Bartenders Worth a Damn: Trudy Thomas
“I truly believe in the saying, do a job you love and you will never work a day in your life.” — Trudy Thomas
Trudy Thomas is widely know as ‘The First Daughter of Bourbon,’ and Master Distiller Lincoln Henderson more recently crowned her as ‘The Queen of Bourbon.’ Angel’s Envy came into her story somewhere in the middle. While promoting National Bourbon Heritage Month in Scottsdale, Arizona, Trudy had her first experience with the spirit. Master Distiller Lincoln Henderson brought three bottles for the final three competitors in an Iron Chef-style battle of bourbon cocktails. The event was a success.
“Tasting Angel’s Envy is a true expression of Lincoln’s passion, knowledge and a lifetime of experience. It’s warm, rich and delicious — a true expression of bourbon’s heritage and the distiller’s creativity. We enjoyed our first taste so much that I’m committed to being the first account to purchase the spirit once it’s officially released in Arizona. We’ll make sure it’s appreciated.“
But let’s return to the beginning. Trudy Thomas is a Kentucky girl. She grew up in the small town of Albany on a tobacco farm. Her grandfather inspired her passion for the spirits industry — and bourbon in particular. She was always drawn to the remarkable community that crafts, lives and breathes the spirit. Trudy attended the University of Kentucky where she studied Speech Therapy and played percussion in the marching band.
“I never really pictured myself using the degree. I thought I would be a musician, but an accident broke my elbow and ended my musical career. Feeling a little lost I took a job bartending and fell in love with the industry. I never looked back.”
In the spirit of never looking back, she moved to Chicago in 1999 and took the industry by storm. “Moving to Chicago gave me the opportunity to spread the gospel of Bourbon to any and everyone who would listen, I had a self appointed mission to convert the world to bourbon one person at a time.”
A little more than a year later, she was training with the late Michael Boncasorri at Spago Beverly Hills. While she learned much from him, her true mentor was Chef Wolfgang Puck, whom she worked with for over four years. He taught her marketing, the science of pairings and how to build a cocktail with the subtle craftsmanship of a Master Chef.
Currently a member of Marriott’s Corporate Beverage Council, Trudy is a contributor to several industry publications and enjoys discussing all facets of the industry. In 2008, she became the first person to take and pass both the Certified Specialist of Wine and the Certified Specialist of Spirits exams from the Society of Wine Educators on the same day. She is Vice Chairmen and Co-founder of the Arizona Chapter of the US Bartenders Guild, actively teaching the craft and mentoring bartenders throughout the valley.
“When I found out Lincoln was releasing a new bourbon, I had to have it for our first bourbon battle at Camelback Inn, and I was very fortunate to have Lincoln come out and participate. It was so successful that we are going to make it an annual event, as well as the entire month long promotion. I am hopeful I will be able to inspire sister Marriott properties around the country to join me next September in the month long celebration of Bourbon — American’s Native Spirit.”
After more than a decade spent mastering her craft and promoting bourbon across the nation, Trudy has truly earned the titles, ‘The Queen of Bourbon’ and ‘The First Daughter of Bourbon.’ “Both are an honor. I hope my career is reflective of the teachings of my bourbon mentors and that I continue to make them and the bourbon industry proud.”
With a passion for bourbon eclipsed only by her desire to educate, Trudy still enjoys nothing more than watching a new bourbon drinker fall in love with the spirit. We would like to recognize Trudy Thomas for all that she’s done, not just for Angel’s Envy, but also for the cause of bourbon. As always, she says it best.
“I am so proud of our industry. Because of the friendships I’ve made, I can reach so many people — both bourbon fans and novices. I speak from the heart and with passion, because I believe there is nothing more American than Kentucky Bourbon.”
So join us in raising a glass to Trudy Thomas, the now and future ‘Queen of Bourbon.’