Michter’s Master Distiller Pam Heilmann will retire from her full-time position on May 1. | Photo by Sara Havens

Michter’s announced on Wednesday that beginning May 1, Master Distiller Pam Heilmann — who led the distillery since 2016 and helped open the Fort Nelson Distillery in January — will retire from her full-time position and will be succeeded by Distiller Dan McKee, who Heilmann brought to Michter’s from her prior role at Jim Beam.

Heilmann will continue to work for the Louisville bourbon distillery part time, taking the title of master distiller emerita.

“I’ve really enjoyed my time at Michter’s, and I’m very proud of what we have done here,” she said in a news release. “One of the favorite parts of my job has been coaching and training younger people as they come up in the industry. Dan is a brilliant distiller, and I am confident that with him and Matt Bell at the helm, our production is in great hands.”

Matt Bell, formerly the distillery manager, also will step up into McKee’s former role as distiller.

Dan McKee | Courtesy of Michter’s

McKee moved to Kentucky more than a dozen years ago to pursue a career in distilling.

He began his career at the Jim Beam Distillery in Clermont, Ky., as distillery operator and later was promoted to distillery supervisor at the Booker Noe Distillery. It was during this time he first worked under Heilmann, who later relocated to Michter’s and helped secure a spot in the distillery for McKee.

“I am so grateful to Pam. To work with her and learn from her has been an honor and a privilege,” McKee said in the release. “We will do everything we can to continue Pam’s work and pursue Michter’s goal of producing the greatest American whiskey.”

Heilmann’s final release as master distiller will be the Michter’s 10 Year Single Barrel Kentucky Straight Bourbon, which will be released in May.

Michter’s President Joseph J. Magliocco noted that Heilmann will be greatly missed, but he’s confident that McKee will continue the success his mentor provided.

“After we hired Pam, she brought over Dan with her from her prior company. It quickly became apparent that he was extraordinarily talented and would someday be an outstanding master distiller,” he said. “Pam’s contributions to Michter’s have been incredible. She is a truly great distiller, and a truly great person.”

Dan McKee and Pam Heilmann leading a tasting in 2018 | Photo by Sara Havens

In 2016, Insider sat down with Heilmann to discuss her new role as master distiller, which was rare in a field dominated by men. She told us she doesn’t really think much about being one of a few female master distillers, but rather focuses more on just being a master distiller.

She explained:

“I’m a distiller. I try to do the best job I can do every day, and if people recognize that, then I’m doing a good job — whether I’m a man or woman or whoever. It shouldn’t matter. I get that it means something and is really important. But what’s most important to me is just the title of master distiller. I think about all the people who came before me — the Jim Rutledges (Four Roses) and Jimmy Russells (Wild Turkey). When I started at Beam, this was something I never thought about achieving.”

Sara Havens

Sara Havens

Sara Havens is the Culture Editor at Insider Louisville, known around town as the Bar Belle (barbelleblog.com). She's a former editor of LEO Weekly and has written for Playboy and The Alcohol Professor. Havens is the author of two books: "The Bar Belle" and "The Bar Belle Vol. 2."