News & Features

What’s Pouring: Woodford Reserve announces new master distiller plus news from Uncle Nearest and Switchback Brewing

Woodford Reserve Names Elizabeth McCall Master Distiller

Woodford Reserve recently named Elizabeth McCall as Master Distiller, the third in the bourbon brand’s 26-year history, succeeding Chris Morris, who will assume the role of Master Distiller Emeritus.

McCall, who has been training for the Master Distiller role for over a decade, will oversee quality and innovation efforts and bring new Woodford Reserve products to market. She will lead the brand’s special, rare bourbon releases, including the Master’s Collection and Distillery Series, bringing her unique touch and point of view to new whiskies. 

McCall said she is deeply honored to take the baton from her mentor and friend, whom she called a legend in the spirits industry.

“I am humbled to stand upon the foundation built by Chris Morris, who is one of the most well-known and respected Master Distillers in the world,” McCall said. “I look forward to following in his footsteps and crafting the world’s finest bourbon.”

Morris began mentoring McCall to take the Master Distiller role in 2015, when she became Master Taster. McCall became Woodford Reserve Assistant Master Distiller five years ago this month, in February 2018.

“I am proud of – and confident in – Elizabeth’s ability to maintain the award-winning flavor profile of the Woodford Reserve family into the next generation,” Morris said. “Her inquisitive nature bodes well for those who have come to expect innovative flavor concepts from our Master’s Collection and Distillery Series offerings. The future couldn’t be more promising for Woodford Reserve.”

McCall joined Brown‑Forman, Woodford Reserve’s parent company, in 2009 as a member of the Research & Development department. She began her career setting up tasting panels to ensure quality and consistency with the company’s products.

She is the second generation of her family to work in the spirits industry – following her mother’s footsteps – after earning her master’s degree from the University of Louisville. McCall and her husband, Matt, live in Louisville and have one child with another on the way.

Uncle Nearest launches HBCU initiative

Uncle Nearest Premium Whiskey, the top-selling Black-owned spirits brand in the world, announced the launch of its HBCU Old Fashioned Challenge, a nationwide initiative to raise $1 million dollars for Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). Kicked off on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, and extending through Black History Month and Women’s History Month in February and March, respectively, the program will raise money to be distributed amongst the country’s top 58 ranked HBCUs to use as they see fit.

Through the HBCU Old Fashioned Challenge, Uncle Nearest not only aims to raise money for these institutions, but to shine a light on their contributions to workforce diversity and the role they play in economic mobility. HBCUs make up less than 3% of college institutions, but they enroll 10% of all African American students, and produce almost 20% of all African American graduates. These graduates have gone on to hold high income jobs, making up 40% of Black judges, 50% of Black doctors and lawyers, and 40% of Black engineers. Underfunding of HBCUs leads to lower graduation rates due to student debt and lack of resources, as well as causes understaffing and underrepresentation of Black faculty members.

From January 16 to March 31, 2023, consumers will be able to participate in the challenge in one of four ways:

  • For every Uncle Nearest Old Fashioned sold at participating bars and restaurants, one dollar will be donated to the challenge.
  • Uncle Nearest will donate one dollar for each bottle of whiskey sold at participating online and brick-and-mortar retail stores.
  • ReserveBar will sell Old Fashioned Cocktail Kits, featuring a bottle of Uncle Nearest as well as syrup and bitters from Hella Cocktail Co., the Black-owned bitters and soda company. For every kit sold, both Uncle Nearest and ReserveBar will donate one dollar to the challenge.
  • During the time period, brand fans can also submit a photo of a homemade Uncle Nearest Old Fashioned at Uncle Nearest will donate one dollar for each image received.                                                                     

For more information on the HBCU Old Fashioned Challenge, including a list of participating bars, restaurants, and retailers, and to follow along on the road to $1 million raised, please visit

Wai-iti Cat Joins Switchback’s DIPA Lineup 

Switchback Brewing Co. in Vermont recently announced the latest in their DIPA Cat Series – Wai-iti.

Meaning “little-water” in Māori, this New Zealand hop jumps headfirst into exhilarating notes of pink pineapple and sweet Galia melon. An extreme 9.1% ABV with a drop of tart sweetness that rebounds quickly and fades away.  

“While trekking in the mountains of New Zealand (Aotearoa) I met a wonderful group of intrepid women who hiked with me and taught me all about New Zealand fauna, some Māori language and culture, and their pride in the globally renowned hops grown near their hometown,” says Brewmaster, Bill Cherry. “We stayed in touch after I returned and while sharing a photo they sent from the Wai-iti region with our Brewer Morgan, who spearheads our innovative DIPA Cat program, we discovered that Wai-iti is also the name of an intriguing New Zealand hop variety. From there, the concept of “Wai-iti Cat” was born.”

Wai-iti Cat joins Octane Cat, Galaxy Cat, Cashmere Cat, Calypso Cat, and El Dorado Cat in the rotating lineup of 16oz 4-packs with more Cats to come. Find it in limited quantities at the brewery and in select stores across our distribution footprint.

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