look at his role as an American distilling icon.
“I went there for the release of the Promise of Hope bottle, and I was amazed to see how people looked up to Parker Beam,” she said. “The respect that man garnered blew me away. His personality just drew you to him.”
Peak said such regular contributions are key to the survival and advancement of help for those with ALS in Kentucky, and since PHC’s inception, more than $1 million has been donated to her ALS chapter. Peak said those funds are used for health consultations, direct care services and for equipment purchases to share with clients free of charge.
“Our equipment loan closet includes things families can borrow without buying it,” she says. The annual cost of ALS treatment, she adds, can cost as much as $200,000 a year. The money also helps fund “a quality-of-life grant we can use to purchase things after their diagnosis—things like building a wheelchair ramp or money to buy a lift chair.”
YOU DO BOURBON DOES WONDERS FOR BERNHEIM FOREST
When we opened the expanded Heaven Hill Bourbon Experience® in Bardstown in 2021, it included an immersive visitor attraction called You Do Bourbon. In addition to Bourbon education, visitors can enjoy an interactive, elevated tasting experience—and if desired, they can purchase, fill and label a bottle to take home. Making the experience even more special is the fact that for each bottle purchased through You Do Bourbon, we donate $5 of the proceeds to a local non-profit organization, up to $10,000. We’ve partnered with two organizations so far, with plans to pick a new partner each year.
Our first recipient was the Bernheim Forest, a land conservation trust donated to Kentucky in 1929 by distiller Isaac Wolfe Bernheim, after whom our Bernheim Distillery in Louisville is named.
“Bernheim Forest is 100 percent supported by donations from members, private donors, businesses and grants,” says Amy Landon, director of communications at Bernheim Forest.
The forest’s easement covers 25.5 square miles and all funding goes to protecting that land and its habitats for migratory birds, bats and myriad other species that call Bernheim home.
“You can see that every dollar we get is welcomed to protect this land and to educate the next generation of environmental stewards,” Amy says.
Asked why she thought Heaven Hill Distillery supports the forest, Landon says she sees a personal connection to the family in its generosity.
“They want to see this forest protected because it’s a valued resource for their community and its employees,” she says. “We’re just grateful that they are so generous.”
HELPING SHELTER PEOPLE THROUGH BETHANY HAVEN
When Bethany Haven was founded in Bardstown in 1997, it was a small homeless shelter for women. As the need for bigger spaces to house children and spouses grew over the ensuing years, and as the COVID-19 pandemic waned and rent support ended, demand rose sharply.
Treasure Davidson, executive director of Bethany Haven, says the need has never been greater, and without the support of corporate donations from companies like Heaven Hill Distillery, many might not receive the assistance they desperately need to survive inside and outside its shelters.
“We work with the unsheltered by street outreach—getting them food and medical care and supplies—we shelter those we can and work toward helping them transition to permanent housing,” Davidson says. “Homelessness is a societal issue that takes our entire community’s help. So, being a small 501(c)(3), we need corporate donations to continue.”
Like Bernheim Forest, Bethany Haven has also benefited from bottles filled and sold via the You Do Bourbon experience.
“Its donations go into our general operating budget to help us get supplies people need, things most of us don’t have to think of, like ordering birth certificates, paying for I.D.s, getting doctors’ help,” Davidson says. “Heaven Hill Distillery has been a huge supporter of ours, and when companies do things for us and with us, they’re now personally involved in solving issues such as homelessness.”
GIVING TO SAY THANKS
For years, Crowe’s visitor experience teams have dropped off seasonal gifts to businesses in Bardstown and Louisville. He said those simple gestures demonstrate that “we also care about other companies who help sustain ours. We do lots of things to try and help spread goodwill.”
During the holidays his team delivers seasonal treats to other businesses, and to help everyone get in the spirit during Kentucky Derby Week, they share mint julep mix, too. Crowe says every business, regardless of size, needs others to sustain them.
“When we do that, it also helps put a face on our business and makes it personal,” he says. “That helps the community know that even people at the highest level of our company are as committed to the community as those on the ground every day.”