Ky. distillers seek simpler sampling law

FRANKFORT — Kentucky's bourbon distillers are seeking a change in state law to promote more sampling of their whiskey.

The change would make it easier for distillers to set up sampling booths at conventions, conferences, liquor stores, restaurants and special events, said Eric Gregory, president of the Kentucky Distillers' Association.

State Rep. Susan Westrom, D-Lexington, said a number of big events in Kentucky next year, including the World Equestrian Games, warrant streamlining the process.

"Needless to say, every time we have a national convention in the bourbon capital of the world, people come in and hope we have a bourbon sampling," she said. Westrom said plans to file a bill for the upcoming legislative session.

Gregory told a recent legislative hearing that the proposal would bring Kentucky's laws regarding the promotional sampling of distilled spirits "up to date with modern marketing practices," The Courier-Journal of Louisville reported.

Under current law, liquor license holders can apply for special licenses to conduct samplings. Distillers themselves, however, are not permitted to offer samples outside their premises.

That means master distillers can't be on hand at samplings to discuss and promote their products, Gregory said.

"Our master distillers know more about their brands than anybody else in the world," he said. "We would think it's more educational for consumers to be able to talk to these people."

Under the proposal, distillers would only be able to conduct sampling events at locations that already have liquor licenses. Sampling events would not be permitted in dry communities.

Customers also would be limited to three, half-ounce samples per day.

The Kentucky Department of Alcohol Beverage Control is neutral on the proposal and will monitor the issue, ABC spokesman Nathan Jones told the Louisville newspaper.

The governor's office and the Tourism, Arts and Heritage Cabinet support the measure, cabinet spokeswoman Chris Kellogg said.

"It would be good for tourism in Kentucky," she said.