Louisville Magazine

SEP 2018

Louisville Magazine is Louisville's city magazine, covering Louisville people, lifestyles, politics, sports, restaurants, entertainment and homes. Includes a monthly calendar of events.

Issue link: https://loumag.epubxp.com/i/1019738

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Page 29 of 124

brazeiros.com nanzkraft.com LOUISVILLE MAGAZINE 9.18 27 THE PORTRAIT Juan Merizalde Old Forester distillery manager The beer was a pilsner called Pilsner. This was in Juan Merizal- de's home country of Ecuador, where the legal drinking age is 18. The point is, no bourbon. Which means he didn't even understand what Brown-Forman was when he applied for an internship a decade ago while studying chem- ical engineering at U of L. Now, he manages the Old Forester distillery on Whiskey Row, which cost $45 million and opened in June. (Brown-Forman's office and an Old Forester bottling line were located in the same building from 1882 to 1919.) "When I go home to Ecuador, everybody's like, 'What's Brown-Forman,'" the 33-year-old says. "When I say the brands, they're like, 'Holy crap! You work for Jack?!'" Merizalde came to America as an ex- change student in Denver, then started college on a scholarship at tiny Brescia University in Owensboro, Kentucky, before transferring to U of L. "I'd heard of Kentucky because of Kentucky Fried Chicken, but that's as much as I knew," he says. Merizalde now oversees the fully operational distillery for Old For- ester (Brown-Forman's original brand from 1870), complete with fermen- tation tanks, a 44-foot-tall gleaming copper column still, a cooperage with charring station and a warehouse with space for 900 aging barrels. (The bulk of Old Forester is made at the compa- ny's distillery in Shively.) "Luckily for me, I have not had some of the tough stories that you see on the news about immigrants," Merizalde says. "Our job, the people who have a little bit more exposure, is to reduce the level of igno- rance that exists, to remind people that this country was built on immigrants." Oh, and if you need even more proof that he's a Louisvillian now: "I learned that when people ask you what school you went to, they mean high school," he says. — Josh Moss

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