Women in Whiskey: Interview With Britt Chavanne, Willett Bourbon

Women in Whiskey: Interview With Britt Chavanne, Willett Bourbon

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In Kentucky there are more barrels of whiskey aging than there are people in the state. Among these millions of barrels are very special barrels which are called “honey pots,” barrels which have aged exceptionally and are remarkably better than the barrels that surround them. No one is quite sure how one barrel of whiskey can age so much better than the one next to it. Honey pots are part of the great and wonderful mystery that surrounds the aging process.

Kentucky Bourbon Distillers has built their business on finding these and other special barrels and releasing them in a wide range of products that represent some of the best bourbon you can buy. For many years Kentucky Bourbon Distillers has operated as an independent bottling company and released Willett Pot Still Reserve Bourbon, Rowan’s Creek, Noah’s Mill, Johnny Drum, Old Bardstown, Kentucky Vintage, and Pure Kentucky Bourbon.

Kentucky Bourbon Distillers used to be known as the Willett Distilling Company and produced whiskey starting in 1936 (after the end of prohibition) on a hog farm on the top of the tallest hill in Nelson County. The Willet Distilling Company ceased distilling in the 1980s and transitioned into an independent bottler selling whiskey that was aging in the Willet rack houses, and then from other distilleries. Kentucky Bourbon Distillers is very much a family business with many of the grandchildren and great grandchildren of the original founding Willets in key roles in the company.

Britt Chavanne is the granddaughter of  Thompson Willet and the daughter of Even Kulsveen, who worked in the bottling industry for many years before marrying Thompson Willet’s daughter and joining the family business. It was Even Kulsveen who transitioned the family business from the Willet Distilling Company into the Kentucky Bourbon Distillers, and who has been the driving force in resurrecting distilling operations.

Britt is one of the amazing women in whiskey. In addition to helping run the day-to-day operations of Willett, she also is a busy mom who, by her own account, “never stops working.” She is passionate about the family business and making good whiskey. After being an independent bottler for over twenty years, Kentucky Bourbon Distillers is making the transition back into distilling with a massive renovation of the distillery and new spirit flowing from their signature pot still.

Drink Spirits had the opportunity to visit the Willett Distillery and talk with Britt about the history of Willett, their return to distilling, and what the future holds for the company.

Watch our interview with Willet’s Britt Chavanne.

Or you can listen to this as a podcast:  Britt Chavanne on Willett Bourbon

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  • http://www.whiskeystill.net jason stone

    women in the alcohol distillation business is a rare but must-see occurrence. and she’s a mother to boot. i can imagine what her children are saying to their kid friends when asked what their mother does – “she distills alcohol in our large copper pot still.” not many kids can say that about their moms.

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  • PK

    Willett makes my favorite bourbons. Absolutely love their whiskey. It’s not easy to find in DC (although getting easier), so I tend to hoard it when I find it.