September 27, 2023 2:11 pm

Mandy Hazelton: Thank You for Your Service

For this month’s Women in Whiskey, we are honored to showcase Mandy Hazelton, a 2023 honoree of the Evan Williams American Made Heroes Foundation.

Mandy was kind enough to take time out of her day to chat with me about her life and being chosen as one of the six recipients to help create the 2023 American Heroes Limited Edition Bottle.

Ironically, Mandy is not generally a whiskey drinker (she confessed to enjoying it with Coca Cola) but was excited to participate in the selection process for what would go in the bottle.

Sample Sharing and Kentucky Hugs

Mandy received four different sample bottles labeled one through four with a survey. She shared them with her husband, who had given her well-deserved wife props for the recognition from Evan Williams. While she found all of them to be delicious, Mandy admitted they were a bit strong to have all at once for her palate, so she spread the tasting over the course of a few days.

The survey was open-ended and asked questions such as “What does this make you feel like when you’re tasting this? What does this remind you of? What does it smell like? What do you taste?”. But she found that the last question was the most challenging one, which asked her to rank the order of her preferences.

Interestingly enough, her flavor preference tends to run sweet whereas her husband runs sour, but they had both chosen the same two samples as their top two favorites. Mandy was amused to learn the term “Kentucky hug”, in reference to that warm slight burn you get in your chest after enjoying Kentucky bourbon.

For one of her answers, Mandy told me that it “smelled Iike my Grandpa had a really long night”. He was a drinker, but also made his own wine crushing grapes. We discussed the idea of the Proust Phenomenon, i.e., that an olfactory experience can induce a vivid memory and its effect on tasting whiskey. Ever try tasting a whiskey with your nose pinched?

The six Veteran honorees were then invited to Kentucky for a few days to connect with each other over activities such as Distillery tours and whiskey dinners.

But long before there were steak dinners and fine bourbons, Mandy was a teenager when she made the decision to join the US Air Force. Previously, she had been in the USMC (US Marine Corps) Junior ROTC program. A serious car accident at the age of nineteen shook her to the core, and made her consider what she really wanted to do with her life. Initially she thought of joining the Marines and ultimately decided to join the Air Force, with the support of her father, also an Air Force Veteran.

She then spent the next twenty years as a medical technician. During this time, she met her now husband, whom she married at Castle Avalon near San Antonio, Texas.

Finding Her JOY

Mandy retired after twenty years of service and seeked out work in the nonprofit sector. Friends and family recommended the Genesis Joy House. This is the first and only transitional living facility for female veterans. After one meeting with founder Margaret Queen-Flowers, she felt like they were family, and was asked to become a Board Member. This position gave her a chance to learn about the nonprofit world and leverage her background as a communications major.

Today she is the President of the Board and Chairman of the Marketing & Communications Team. The term “Genesis” helps to highlight the new start they provide to their program participants and personally for Mandy, “JOY” stands for “Jesus, Others, You”. While the name is a Biblical reference, she stated they don’t force the Bible, but do want people to experience God through their actions.

How you can help Genesis Joy House

Donations: Personal, Corporate, Fundraising Welcome of monies, clothing, toiletries, new or unused household items


Apply to Work: There is a current need for a Program Director and Shelter Assistants.

Be an Ambassador by liking and sharing their Social Media posts from

  • Instagram
  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn

Like other nonprofits, Genesis Joy House is constantly applying for grants to operate. In Mandy’s words, “we run on grants, donations, and the will of God”. It was through this process that she learned of her nomination for the American Heroes application. Along with 600 other applicants, she was interviewed, and after a few months, she was chosen to be one of six.

About the Evan Williams American Made Heroes Foundation

In 2015,  Evan Williams launched the Evan Williams Bourbon American-Made Heroes program and limited-edition label celebrating veterans and their contributions to the community. In 2020, the Foundation was established to support nonprofit, 501(c)(3) and 501(c)(19) organizations committed to serving US Veterans. The inaugural initiative was the COVID-19 Veteran Relief Grant. 

To date, $525,000 has been donated to these organizations and 50+ Veterans have been recognized on their American Hero Edition bottles. 

Mandy stated that even after receiving this recognition and grant money for Genesis Joy House, Evan Williams remained in contact with her. She was able to tour a distribution center in Atlanta, GA with her family and was treated to dinner.

For a fundraiser fashion show hosted by Hello Gorgeous, for Genesis Joy House, Evan Williams participated and presented her with a wooden plaque. This plaque was made from one of their barrels, after learning of her desire to have a barrel.

About the Evan Williams 1783 American Heroes Limited Edition Bottle

Small Batch Veteran Selected, 90 Proof

Features Heaven Hill’s traditional bourbon mashbill of 78% corn, 12% malted barley, and 10% rye. This expression is extra aged slightly longer than the standard Evan Williams 1783 – six to eight years.  

The bottles are available nationwide beginning May to the end of July, depending on supply. New in 2023, each selected veteran is featured on a hangtag on more than 135,000 bottles nationwide.

Continuing to Make A Difference

Mandy constantly looks to make a difference and promote Genesis Joy House whenever she can. She shared a touching story of how she recently lent her voice to a radio ad. Because of it, she was able to help a fellow Veteran whose daughter heard the ad on the radio.

Recently she became a hospitality Coordinator at an Airman Ministry Center (aka “The Refuge”) at a Base Chapel, providing a safe place to relax and socialize, whether that’s smoothies for breakfast or hosting a car show.

Additionally, she continues to run the Hello Gorgeous boutique, dedicated to pledging a percentage of proceeds to the Genesis Joy House. Mandy recently launched a clothing line, Conscious Couture, dedicated to reducing the fashion carbon footprint. She will be taking it on the road to this year’s New York Fashion Week, in the fall, where she will be taking five Youth Ambassadors from Genesis Joy House to model the clothing in NYC. If you’d like to help sponsor the Ambassadors, click here.

It was a pleasure to chat with Mandy and for a bonus, check out her guest spot on the Great Cigar & Pipe Show Pairing episode of Evan Williams 1783 Small Batch (American Hero Edition) & BAMF Cigars MK-45 that also features our very own Joe Gulino and Trinity Ables.

In addition to Mandy, Whiskey Network salutes the service and inspiration from her fellow veterans recognized by Evan Williams: Brian Barber (Sergeant 5 USMC, Mission FISH), Laura Jeanne (Chief Warrant Officer 3 US Army, Adapt-Able Foundation), Chaz Koch (Petty Officer 3rd Class US Navy Operation, Paws on the Ground), David E. McCracken (Colonel US Army-Retired, Veteran Smiles Foundation, and Susan Wagner (Senior Chief Hospital Corpsman Diver, Smiles for Veterans).

Join us next month when we chat with Elayne Duff, of Samson & Surrey whose whiskey portfolio includes Widow Jane, FEW Spirits, and Brenne Whisky.

"Whisky is liquid sunshine."

George Bernard Shaw

“The light music of whiskey falling into a glass – an agreeable interlude.”

James Joyce

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