Stephen Camisa, Co-Managing Partner of Bedford & Grove LLC
Stephen graduated from the College of Idaho in 1976 with honors, earning a B.A. in History. Upon graduation he moved to Seattle, WA and worked for a large regional beverage alcohol distributor, Odom Corporation for two years before returning to Boise, ID to start up a successful glass art business. In 1989, Stephen returned to university and earned a Juris Doctor from the University of Idaho in 1992, where he was managing editor of the Case Notes & Comments edition of the Law Review. In addition, during 1990 he studied international law for a semester at the University of London and the University of Exeter. Stephen then attended the Postgraduate Legal Program at Tulane University and in 1993 earned a Master of Laws in International Law, L.L.M. In August of 1992 he joined the Sazerac Company of New Orleans as Corporate Counsel.
In his first month with Sazerac, Stephen was tasked with organizing, managing and executing the legal work involved with the acquisition of the Ancient Age Distilling Company, now known as the Buffalo Trace Distillery. Stephen was then appointed the manager of the joint venture with Takara Shuzo, a leading company in the Japanese beverage industry and owner of a number of bourbon trademarks produced and distributed by the distillery. In 1994 he led the acquisition of the Monsieur Henri Wine Company, which has since been renamed Gemini Wine & Spirits.
In 1997, Stephen was appointed Vice President and General Counsel of Sazerac. In 1998, he and his family moved to Kentucky, where he took on the additional responsibilities of leading Sazerac’s international sales and marketing division and the “Homeplace” division, as well as the whiskey development team, which was instrumental in the development of Sazerac’s Buffalo Trace Distillery and its flagship brand Buffalo Trace, the Antique Collection, and Sazerac Rye, among others.
In 1999 Stephen was deeply involved in the acquisition from Diageo of the W.L. Weller and Old Charter brands. Additionally, during 1999 he led the acquisition of the international portfolio of Dr. McGillicuddy’s brands, including Fireball, from Seagram. As a result of the acquisition the brands were added to Sazerac’s international portfolio, which Stephen managed. During his tenure there, the Buffalo Trace Distillery was the first US distillery to be awarded Distillery of the Year, and by both Whisky Magazine and Whisky Advocate Magazine.
In 2006, Stephen left Sazerac to form his own brand-building/sales and marketing company, Bedford & Grove LLC. Bedford & Grove contracted in 2006 with Kirin to lead the re-introduction of Four Roses Bourbon into the United States after a 30 year absence. In 5 years Four Roses grew from distribution in a single state, Kentucky selling 2,500 9-liter cases annually to distribution in over 45 states selling over 50,000 9-liter cases in the premium and super-premium categories. Additionally, Stephen, working with Jim Rutledge, former Master Distiller at Four Roses, directly assisted in PR efforts resulting in Four Roses being awarded Distillery of the Year multiple years, as well as numerous individual international awards for Innovator of the Year and in Jim Rutledge being named Whiskey Ambassador of the Year.
J. W. Rutledge Distillery LLC, Master Distiller
Jim began his long and devoted distillery career in 1966 working in Seagram’s Research and Development Department headquarters - located at Seagram’s Calvert Distillery in Louisville, KY. He worked 11 years in nearly every production area of the distillery – including two stints in distillery operations. Jim was transferred to Seagram’s corporate headquarters in 1977, in New York City, as Chief Industrial Engineer. He worked in Production Division Budgets and Standards and long-range distillery planning areas until 1992 when he was transferred back to his Kentucky home and Seagram’s Four Roses Distillery operations.
In January 1995, Seagram named Jim “Kentucky Area Manager and Master Distiller.” He was inducted into the inaugural class of the Kentucky Bourbon Hall of Fame in 2001. After Seagram went out of business, at the end of that same year, Jim remained with the distillery he loved so much as Master Distiller, and he was named COO by Kirin Brewery – the new owner of Four Roses. Jim retired from Four Roses in September 2015, and during his tenure as Four Roses Distillery Master Distiller he watched over the character, quality and consistency of every barrel of Bourbon filled. Relative to his passion for the barrels of Bourbon he produced, a Four Roses manager was quoted several years ago, saying: “Every stage of the distillation process is critical and you’ll find his hands, eyes and nose – as well as his heart and soul - in every one of them.”
Jim was also active in the Kentucky Bourbon industry he loves. He served on the Board of Directors of the Kentucky Distillers Association for 13 years and on the Board of Directors of the Kentucky Bourbon Festival for 9 years – the last 7 years as Chairman. During his long career he received numerous awards and accolades, including: a “Life Time Achievement Award” by Malt Advocate Magazine in 2007, “Global Whisky Ambassador, American Whiskeys,” in 2008 by Whisky Magazine, and in 2013 he was the 13th person inducted into the magazines’ “Global Whisky Hall of Fame.” Jim is probably best known for the award winning Four Roses Bourbons he produced as Master Distiller, including the American Whiskey of the Year award in 2012 and the Global Whiskey of the Year award the following year – both presented by Whisky Advocate Magazine for Four Roses’ Limited Edition Small Batch Bourbons.
Jim is now very excited and ready to pour his love, dedication, passion and heart, into making Kentucky Straight Bourbon and Straight Rye whiskeys for his own distillery. Bourbon will be made under his watchful eyes using both rye and wheat as small flavoring grains, and he is looking forward to achieving a long-time dream of distilling straight rye whiskeys. Jim said “After all these years working in the industry I’ve loved so much, I’m more excited than ever before to be out on my own making the style whiskeys my friends and consumers love so much.”
Jim graduated from the University of Louisville, with a BSC in Marketing, and a minor in Chemistry.
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Jon Mowry, Co-Managing Partner of Bedford & Grove LLC,
began his career working in Sacramento for Bel Air Markets Inc. and through a series of promotions was promoted to Store Director and Warehouse Distribution Manager for the company’s subsidiary Liquor Mart Inc.
In 1985 Jon joined National Distillers & Chemical Company NYC, New York and worked for the company subsidiary Almaden Vineyards Inc. San Jose CA. He started as a District Manager for the Sacramento Valley and steadily advanced through a series of promotions to Pacific Region Manager in 1987. Almaden Vineyards Inc. was sold in 1987 to Heublein Inc. of Farmington Connecticut. Jon was employed by Heublein Inc. when the company was purchased in 1988 by Grand Metropolitan / International Distillers & Vintners of London England. In 1990, Jon was promoted to Western Region Manager and had sales responsibility for several western U.S. States with brand responsibility for; Almaden, Inglenook, Glen Ellen, BV, Blossom Hill, Christian Brothers Cinzano, Lancers and Valbon brands.
In 1997 Jon left Grand Metropolitan / International Distillers & Vintners and joined Round Hill Vineyards of Napa Valley as the company’s Western Division Manager. While at the company Jon was an integral part of record sales and revenue.
In 1998 he was hired as the General Manager of Monsieur Henri Wine Importing Company, a subsidiary of Sazerac Inc. of New Orleans, Louisiana. Jon managed the sales, marketing, brand registration, compliance, warehousing, and financial business functions of the company. Jon also played a key role in the company transition from the Monsieur Henri Wine Company, which focused primarily on imported wines to Gemini Spirits & Wine Company which successfully entered the premium spirits business with such brands as Cooley Irish Whiskies, Forty Creek Canadian Whisky, Penderyn Welsh Whisky and several other premium spirit brands.
In 2007 Jon joined Bedford & Grove as a Co-Managing Partner and helped build such brands nationally, in both sales volume and revenue, as Four Roses Bourbon, Square One Organic Vodka, Merlet Cognacs and Liqueurs and Mañana Tequila. Bedford & Grove is a sales and marketing company focused on the sales, marketing and brand building of craft and super-premium spirit brands primarily in the U.S. market place.
Jon graduated from the Business School at California State University Sacramento in 1984 with degrees in Business Management, Business Marketing and a minor in Human Resource Development.
Will Conniff, President of Conniff Consulting LLC
Will attended the United States Military Academy at West Point through a Congressional nomination to the service academy from Congressman Lou Frey of Florida. After his Honorable Discharge from the US Army in 1975 he attended the University of Florida where he received a B.A. in History in 1977. Moving back to Orlando he began his work career in 1977 at Specialty Restaurant Corporation’s ‘94th Aero Squadron Restaurant’ as their Sommelier.
It was here through his substantial selling efforts he got noticed by the executives at American Distributors of Jacksonville/Orlando a subsidiary of Southern Wine & Spirits of America. They formally offered Will a career position with the organization in February of 1978 as a Sales Assistant/Merchandiser for the East Coast of Florida. Will quickly moved up through the ranks at Southern becoming a Sales Rep, District Manager and subsequent appointment in 1983 as Restaurant Manager of their newly formed On Premise Division in Orlando. It was during this time that Will studied and passed his Sommelier Guild exam and became a Certified Sommelier in 1984.
In 1987 Will was appointed General Sales Manager of Wine for the Orlando division. Continuing his successes at SWS with record sales and brand building he was appointed General Sales Manager of Spirits and Wine in 1989 and promoted to General Sales Manager for Jacksonville/Orlando in 1991 managing all selling divisions. In 1993 Will got the call from Southern Wine & Spirits of America ownership in Miami to become the General Manager of South Florida at their corporate headquarters. Will ran the Miami operation for 5 years before setting out to open new markets for SWS in January 1998.
Will opened and oversaw all business functions in Kentucky (1998), Illinois (2005) and Minnesota (2012) thus establishing a stronghold in the MidWest for Southern Wine & Spirits as their newly appointed Regional General Manager. During his tenure at SWS he was deeply involved with building iconic brands such as Grey Goose Vodka, Maker’s Mark Bourbon and Patron Tequila among other notable brands. Will was also a charter board member of Southern Wine & Spirits of America’s SPEC TEAM- Strategic Projections Executive Committee responsible for the development and implementation of all national SWS initiatives and projects.
After a rewarding and successful 38 year career span that saw unprecedented growth for Southern Wine & Spirits of America Will retired from the company in March 2016 to open up his private consult company Conniff Consulting LLC in Palm Coast, Florida.