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Bourbon Woman, Pam Heilmann, named as Michter's Master Distiller

If you met Pamela Heilmann on the street, you’d never assume she was a master distiller. Rightly or wrongly, subtly or overtly, tradition dictates that master distillers are men like Jim Beam’s Fred Noe, Michter’s Willie Pratt and Wild Turkey’s Jimmy Russell: large, square shouldered small town boys who cast broad shadows with every ponderous step. That the visage of a 5’2”, bespectacled, and quick-footed woman isn’t conjured up as easily is just the way it is.

For now, anyway, because the whiskey business is a changin’. In late October, Heilmann succeeded Willie Pratt as master distiller at Michter’s Whiskeys in Shively, a suburb of Louisville. The change made Pratt the brand’s master distiller emeritus, while Heilmann became one of the Bluegrass State’s first female master distillers, including being the first one at a facility currently producing whiskey. She said the new title simultaneously elicits pride and humility.

“It’s obviously the apex of my career and something you think you’ll never achieve or do,” said Heilmann. “But I didn’t set my sights on being a master distiller when I first started in this industry 18 years ago.”

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