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  • From Classrooms to Legends: Celebrating Lacy Robinson’s Bourbon Journey and Midway University’s Bourbon Studies

June 13, 2024

In honor of National Bourbon Day on June 14, we are thrilled to spotlight Lacy Robinson, an alumna of Midway University's Bourbon Studies program. Lacy has leveraged her education to launch two successful ventures in bourbon tourism, becoming a prominent figure in an industry that significantly shapes Kentucky's cultural and economic landscape.

Lacy's journey to Midway University was driven by a desire to find an MBA program that combined her interests in event planning and bourbon, a unique intersection offered by Midway's Bourbon Studies program. "I was particularly impressed with Tim Knittel’s professional experience and felt confident that this MBA program was the perfect fit," Lacy recalls.

Tim Knittel, an adjunct professor at Midway University, has been a pivotal figure in the bourbon industry for over 13 years. Founder of Distilled Living, Tim is a Kentucky bourbon industry insider who brings a wealth of experience in bourbon education and event design. His background includes roles such as Culinary Center Manager and Homeplace Host at Woodford Reserve Distillery, where he worked under James Beard Nominated Chef Ouita Michel and Master Distiller Chris Morris. Tim has also been the first Homeplace Host for Woodford Reserve, responsible for VIP tours and tastings, and representing the brand and master distiller at the distillery. Tim's extensive credentials include being a Certified Executive Bourbon Steward through the Stave & Thief Society, often compared to a Bourbon Sommelier, and the first official Bourbon Ambassador of Churchill Downs.

The comprehensive curriculum at Midway University provided Lacy with a deep understanding of bourbon history, tourism, and event planning. She highlights several key experiences that shaped her career. "Several projects required students to think creatively about bourbon tourism and consider what is missing from everything that is already available to bourbon enthusiasts. The feedback provided by Professor Knittel was detailed and invaluable," she shares.

One memorable project involved proposing a new bourbon tourism event, which inspired Lacy to launch the Bourbon Legends Tour. This unique tour takes guests to the final resting places of Kentucky's bourbon legends, a concept she had been contemplating since 2019. "After completing the assignment, I felt it was the right time to make it a reality. I have always dreamed of being a cemetery tour guide," Lacy enthuses.

Lacy's Bourbon Legends Tour is a testament to her innovative spirit and passion for bourbon history. This tour not only educates participants about the legends and legacies of bourbon but also deepens their appreciation for cemeteries. "I aim to give guests a different kind of experience. By the end of the tour, their appreciation for bourbon is evident," she explains.

In addition to the tour, Lacy launched the "Spirit of Service" hospitality training workshop at Moonshine University, thanks to connections made through her capstone project. This workshop empowers distillery team members with the skills to provide exceptional visitor experiences, thereby enhancing the overall bourbon tourism industry.

Starting her ventures was not without challenges, but Lacy credits her education at Midway University with equipping her to overcome them. "My background in creating and facilitating customer service training programs, combined with the knowledge from the hospitality class, has been invaluable," she notes.

Lacy's efforts have been met with significant success. Her websites, www.bourbonlegendstour.com and www.whiskeywelcome.com, receive numerous hits, and she regularly receives positive feedback on LinkedIn. She recalls a particularly proud moment while sharing about her ventures at the James B. Beam Institute Industry Conference: "When I glanced over at Bill Samuels, Jr. of Maker’s Mark who was smiling, it really made all my efforts worth it!"

Lacy's ventures play a crucial role in promoting and educating people about bourbon culture in Kentucky. The Bourbon Legends Tour brings to life the stories of bourbon's pioneers, while the "Spirit of Service" workshop ensures that visitors receive a warm, knowledgeable welcome at distilleries across the state.

For current and prospective students of Midway University's Bourbon Studies program, Lacy offers valuable advice: "Visit bourbon distilleries and bourbon-related events for projects or assignments. Document different hospitality or guest engagement aspects experienced. Those moments will contribute in-depth insights for discussion board assignments and other projects."

Lacy Robinson's story exemplifies the profound impact of Midway University's Bourbon Studies program. Her innovative contributions to bourbon tourism highlight the importance of education in preserving and promoting Kentucky's rich bourbon heritage. As we celebrate National Bourbon Day, we honor Lacy's achievements and look forward to seeing how she continues to shape the future of bourbon tourism.

Midway University offers a unique Bourbon Studies program that supports the full scope of the bourbon industry. The skills and knowledge gained from this curriculum are beneficial for those seeking employment in the bourbon industry, tour and visitor center operations, historic and adventure attractions, state parks, and the hotel industry. With the bourbon industry contributing $9 billion to Kentucky’s economy and providing more than 23,100 jobs with an annual payroll topping $1.63 billion, Midway University provides the perfect opportunity to enter this vibrant field. The production and consumption of bourbon also generate over $350 million in annual tax revenue for Kentucky state and local governments, further emphasizing the industry's vital role in the state's economic health.