Free the bourbon: Gov. Bevin signs shipping bill HB 400 in the company of distillers

Gov. Matt Bevin signs HB 400 into law. | Photo by Sara Havens

It’s finally official. After years of navigating archaic Kentucky laws and cutting through sticky red tape, House Bill 400 was signed into law by Gov. Matt Bevin Friday morning at a ceremony held at the Frazier History Museum. The bill now allows the shipment of bourbon — and all spirits — to seven reciprocal states as well as Washington, D.C.

The event was attended by government officials, bourbon industry representatives, including several master distillers and staff from the Kentucky Distillers’ Association, UPS executives, media and more.

The bill — nicknamed “Bourbon Without Borders” — was spearheaded by Rep. Chad McCoy (R-Bardstown), the KDA and Gov. Bevin, among others, and they worked closely with Kentucky Alcoholic Beverage Control to iron out the details and achieve compromise.

Gov. Bevin gives a thumbs up to the economic impact of HB 400. | Photo by Sara Havens

“We’re extremely proud of this bipartisan effort and offer our thanks to Gov. Bevin, legislative leaders, industry partners and, most of all, our 39 members who are working in unison to strengthen Kentucky’s rightful title as the one, true and authentic home for bourbon and distilled spirits,” said KDA President Eric Gregory. “This is a landmark day in the history of our timeless craft.”

Bevin, who signed the bill at the desk of the late Owsley Brown Frazier — of Brown-Forman and the Frazier Museum’s namesake — explained that the bill, to him, is about business and economic development.

“House Bill 400 is an important step in eliminating red tape and modernizing one of the commonwealth’s signature industries,” he said. “This new law will promote economic development and increase tourism opportunities, ensuring that visitors can take a little piece of Kentucky home with them when they leave.”

Rep. McCoy, who jokingly reiterated to Mayor Greg Fischer that Bardstown is, indeed, the “Capital of Bourbon,” pointed out that 70 percent of distillery tourists are from out-of-state. And the bourbon business is an $8.5 billion economic engine for Kentucky.

“Allowing visitors to ship bourbon home will only boost tourism,” McCoy said. “Kentucky has a product that is unique to the world, and this effort allows us to promote our native American spirit like never before.”

Near the end of the ceremony, Nick D’Andrea, vice president of public affairs for UPS, helped Gov. Bevin and Rob Samuels, COO of Maker’s Mark, package up the first bottle of bourbon — Maker’s 46 — which was heading to the Governor’s Mansion in Frankfort.

Several bottles were ready to be shipped. | Photo by Sara Havens

D’Andrea pointed out that it was a historic day for two signature industries in Kentucky — logistics and bourbon.

“Interesting enough, there are some similarities between the bourbon industry and UPS,” he said. “For example, Jim Casey, who started UPS in 1907, he was actually in the basement of a bar where UPS was created in Seattle. We both like the colors brown. We pride ourselves in the fact that our drivers our neat, and the bourbon industry loves the fact that people drink their bourbon neat. And everybody knows their favorite UPS driver, and everybody knows their favorite bottle of bourbon.”

According to Samuels, the No. 1 question at all distilleries is: Can we ship bottles home? And now, that’s a possibility.

HB 400 currently will allow reciprocal shipments between Kentucky and Arizona, Hawaii, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Rhode Island and Washington, D.C. In April, Gregory told Insider that he was hopeful that more and more states will come onboard once the law goes into effect.

UPS’ “Driver Laura” begins the first shipment. | Photo by Sara Havens

What this means for Kentucky residents is a few things. They can travel to one of the states mentioned above and ship bottles home from those, and they also can participate in in-state Bourbon-of-the-Month clubs and promotions hosted by both distilleries and liquor stores.

The drive of the bill, of course, was to allow tourists to buy and ship bottles home, but you can expect perks like these for Kentucky residents as well.

The ceremony concluded with a bourbon toast by Mayor Fischer.

“A bourbon toast at 9:30 a.m.? It must be Kentucky,” he joked. “It’s a win for the economy, and it shows what’s possible when we come together for the common good of the commonwealth.”