Beam Suntory, University of Kentucky commit to advancing global spirits industry, continue strategic partnership

By Lilli Dubler, Building Kentucky

The Beam Institute will lead the global advancement of the American whiskey industry through workforce education, scientific discovery, environmental sustainability, community and social responsibility. | Courtesy Martin-Gatton CAFE

Beam Suntory, a global leader in premium spirits, has renewed its strategic partnership with the University of Kentucky James B. Beam Institute for Kentucky Spirits to help strengthen Kentucky’s signature industry for generations to come. The continued partnership between Beam Suntory and UK will ensure the Institute continues to offer unparalleled expertise for teaching and research.

Beam Suntory will donate $7.5 million to UK over a 10-year period, with an additional $1.875 million for the Commonwealth of Kentucky Research Challenge Trust Fund (RCTF) Endowment Match Program, which enhances private gifts such as Beam Suntory’s contribution aimed at STEM+H fields with an emphasis on economic development and creating new external research funding.

“This gift will continue to advance Kentucky’s signature industry by funding research to address systemic challenges facing the spirits industry globally, such as energy and water reduction, improving distilling, maturation and bottling techniques for greater efficiency and implementing scalable and sustainable agricultural practices,” said Seth DeBolt, James B. Beam Institute director and professor at the UK Martin-Gatton College of Agriculture, Food and Environment. “It’s an incredible opportunity to identify and share best practices with partners and distillers globally and show students the breadth of opportunities within the spirits industry.”

Beam Suntory’s investment provides funding for an endowed chair and professorships, which will further support the Institute’s mission to lead the global advancement of the American whiskey industry though workforce education, scientific discovery, environmental sustainability, community and social responsibility. The endowed funding will allow the Institute to expand student enrollment by 50%, creating a robust pipeline of future leaders in the spirits industry.

“The ongoing partnership between the University of Kentucky and Beam Suntory reflects one of our core values – Growing for Good – by committing to investing in the future of bourbon and the professional and economic opportunities it provides,” said Greg Hughes, president and CEO at Beam Suntory. “We’re proud to have such a strong partnership in not only advancing the industry today, but also in training the next generation of distillers, creating more opportunity and representation, in bourbon and beyond.”

Beam Suntory and UK established their strategic partnership in 2019 with the formation of the Institute. Since then, Beam Suntory has provided nearly $6 million in funding, which has helped fund numerous initiatives to support the future of distilling education, including:  

  • Establishing an annual conference, which has grown each year and now hosts more than 800 attendees to share research and best practices across the industry;
  • Constructing a 7,500 square-foot on-campus research and teaching distillery — the world’s largest;
  • Providing responsibility training to more than 1,600 students through the hands-on Learning Bar;
  • Expanding the popular Distillation, Wine and Brewing Studies Certificate (DWBS). To date, 225 students have completed the certificate, with many more participating in the courses as electives;
  • Focusing on workforce development through internship and distillery apprenticeship programs and university courses to support the next generation of leaders in the spirits industry.

“In extending our deepest gratitude to Beam Suntory for their generous contribution, we recognize not only their pivotal role in supporting the bourbon industry but also their unwavering commitment to our institute’s mission,” said Nancy Cox, vice president of land-grant engagement and dean of Martin-Gatton CAFE. “This gift strengthens our ability to address industry challenges and reinforces our dedication to preparing future leaders who will drive the spirits industry forward.”

For more information, visit the Beam Institute website at

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