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Six Million Barrels

Earlier this month, Heaven Hill Distilleries, in Bardstown, Ky., celebrated its 75th anniversary on the same day that it filled its six-millionth barrel of bourbon. Presiding over the celebration was Heaven Hill president Max L. Shapira, a member of Washington and Lee’s Class of 1965.

Max is the third generation of his family to own and operate the distillery, which is the nation’s largest independent, family-owned, distilled-spirits producer, and the world’s second-largest holder of aging Kentucky straight bourbon whiskey.

In an interview with Fox 41 TV in Louisville, Max admitted that the decision the five Shapira brothers made to start a company in the middle of the Great Depression was risky, but he also said that the benefits of running a family business are significant.

Said Max: “It provides us with the flexibility to run our business as we think it should be run over the long term. We are indeed here for the long term. The bourbon industry is all about thinking into the long term and the future. We age our product years and years, so the long-term perspective is what’s important to us.”

Watch the Channel 41 broadcast here.

Max represents the third generation of Shapiras in the business. Three years ago, a fourth generation entered the picture when Max’s son, Andy Shapira, of the Class of 1996, joined Heaven Hill as director of sales analysis.

Heaven Hill produces and markets national brands in every category of distilled spirits. You can see their category leaders on the website. The company was also voted best distiller in the U.S. in both 2008 and 2009, the first time a distillery had won that award from Whisky Magazine in consecutive years.

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