Frankfort Bourbon Society 

Brief Organizational History

Founding Board Members Summer 2017:

Charlie Jones – President, Long time Bourbon Collector

Rachael Peake – Vice-President, Owner Capital Cellars

Jason Delambre – Secretary, DFI Bourbon Strategies Committee & Chair of Bourbonanza

René True – Treasurer, Chair of DFI Bourbon Strategies Committee

Omar Marshall – Bourbon Barrel Pick Expert, Enthusiast and Collector 

Kelly May – Co-Owner, Bourbon on Main

Carl Shields - Bourbon Enthusiast & Historian

Brian Booth – member Lexington Bourbon Society & Enthusiast

Raymond Russell – staff at Red Dot & Bourbon Expert

In early 2016, Downtown Frankfort, Inc. (DFI) formed a committee to begin working on bourbon tourism to increase the number of people that come to visit the area for our bourbon distilleries and heritage. Many initiatives, events and activities resulted from the DFI Bourbon Strategies Committee. One suggestion by Committee member Jason Delambre in early 2017, was to explore the idea of forming a local bourbon society. Research was done by contacting members of the Lexington and Louisville bourbon societies. Jason began compiling a list of bourbon enthusiasts in the Frankfort area, to help guide the formation of a bourbon society. 

The initial organizing meeting of local bourbon enthusiasts was held on May 22, 2017 at Capital Cellars Wine & Spirits Café in downtown Frankfort with Charlie Jones, Jason Delambre, René True, Rachael Peake, Kelly May, Raymond Russell, Carl Shields, and Brian Booth. The bourbon enthusiasts decided that a Frankfort Bourbon Society was a worthwhile goal. At this meeting, Charlie Jones agreed to be the acting President and the above formed a committee that would soon become the Frankfort Bourbon Society. Jason Delambre took on the duties as note taker and effectively the secretary of the minutes for the assembled group. 

The group decided to explore becoming a 501-c-3 IRS designated entity, with Charlie leading the work on bylaws and incorporation. Each board member was charged with coming up with names of potential members for the Society. Other items discussed at the first meeting were a mission statement, dues structure, possible first event at Buffalo Trace, barrel picks, marketing, website development, Facebook presence, focus on charitable outreach, and set up of an electronic form of payments. The eight original members stated the need for the Society to be an organization to help teach people to appreciate and learn about the history of bourbon. 

The second meeting was set for May 30, 2017, again at Capital Cellars. Jason related a conversation with the President of the Louisville Bourbon Society with different ideas of synergies and potential working together in the future, including joint events and discounts that Louisville offers their members through partnerships with local businesses. Rachael, Kelly, Charlie and Jason were assigned different distilleries to call about possible barrel picks. René and Carl began work on developing the membership benefits package. Membership dues were discussed and at a later meeting agreed to be a $100 per person per year. The Committee discussed having 3 or 4 meetings and 1 membership drive in the next 12 months, with maybe one informal field trip. A membership drive was proposed for the Bourbonanza event on October 13, 2017 at the Kentucky History Center, but an earlier membership drive took place over the Summer. 

Beyond finding barrel picks, the group wanted to explore the potential of custom barrel mash creation and rack-house storage, with a tasting every year to learn & experience the aging process. The group discussed adding two other members for the first Board of Directors and ended up selecting Omar Marshall as the 9thmember for the first Board of Directors.

At the third meeting, Kelly announced that he was able to obtain the Society’s first barrel pick of a Buffalo Trace Weller Antique 107 scheduled for selection in November 2017. For the initial barrel pick, the Board of Directors participated as the barrel pick team. The bottles were purchased through Capital Cellars and membership grew quickly with the very popular single barrel Weller Antique 107 available for only $35. Members were restricted to purchasing only two bottles each to allow all members an opportunity to secure a bottle.

The Board decided that the 2nd Wednesday of every month from 4:30 - 6:00 pm will be our standing meeting time at Capital Cellars, then owned by board member Rachael Peake. Later the meeting was moved to 5:00 pm time slot and the FBS leased office space at 101 East Main Street in downtown Frankfort. 

The group quickly elected officers, drafted bylaws and set an aggressive agenda. The first official memberships began on October 1, 2017, although informally some memberships preceded this date. In February 2018, deposits were made on three barrels of whiskey selected from the earliest distillate produced by Castle & Key Distillery, with the first barrel bottled in the Fall of 2021. FBS had one of the first, if not the first private barrel picks bottled by Castle & Key Distillery.

Early on the group decided that finding a distillery to allow the FBS to come up with their own mash bill and create our own whiskies was a priority. After much internal discussion by the Board and investigation by Charlie, the FBS initiated an agreement to distill 4 barrels of whiskey in 2018 with Three Boys Distillery (now Whiskey Thief Distillery) located in northern Franklin County. For the FBS’s first go at creating our own whiskey, Omar developed a detailed list of mash bill selections. It took the Board several meetings to agree on final mash bills. Charlie suggested we tour Kelvin Cooperage and pick our own barrels and char level. 

Over the last couple of the years, Amzie Wenning (elected only the second president of the FBS in 2021), took the lead in finding direct sourced grains and yeasts for the Society’s barrels. As of 2024, the FBS had 24 barrels aging our own mash bill whiskies at Whiskey Thief Distillery. The barrels are fully paid for and just waiting for the right aging to bottle. 

The FBS was approached by Bill Cull from The Grand Theatre about sponsoring a showing of the bourbon documentary – Neat. The FBS agreed to guarantee the sale of at least 30 tickets @ $15 each to ensure the film could be shown in downtown Frankfort. FBS sponsored event easily surpassed the minimum 30 ticket sales. After an initial technical snafu with showing the film in February 2018, Neat was shown at the Grand Theatre on March 2, 2018. The event included special tastings set up for FBS members of Jim Beam products. 

In September 2018, the FBS undertook a field trip to the Kentucky Bourbon Festival in Bardstown, Kentucky. Around 50 FBS members chartered a private bus for the trip to Bardstown. Members were able to spend the day sipping bourbon and enjoyed the access to the VIP tent. A special side trip to Heaven Hill Distillery was arranged for interested members using the chartered bus. 

In late 2018, Kentucky State University (KSU) was working on the development of a regional bourbon festival to be located along the Kentucky River in downtown Frankfort. The festival was to be part of a “Town and Gown” effort to connect the university better with the community. During the Spring of 2019, after much work by community volunteers had been undertaken, KSU decided to abandon the project but allow the project manager from KSU to continue helping with organization. The FBS Board, working with the KSU main contact for the project - Wendy Kobler, decided to support the effort to hold the first ever Bourbon on the Banks Festival. Lead by Wendy and Charlie Jones, the FBS Board and other community members, continued work towards organizing the Festival. Eventually a separate 501-c-3 organization was established for the Festival. The FBS was instrumental in making sure the first Festival was a success, by stepping in as the non-profit organization while the paperwork for the new organization was in process. In 2023, the Bourbon on the Banks Festival continues to be a huge success drawing 2000 people from all over the country to downtown Frankfort the first Saturday in October. 

The FBS was instrumental in providing seed capital to the Capital City Museum for the purchase of a chromolithograph of the now gone Hermitage Distillery, formerly located in South Frankfort on the Kentucky River. The chromolithograph is now permanently displayed at the Museum as part of their whiskey exhibits. In June 2019, the FBS provided $1500 towards the purchase by auctioning off empty barrels. The Museum was able to secure the chromolithograph in May 2020. 

The Board experienced its first sad occasion in January 2021, when founding board member Omar Marshall succumbed to colon cancer. The FBS Board has undertaken several opportunities to raise funds for colon cancer research, including auctioning off the empty barrels from barrel picks, and participating with fundraisers purchasing commemorative bottles of Four Roses dedicated to Omar’s impact on the industry. 

Another note-worthy community contribution by the FBS occurred in June 2021. The new MIX District in downtown Frankfort, that allows patrons to carry open container alcoholic beverages within certain areas, was launched with an assist from the FBS and major push by DFI. The City of Frankfort, in partnership with the Frankfort Bourbon Society and the Bourbon on the Banks Festival, hosted a MIX District grand opening event from 6:00-9:30 on Friday, June 25, 2021. Entertainment for the evening was provided by the Lexington band SUPERFECTA, beginning at 6:30 on the City’s new concert stage which was located on Broadway at the end of St. Clair Street. The FBS held a membership event and the City provided information about the District. Mayor Layne Wilkerson, County Judge/Executive Huston Wells, and Frankfort Bourbon Society President Charlie Jones officially opened the District for business at 6:15 pm. 

During the Covid-19 shut downs of 2020, the FBS took to offering remote tastings via Zoom calls facilitated by Board Member René True. Some of the Zoom guest tastings included Freddie Johnson – Buffalo Trace, Dr. Pat Heist – Wilderness Trail, Steve Beam – Limestone Branch Distillery, and several others. 

The ever-popular Whiskey Bible published each year by Jim Murray, included tasting evaluations of four FBS barrel picks. Several editions of the Whiskey Bible have included reviews of FBS barrel picks.

In September 2022, the FBS moved to their current location at 121 Bridge Street, Frankfort. The new space of about 1500 square feet allows the FBS to host events onsite, including tastings, bottle shares and guest speakers. Todd Ritter, with the help of several other board members, lead the charge in getting bourbon memorabilia to decorate the new headquarters. Dennis Van Horn secured window coverings that look like the inside of a rickhouse, making for a distinctive and noticeable landmark in downtown Frankfort. The new space was named the FBS Corner Rickhouse.

With the new Corner Rickhouse and beginning with the 2023 calendar year, FBS started hosting the third Monday of the month Monday Member Meetups. Members are encouraged to bring a bottle to share with other members. Having a space large enough to hold 30-40 people provides the FBS with great flexibility to schedule events. The FBS also decided with the 2023 calendar year, to have a member get together at a different Frankfort restaurant or bar, on the first Tuesday of every month. The FBS filled the calendar for the monthly Tuesday Night Socials in 2023 and is scheduled for every month in 2024. 

In June of 2023, the FBS held a special event at the Whitaker Bank 5th Floor Ballroom in downtown Frankfort. Freddie Johnson spoke at the event and yet another FBS charity auction was held to raise scholarship funds. The scholarship was established by the Kentucky Black Bourbon Guild and the event raised $2250 for the Freddie Johnson Scholarship. Another $1650 was raised by the FBS for Colon Cancer Foundation.

Current Board Members as of February 2024

Amzie Wenning – President

Will Prible – Vice-President

Pam Marshall - Secretary

Rene’ True – Treasurer, Founding Board Member

Candy Charters – Board Member

Spencer Jordan – Board Member 

Rachael Peake – Founding Board Member

Todd Ritter – Board Member

Michael Sebastian – Board Member

Dennis Van Horn – Board Member

Membership totals as of February 2024 stood at 215 dues paying members, with 14 honorary members and 9 corporate members.