Discrimination distilled

Hollis Bulleit, daughter of Bulleit Bourbon founder, slams family business for years of homophobia

Hollis Bulleit has been called the “First Lady of bourbon,” but the daughter of Bulleit Bourbon founder Tom Bulleit is now accusing her family, and the massively popular brand they still operate, of serious homophobia.

In a lengthy Facebook post attached to a photo of her and her partner (above), she details her experience over the last decade of being excluded from the family — and its business — because of whom she loves. In January of this year, she says she was squeezed out of the company altogether.

“Since Cher and I have been together she has been excluded from ‘the family business’ from the start,” she writes.

“When my step-grandmother passed I got a text,” she goes on to explain. “In 2008, I was asked to come home for Christmas; yet Cher was not invited. The only holiday that we attended was Thanksgiving in 2016, and then we were promptly uninvited via text from the following core family Christmas.”

But the homophobia Hollis describes being subjected to was entangled in her livelihood since the family still manages the Bulleit brand under the ownership of the Diageo corporation.

“Because family was business and intertwined with a global corporation,” she writes, “I find it odd that I did not benefit from the departments and safeguards that are put into place to either intervene or provide mediation or educational diversity training as would be the expected protocol for employees in this type of situation.

“In light of my experience, I do not understand how the company I worked for is on many of the top 10/ 50/ 100 “best places” for LGBTQIA employees to work.

In a separate post, she writes, “On December 23, 2016 on holiday’s eve, I could never have imagined that I would get an email telling me that I was no longer working for Bulleit or representing the brand.”

“After ten years of experience, one could conclude that no one knew what to do with a non-straight woman besides ignore me and reap the benefits of my relationships and sales. Shortly after coming out the closet a decade ago not one family photo has been taken of me (or with me and Cher) with the core Bulleit family… For the past decade, I have held these secrets.”

She concludes the post by writing:

“Everything is not okay. Everything is far from okay. Our president just tried to impose a transgender military ban – wake up. Unfortunately people know the “right” things to say, but they do not believe them – it translates to hidden homophobia, transphobia, and racism. I should never have been put in a position to hide my family’s homophobia or my company’s complacency in order to keep my job. I did nothing wrong. I have nothing to be ashamed of. But the punishments, the silent treatments, and the threats continue. When you chose to be silent in the face of this type of behavior you are not being well mannered. You are choosing to hide because you can and you are protecting yourself. Which on a personal level leaves people like me isolated, powerless, and vulnerable to powerful institutions.”

Upadate: Bulleit Bourbon maker Diageo calls accusations of homophobia “unfair”

Her full posts are included below:

I believe that the subject of homophobia needs to be addressed based on some of the conversations on the page. One is…

Posted by Hollis Bulleit on Sunday, July 30, 2017

So many people have been supportive of me over the last months; therefore I would like to share the extent to which I…

Posted by Hollis Bulleit on Saturday, July 29, 2017

It has been mind blowing reading through the amount of responses to these posts which for me was a last ditch attempt in…

Posted by Hollis Bulleit on Tuesday, August 1, 2017

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  • am_psi

    So all the places that named Bulleit a good place for gays to work were just lying or paid off or something? Doubtful. More likely is she’s just another disgruntled former employee trying to down the business that fired her.

    • Kai

      Did you really read the article or any of her 3 explanations? It’s her FAMILY who’s doing this to her. While regular employees are protected by the corporate parent company’s rules, her family (which runs this division) has been screwing with her. Obviously they’re ignoring the rules.

    • Navalator

      Your subjective and biased comments show ignorance of your knowledge of the situation. Apparently you preferred to provide a knee jerk homophobic reaction to a thoughtful and rational analysis of the situation. Absolutely noticing of value is learned from your comments.

    • niles

      and another silly (but vicious) troll – or is it the resident troll? hmmm

    • Aballard312

      So why is she resorting to airing dirty laundry on facebook instead of filing a lawsuit? Discrimination is a hot topic right now, and im sure Diageo wouldnt want to be in the news with something like this.

    • porkrind

      It’s also worth noting that at the same time as Hollis Bulleit was fired, Diageo fired many/most of their other brand ambassadors as well.

  • jhon_siders

    I have never heard of this brand and I live across the river from Louisville must be a very small distiller .

    • jgamet

      Bulleit also makes Buffalo Trace, Four Roses, Knob Creek and a few others

    • Aballard312

      @jgamet, Bulleit doesnt make ANY bourbon. They are a NDP.

    • ProfessorMoriarty

      NDP? What does this stand for?

      This is truly horrifying.

    • porkrind

      NDP = Non Distiller Producer. Bulleit is just a brand name under which spirits purchased elsewhere are sold.

      Bulleit Bourbon until recently was made by Kirin/Four Roses. No one is sure yet where they’re buying new make.
      Bulleit Rye is made by Midwest Grain Products. It’s the same product as Filibuster, George Dickel Rye, High West, James E. Pepper, Redemption, Smooth Ambler, and Templeton Rye.

      Tom and his family are just hired brand ambassadors for Diageo. No actual involvement in the production of the booze.


  • walterhpdx

    This is one of my husband’s favorite brands – but nope. No more.

    • Aballard312

      great. hope he puts down four roses, old scout, and all the other NDP’s that contribute to Bulleit’s distillation blend.

  • carson02

    From Louisville and sadly I know this story not to be true. It’s a shame she’s taking advantage of the community to advance her personal agenda.

    • Kai

      If it’s not true, then tell the other side of it. Otherwise your comment doesn’t carry any weight.

    • truckproductions

      lol wait.. because you’re from louisville you know it’s not true? this reeks of a PR troll on here to spin

    • Navalator

      Be more rational and explicit. How is she taking advantage of the community and what exactly is her personal agenda? What constitutes shame in your opinion? Also, what is “sadly” about your knowing a story? Your obscure and tangential comments may very well hide your closet homophobia. But whatever. Your comments lend nothing of value to the discussion.

    • WillParkinson

      This is like me saying “I know my next door neighbor beats his wife” and not giving any proof of that statement. Just because you live there doesn’t mean you have that type of information.

    • Aballard312

      File a lawsuit. Its against the law to discriminate. Easy.

  • QGridster64

    The story you have shared, well, it simply hurts my heart. It is disingenuous and despicable that the company you have been part of, and have worked to build, would treat its employees with respect, albeit highly artificial, and then treat you with such contempt. That these people are your own family makes it down right vulgar. You have my sincere sympathies.

    • Navalator

      My recommendation is to sue the bastards. Kick them where they are most sensitive–their pocket books.

  • Greg

    Well, it’s not real journalism, because apparently no attempt was made to get another side of the story. Seems plausible, though. Highly plausible. Southern families may tolerate gays and lesbians, but they don’t want them in open relationships, and the ones who own big bourbon businesses certainly don’t want their mostly straight Southern clientele base taking offense…

    • niles

      another silly troll

  • jgamet

    Bulleit also makes Buffalo Trace, Four Roses, Knob Creek and a few others

    • atomicspin

      Buffalo Trace distillery makes those brands. Bulleit just opened their own distillery this year.

    • Aballard312

      Please do your research before you spread inaccurate comments. Bulleit doesnt make anything, and the brand is owned by Diageo.

    • larpskirt

      Why do you keep posting that when it’s not true?

  • calpoidog

    Before you start boycotting, do a little online research. The brand was bought by Seagram’s in 1997 which was then purchased by Diageo, a UK company. She apparently was fired in 2016. We’re then supposed to make the leap of faith that because the brand bears her family’s name, and her family is homophobic that she was fired because she’s a lesbian? Not buying it. She may have a beef with her family but the allegations against the company itself are pretty vague and her family doesn’t seem to have anything to do with this brand anymore.

    Thankfully I don’t have to find a new brand of bourbon just yet.


    • Aballard312

      Finally, a comment with common sense.

  • Aballard312

    Please, townspeople with pitchforks and fire in your eyes, a moment of your time!

    Diageo is the brand which owns the bulleit BRAND (they distill nothing). You may have heard of them, they also own:

    Baileys Irish Cream
    Beaulieu Vineyard
    Black & White (whisky)
    Booth’s Gin
    Bulleit Bourbon
    Bundaberg Rum
    Cacique (rum)
    Caol Ila distillery
    Captain Morgan
    Cardhu distillery
    Chalone Vineyard
    Dom Pérignon
    Classic Malts of Scotland
    Cragganmore distillery
    Crown Royal
    Dalwhinnie distillery
    Don Julio
    George Dickel
    Gilbey’s Gin
    Glen Elgin distillery
    Glen Ord Distillery
    Glenkinchie distillery
    Gordon’s Gin
    Grand Old Parr
    Haig (whisky)
    Johnnie Walker
    Justerini & Brooks
    Ketel One
    Knockando distillery
    Lagavulin distillery
    Moët & Chandon
    Myers’s Rum
    J&W Nicholson & Co
    The Nikolai Organisation
    Oban distillery
    Old Bushmills Distillery
    Pampero Rum
    Popov (vodka)
    Ron Zacapa Centenario
    Royal Lochnagar distillery
    Rumple Minze
    Seagram’s Seven Crown
    Sirop de Picon
    Talisker distillery
    Vat 69
    Veuve Clicquot
    White Horse (whisky)
    Ypióca Group
    Yukon Jack (liqueur)

    and employees roughly 33,000 people https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diageo

    SO – Before you run with a one sided story, think about the plausibility. We are talking about alleged discrimination against a high profile employee. You think this is something a company would want to involve themselves with? Firing a charismatic well known person because of their private choices? And this isnt somebody who recently decided to talk about their private life publicly, especially at work functions. So, before you run to burn the homophobic witches, think about things. Not everything is what somebody makes it out to be.

  • seaguy

    Never even heard of this brand.

  • jaack

    Jim Jefferies show of 8/1/2017 slammed Trump’s Transphobia. He went on to say anyone with balls enough to fight for OUR country is awesome and deserves respect. He blasted the US military bans over the decades as counter productive and wasteful.


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