Daughter of Bulleit Whiskey Founder Speaks Out on Why She Left the Company

When family conflicts collide with the cocktail world

Bulleit 10
A bottle of Bulleit 10
Patruby83/Creative Commons
By Tobias Carroll / July 20, 2019 12:27 pm

In 2017, Hollis B. Worth broke with her family and accused her father, Bulleit founder Tom Bulleit, of decades of homophobic and abusive behavior. Worth is a well-liked figure in the cocktail community, and is credited with creating the distinctive aesthetics of Bulleit’s brand. Worth left Diageo in 2017; now, in an interview with Neat Pour, she discussed her involvement with Bulleit and the series of events that caused her to depart.

The resulting account is a harrowing read, covering everything from her family’s refusal to accept Worth’s sexuality to examples of a sexist culture in the cocktail world.

The article also acts as a corrective to certain elements of Bulleit’s history: author B.E. Mintz notes that “the product we currently drink reportedly owes more to the Bronfman family than the elder Bulleit.” Much of this can be chalked up to Seagram’s 1997 purchase of Bulleit, which altered the focus of the whiskey Bulleit was producing, as well as some of the production techniques. 

Mintz’s article covers both Worth’s increasing alienation from her family and her difficulty in finding some form of redress from Diageo. This is one of many details in the article indicating a troubling work environment:

…in a 2010 memo to Diageo management, [Worth] complained about being left by herself in car after the sales excursion made an unscheduled stop at a strip club. The subsection titled, “Request of Future Diageo Presence/Support” also mentions being forced to care for an egregiously drunk colleague early in the morning as well as being set up on unsolicited dates.

Even though Worth has left Diageo, her importance in the industry continues — and her mistreatment has caused some in the cocktail community to eschew using Bulleit. 

This article comes at a particularly difficult time for Diageo, with news of a possible strike in Scotland also emerging earlier in the week.

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