James B. Beam Institute opens at UK

Published 9:30 am Wednesday, August 23, 2023

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University of Kentucky

After nearly a decade of planning, the University of Kentucky’s James B. Beam Institute for Kentucky Spirits officially recently opened its doors, elevating the institute’s impact on research, workforce development, education and outreach. Since 2019, the institute has served as the industry’s research and development vehicle, pursuing its mission to ensure the welfare and prosperity of Kentucky’s spirits industry. Through teaching, research and outreach, the institute promotes economic sustainability, environmental stewardship and responsible consumption.

“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.”

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The new UK campus facilities include a research distillery building, with a 30-foot column still as the centerpiece, and the Independent Stave Company – Boswell Family Barrel Warehouse. The maturation facility allows 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, 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.”

As the first major gift partner to the Beam Institute, global spirits leader Beam Suntory made a long-lasting commitment to the institute’s vision of excellent hands-on distillation. The company, known for its iconic brand portfolio that includes Jim Beam, has continued to be a broad-interest partner, adding workforce education to its list of priorities through a one-of-a-kind apprenticeship. The Whiskey Apprentice Program delivers a robust curriculum that includes safety, bourbon grains, bourbon engineering, fermentation, public speaking, customer relations, sensory, maturation and distillery science.

“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 to address spirits industry needs in sustainable agriculture, research and development and more. DeBolt said students will begin learning in the new facilities this fall.