Elmer Lucille Allen, 92, was honored this month by the Black Bourbon Society for her groundbreaking contributions to the bourbon industry. Allen, a Louisville native and graduate of Central High School and Nazareth College, became Brown-Forman’s first African-American chemist in 1966.
She got the job at Brown-Forman after undertaking medical and dental research at labs, hospitals, and eventually at the University of Louisville. She is now regarded as a trailblazer for women in science and the bourbon industry.
The 92-year-old told WLKY she never planned to become a scientist or make history. “I’m just glad that people appreciate what I have done. I don’t do it for myself. I do it for others. Cause when you do things out here for yourself, it stays with you. But if you do it for other people, you know it’s really something,” she told WDRB.
Samara B. Davis, the founder of the Black Bourbon Society, referred to Allen as a forerunner in the industry. “She made this major contribution to bourbon, but there’s still so much to fill, and so much to do in order for everything to be really diverse and inclusive in our space,” Davis said.
According to her, it was important for her to see Allen honored for all she did to break down barriers in the bourbon industry. “I look at her as the person who did it, and what can I do, even if I’m the first, even if it’s never been done before,” Davis added.
On September 1, Allen received the Bourbon Pioneer Award, as well as the Distinguished Citizen Proclamation, among other honors at the Louisville Marriott Downtown. Allen, who is 92 years old, is also an excellent ceramic potter and arts patron. She got a Master of Studio Arts in ceramics and fiber arts from the University of Louisville in 2002, as well as a WLKY Bell Award in 2021.
She seeks to inspire others with whatever she does.