Dave Pickerell

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David Steven Pickerell (August 14, 1956 – November 1, 2018) was an American distiller. He was considered the "Johnny Appleseed" or "founding father" of craft distilling.

Early life and education[edit]

Pickerell was born on August 14, 1956, in Fairborn, Ohio.[1] His father, Richard Pickerell, was a postmaster.[1]

Dave Pickerell US Whiskey in South Africa (26478470126).jpg

He attended the United States Military Academy at West Point from 1974 to 1978, where he earned a Bachelor of Science in chemistry.[2] He played on the 1974 Army Cadets football team his freshman year.[2] After graduating, he served 11 years in the United States Army.[1] He received a master's degree in chemical engineering from the University of Louisville while in the army.[1]


After leaving the army in 1989, Pickerell became a chemical engineer and distilling consultant at Ro-Tech in Louisville, Kentucky.[2] In 1994, he joined Maker's Mark bourbon as a corporate vice president and master distiller and was with the company for 14 years.[1][3] Over Pickerell's 14 years at Maker's Mark, annual sales increased from 175,000 cases to nearly one million.[1]

After leaving Maker's Mark, he established a consulting firm called Oak View Spirits, where he advised over 100 other distilleries.[4] His wide-ranging influence in the industry earned him the sobriquets "Founding Father of the Craft Distilling Movement" and the "Johnny Appleseed" of craft distilling.[2][4][5] He worked with WhistlePig, a small manufacturer of rye whiskey,[1] and was part of the group that restored George Washington's distillery in Mount Vernon, Virginia.[3] Other distilleries he worked with include Watershed Distillery, Copper Fox Distillery, J. Rieger & Co., and Garrison Brothers Distillery.[2]

In 2018, he worked with metal band Metallica to release a product called Blackened American Whiskey.[6] The aging process includes the application of low-frequency sound waves to the brew which broadcast the band's songs. According to the band, each run of 5,000 bottles has a different playlist.[7]

Personal life[edit]

Pickerell married Jeannette Harvie, with whom he had four children. He died of hypertensive heart failure on November 1, 2018, in San Francisco, California.[1]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h "Dave Pickerell, Master of Whiskey and Rye, Is Dead at 62". The New York Times. 8 November 2018. Retrieved 9 November 2018.
  2. ^ a b c d e Tramazzo, John C. (2018). Bourbon and Bullets: True Stories of Whiskey, War, and Military Service. U of Nebraska Press. pp. 159–166. ISBN 9781640121034.
  3. ^ a b "Bourbon Industry Pioneer, Legend and Master Distiller Dave Pickerell Has Died". Distillery Trail. 2 November 2018. Retrieved 9 November 2018.
  4. ^ a b "Master Distiller Dave Pickerell Dies at 62 Wine Enthusiast Magazine". Wine Enthusiast Magazine. 6 November 2018. Retrieved 9 November 2018.
  5. ^ "Meeting Mr. Whiskey – Garden & Gun". Garden & Gun. 4 February 2014.
  6. ^ "Metallica and David Pickerell Releasing Blackened American Whiskey". The Bourbon Review. 4 September 2018. Retrieved 9 November 2018.
  7. ^ "Metallica Just Made a 'Blackened' Whiskey Whose Aging Process Involves Being Blasted by Subwoofers". Esquire. 4 September 2018.