James B. Beam Opens World’s LARGEST Teaching Distillery at The University of Kentucky

James B. Beam
L-R: Carlo Coppola, Gregory Hughes, Freddie Noe, Andy Barr, Nancy Cox, Lisa Banner, Fred Noe, Eli Capilouto, Alex Alvarez, Seth DeBolt

A monumental new chapter has opened in the Book of Kentucky Bourbon. This week marks the official opening of the James B. Beam Institute of Kentucky Spirits on the University of Kentucky’s campus in Lexington. Bourbon is a game of chess, not checkers. It’s a long game if you will. The positive effects of this will take time to notice, just a like fine aging Kentucky Bourbon. But make no mistake, it will have a tremendous impact on the future landscape of American distilling.

“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.”

james b. beam
Dr. Seth Debolt, Director of the James B. Beam Institute & UK Horticulture Professor

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.

james b. beam

“Today’s ceremony reinforces our commitment to investing in our students and Kentucky’s future,” said UK President Eli Capilouto. “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.”

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.

The cutting edge institution is a multidisciplinary effort of experts from the UK Martin-Gatton College of Agriculture, Food and Environment, College of Engineering, College of Arts and Sciences and Gatton College of Business and Economics. Essentially, the program integrates both the biz and the science of the Bourbon industry.

james b. beam

“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.”

Just imagine if something like this existed even 10 years ago. Think how much more developed and advanced the available workforce would be in the distilling industry. Instead of graduating from a university, then having to gain that critical experience working at an actual distillery, this expedites the learning curve exponentially.

15 years ago, there were less than 100 distilleries in the country. Now, there are over 2,000. Will this program serve to benefit all scales of spirit making, from the behemoths to the startups? Time will tell, but that seems like a very safe bet.

More Info: https://beaminstitute.ca.uky.edu/

For the latest in Bourbon, visit www.thebourbonreview.com

james b. beam
Scene from the Institute’s distillation room where researchers and students will have the capacity to produce a barrel a day thanks to Louisville company Vendome Copper & Brass Works.