TN Distillers Find Common Ground With New Executive Director Appointment

Friday, November 7, 2014

Nashville, TN – The Tennessee Distillers’ Guild is ready to pour its energy into achieving the goal of making high quality spirits in Tennessee and supporting the growing interests of distilleries.

The Guild, formed in early 2014, includes many of the state’s newer, small distilleries, as well as Tennessee’s older, more well-known distilleries, Jack Daniel's, George Dickel and Prichard’s.

In its first major step toward cohesion and a unified voice, the Guild has hired Jill Talbert as executive director.

With her strong background in government relations, Talbert will be able to work with all parties involved to move forward on common ground towards the development of new tourism opportunities, a better atmosphere for creating top shelf products throughout the state, and the branding of Tennessee as the “go to” state for fine spirits.

"We are so pleased to have Jill on our team. She has excellent credentials and the right temperament to navigate through many large personalities and issues as we work to build Tennessee brands," says Guild president Billy Kaufman, owner of Short Mountain Distilleries.

An article in Louisville Business First stated that what is actually firing up the interest in Tennessee Whiskey is the ever increasing sales in the entire category of North American whiskey. Fanning the flames is the ever-increasing growth of small batch distillers with recent changes in the Tennessee liquor laws allowing distilleries to be established in 41 additional counties. For many years, the law limited the distillation of drinkable spirits to just three of Tennessee's 95 counties- Lincoln, Moore, and Coffee.  As a result, only a few short years ago there were only three distillers in the state. There are now almost thirty.                    

What people are drinking is changing, too. Interest in craft beer, wine, and liquor brought on by the farm-to-table and “maker” movements have loosened the grip of the “old school” hard liquors like gin and scotch, making it an international phenomenon. And younger drinkers’ continual desire for something new has created a mixology craze. American whiskey makes a much smoother mixed drink.

Growth of craft distillers and the desire for standards to insure Tennessee Whiskey quality across the state inadvertently created a heated legislative debate over the legal definition of Tennessee Whiskey. Regardless of the final decision state lawmakers reach for the definition, all parties agree that only with a quality product will Tennessee distillers be able to compete in the global contest for customers, which means more jobs in the state.

With this huge opportunity for growth for Tennessee Whiskey, Talbert will quickly put into action her experience representing various clients in the state legislative, executive, and regulatory arenas when she steps into her new position. She is a licensed attorney who has spent the majority of her career in trade association representation. Among other duties, Talbert will primarily serve as the Guild’s lobbyist in Nashville.

“The exciting growth of Tennessee distilleries provides a strong link to our state’s famous heritage and a promising tourism boost for Tennessee’s future. I am proud to represent the Tennessee Distillers’ Guild and am energized by the opportunities ahead. We will all move forward together to help our distillers thrive and enhance Tennessee’s international reputation for producing superb spirits,” says Jill Talbert. 

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