Learn about UK’s new James B. Beam Institute for Kentucky Spirits

We’re distilling the details on the world’s largest teaching distillery, housed right here in Lexington, KY.

A metal building with big glass windows

Tours for the public will begin in 2024. | Photo provided by the UK Martin-Gatton College of Agriculture, Food and Environment

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UK’s Martin-Gatton College of Agriculture, Food and Environment cut the ribbon yesterday on the James B. Beam Institute for Kentucky Spirits, a project four years in the making.

Complete with a 30-ft still + 600-barrel warehouse, as well as research and classroom space, this is the largest teaching distillery in the world.

How we got here

  • 2015 | The Distilling, Wine, and Brewing Studies undergraduate certificate was launched giving students introductory training in their choice of distillation, wine, or brewing.
  • 2019 | Beam Suntory gave UK $5 million — the largest single philanthropic gift in the company’s history — which sparked the plan for the creation of the Institute.
  • 2020 | UK hosted the Inaugural James B. Beam Institute Industry Conference in February. In March, Independent Stave Company + the Boswell Family gifted UK $1 million to fund the maturation facility followed by a November donation of the K-RAX storage system from Koetter Construction.
  • 2021 | Louisville-based Vendome Copper and Brass Works announce its gift of a 30-ft copper still.
Rows of wood meant for stacking barrels

The maturation house features a K-RAX storage system — which ranks among the industry’s safest + best engineered equipment. | Photo provided by the UK Martin-Gatton College of Agriculture, Food and Environment.

Local work on a global scale

The team of experts affiliated with the Institute are trained in a variety of areas including engineering, public health, chemistry, and horticulture all with one primary focus: to protect, preserve + grow Kentucky’s distilled spirits.

Dr. Seth DeBolt, Director of the Institute, says they have three main goals:

  • Provide support to the next generation of distillers
  • Partner with the distilled spirits industry members to research questions and look toward future innovation
  • Provide transdisciplinary leadership to the global industry with local roots

Some of the research projects they are currently working on include supporting the future of American White Oak, how to reduce liquid loss via barrel construction + airflow in the warehouses, and ways to improve liquid quality by improving processes.

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