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Can fans of a gay former bourbon ambassador go back to drinking family booze?

Before her split with her family’s company, Hollis Bulleit and her father, Lexington lawyer Tom Bulleit, often represented Bulleit bourbon at events including Tales of the Cocktail in New Orleans.
Before her split with her family’s company, Hollis Bulleit and her father, Lexington lawyer Tom Bulleit, often represented Bulleit bourbon at events including Tales of the Cocktail in New Orleans. cbertram@herald-leader.com

Are fans of former Bulleit brand ambassador Hollis Bulleit ready to return to the bourbon?

According to a Facebook post Wednesday by Hollis Bulleit, she and Diageo, the corporate parent of Bulleit, “have reached a mutually acceptable resolution of Ms. Bulleit’s relationship with Diageo. Both parties are pleased to move forward, and wish each other success in future endeavors.”

The company said it was a joint statement.

Last year, Hollis Bulleit announced on her Facebook page that she had been fired from her family’s whiskey label for being gay.

As one of the spirits industry’s most recognizable global brand ambassadors, she had represented Bulleit bourbon at bars, whiskey fests and cocktail conventions worldwide, helping the whiskey label started by her father, Lexington lawyer Tom Bulleit, to become one of the fastest-growing brands.

In December 2016, Hollis Bulleit said, she was dropped from the brand; she also was prohibited from using her name for other brands.

Diageo, which has a strong reputation in the LGBT community, denied that the breakup had anything to do with her sexual orientation. The London-based company issued a statement:

“We are very proud of our long track record of work, through many of our brands, to support the LGBT community. It is unfortunate in this instance that we were not able to reach agreement with Hollis on her future involvement with the Bulleit brand. However, to insinuate that the failure to do so was due to bias of any kind is simply unfair and inaccuratey.”

Despite that, many of Hollis Bulleit’s supporters declared their intention to boycott Bulleit bourbon.

Now, it seems, the boycott might be over. Fans asking whether the Facebook post means they can return to drinking the whiskey were told by Hollis Bulleit:

“I do not personally support boycotts of any Diageo products, nor have I ever supported boycotts of Diageo products privately or publicly. ... While Diageo has many quality marks, I am going to use this time to branch out into other products so I can continue to cultivate my palette.”

She told supporters to stay tuned for future projects. She didn’t respond immediately to a request for comment on what those projects might entail.

It’s unclear whether the boycott by Hollis Bulleit’s supporters had much impact on the brand, which remains popular with bartenders. Diageo will release six-month earnings and sales information on Jan. 25.

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