James B. Beam Institute for Kentucky Spirits opens distillery and maturation facility on University of Kentucky campus

By Lilli Dubler, Building Kentucky

The University of Kentucky’s James B. Beam Institute for Kentucky Spirits officially opened the doors of its new facilities earlier this month. The institute, established in 2019, pursues its mission of ensuring the welfare and prosperity of Kentucky’s spirits industry through education, research, outreach and workforce development.

“Today reinforces our commitment to investing in our students and Kentucky’s future,” UK President Eli Capilouto said at the ribbon-cutting ceremony. “It also reinforces the importance of our essential partnerships that will help us advance Kentucky. This new facility will help leverage transdisciplinary work and show students that the distilling industry needs employees from a vast array of disciplines and majors.”

Located on UK’s campus, the state-of-the-art facilities include a research distillery building – with a 30-foot column still at its center – and the Independent Stave Company – Boswell Family Barrel Warehouse, a maturation facility that will allow the Beam Institute to experiment with barrel aging spirits produced in its research distillery.

“This is the largest teaching distillery in the United States and in the world,” said Seth DeBolt, Beam Institute director and UK Martin-Gatton College of Agriculture, Food and Environment professor. “It will allow us to train the next generation of distillers and researchers, and to conduct cutting-edge research on the science of spirits production.”

Global spirits leader Beam Suntory – known for its iconic brand portfolio that includes Jim Beam – continues to be a broad-interest partner by investing in the Beam Institute’s vision of hands-on distillation education. As the first major gift to the institute, Beam Suntory has helped create the Whiskey Apprentice Program, a one-of-a-kind opportunity that includes curriculum about bourbon engineering, bourbon grains, customer relations, distillery science, fermentation, maturation, public speaking, safety and sensory education.

“When Beam Suntory first partnered with the University of Kentucky to create the James B. Beam Institute for Kentucky Spirits, we did so as an investment in the future of bourbon and the future of Kentucky’s workforce,” said Alex Alvarez, chief supply chain officer at Beam Suntory. “The institute has firmly established itself as a forum for continuing education and research, as well as collaboration across the industry to tackle some of our toughest challenges together. We’re proud to be an active partner in this work, pushing our industry toward a bright future.”

The Beam Institute offers engineering, chemistry, business, law, horticulture, forestry, food science and entomology courses. Students will begin learning in the new facilities this fall.

To learn more about the James B. Beam Institute for Kentucky Spirits, visit https://beaminstitute.ca.uky.edu/.

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