5 questions with the executive director of the Kentucky Bourbon Festival

(John P. Wise)
Updated: Sep. 1, 2018 at 12:47 PM EDT
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LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - Bourbon lovers from around the world will descend upon Bardstown, Ky., for the annual Kentucky Bourbon Festival, which runs this year Sept. 12–16.

It’s the 26th year for the event, which draws tens of thousands of people to celebrate the history and art of bourbon. Each year, additional events are added to the menu, and this year is no exception.

Jill Hawkins is the Executive Director of the Kentucky Bourbon Festival. She’s worked in the beverage, alcohol and event industries for many years, and moved to Bardstown from Cincinnati six years ago. But perhaps her claim to fame is that she was once a Keebler elf (perhaps my next Five Questions I’ll dig into that profession a little more.)

Jill Hawkins is the executive director of the Kentucky Bourbon Festival.
Jill Hawkins is the executive director of the Kentucky Bourbon Festival.

Here are my five questions with Jill Hawkins:

1. How do you pick the events for the Kentucky Bourbon Festival?

The event lineup each year includes our staples such as Bourbon Cigars & Jazz® and The Great Bourbon Tasting & Gala®. This year, we've added some new events that we're really excited about, including Kentucky Bourbon Festival® Barrel Selection. For the first time, the Kentucky Bourbon Festival® in partnership with The Bourbon Review will be selecting a barrel of fine Kentucky Bourbon, and we invite you to help choose!

2. How has this event grown from the first year?

The Kentucky Bourbon Festival® began in 1992 as a bourbon tasting and dinner, and has grown tremendously over the past 26 years. Today, it is one of the Commonwealth's leading community festivals, and is not only a celebration of bourbon, but also the people and the community that have supported the industry for generations. Between our events, educational opportunities, arts and crafts, music on the lawn and much more, we truly have something for everyone.

3. What’s the hardest part of putting on an event like this?

The hardest part is not being able to attend every event from start to finish, because there is so much happening. I'm sure I miss out on a lot of fun!

4. With so many bourbons to choose from, how do you decide which bourbons will take part? We love having so many bourbon brands involved with the festival each year. It allows our guests a bourbon experience unlike any other. Our only restriction is that it must be Kentucky bourbon.

5. Where do you see this event and the bourbon boom going?

I see the Kentucky Bourbon Festival continuing to grow and evolve, much like the industry. I see no end to the expansion of the bourbon industry. We have so many talented and creative people working in this industry, who respect the history but also embrace the future. I can't wait to see what comes next!

For more information about the event, go to

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