Kentucky's liquor landscape has become a little less blended.
The Sazerac Co., which owns Buffalo Trace Distillery in Frankfort and Tom Moore Distillery in Bardstown, has withdrawn from the Kentucky Distillers' Association.
Meredith Moody, director of marketing services for New Orleans-based Sazerac, said the move means the KDA will no longer promote the two distilleries on its popular Bourbon passport tourism program, but both distilleries will continue to do public tours.
"We've been a member of the KDA for many years ... and, after an evaluation, decided it's in the best interest of us to chart our own course and promote the distilleries of Buffalo Trace and Tom Moore independently of the KDA," Moody said Thursday.
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"We are going to do our own thing for tourism promotion. We still feel that we are very much a part of the Bourbon Trail; we're just no longer participating in the KDA's program of the Kentucky Bourbon Trail's Passport," Moody said.
Not so fast, said KDA president Eric Gregory, who said his group owns the trail trademark.
"They're off the Bourbon Trail. ... Our (dues-paying) members are the Kentucky Bourbon Trail," Gregory said.
He said he could not comment on why Sazerac left the group.
"Their resignation letter doesn't specify a reason," Gregory said. He said he was notified of the departure by e-mail on Dec. 31.
The KDA's Web site, www.kybourbontrail.com, has dropped both distilleries from its listings. The other member distilleries — Jim Beam, Wild Turkey, Maker's Mark, Woodford Reserve, Four Roses and Heaven Hill — are still listed.
Chris Morris, master distiller for Woodford Reserve maker Brown-Forman, was recently named 2010 chairman of the KDA board.
"We look forward to building on the momentum established by the success of the Kentucky Bourbon Trail as we develop programs to expand the appreciation of bourbon on a global scale," Morris said in a news release Monday.
The Bourbon Trail promotes tourism opportunities at the state's various distilleries and last year initiated an overnight foot-race that sold out hundreds of spots.
Besides marketing and promotions, the KDA also provides government relations and lobbying in Frankfort on alcohol-related issues.
According to its 2008 tax return, the non-profit association had more than $520,000 in assets at the end of the year. The group spent more than $78,000 that year marketing the Bourbon Trail, in addition to almost $65,000 in other marketing and public relations expenses.
Buffalo Trace also has its own lobbyist, and according to its Kentucky Legislative Ethics Commission filings, the distillery spent $68,000 on legislative agent compensation last year, when the General Assembly passed an increase in alcohol taxes.
Sazerac formed a joint venture with Buffalo Trace in 2002 and then last year purchased the distillery and Tom Moore for $334 million.