Melissa Rift is the new master taster and brand ambassador for Old Forester, Brown-Forman's oldest bourbon brand.
A native Louisvillian, Melissa Rift will apparently be the first openly gay master taster in a historically unwelcoming industry.
She followed Jackie Zykan, the first woman to release a whiskey bearing her own name on an Old Forester label, who left this year.
“I’m extremely excited to create a more inclusive bourbon industry to reflect the changing face of our beloved consumers and represent the Old Forester legacy so many love,” Melissa Rift said in the announcement.
In her role as the company's master taster, she is the face of their brand, one of the company's fastest growing premium spirits.
A master taster's work often entails choosing barrels for special releases, barrel picks, and the like.
And she will have an unusually high-profile platform: Brown-Forman is one of the largest liquor producers in the world, and many of its brands are sold internationally.
Last year, the Louisville-based company, which owns Jack Daniel's Tennessee Whiskey and Woodford Reserve, reported almost $4 billion in sales.
According to the company, Old Forester sales grew 17 percent last year. Rift began her career as a bourbon tour guide.
Furthermore, she has held leadership roles at Beam Suntory and Bulleit Distilling Company.
“As the country’s first bottled bourbon, Old Forester has such a history – but also an opportunity to usher in a new era for the entire industry,” Melissa Rift said in a statement. “There’s nothing better in the market than Old Forester – and I look forward to introducing more people to this authentic brand.”
The company and brand said in its public announcement that Melissa Rift “will help continue the revitalization of Old Forester, the only bourbon to exist before, during and after Prohibition and the founding brand of Brown-Forman.”
Rift said in the statement that she is excited to be part of a brand with such history as well as “an opportunity to usher in a new era for the entire industry,”.
“There’s nothing better in the market than Old Forester – and I look forward to introducing more people to this authentic brand.”
“Melissa brings a dynamic personality, a devotion to the bourbon industry and an enthusiasm for the rich heritage of our 152-year-old brand,” said Mark Bacon, senior vice president and managing director of Super-Premium American Whiskey.
“We’re thrilled to welcome her to the Brown-Forman family and are excited for her insights to amplify this new chapter in Old Forester’s legacy.”