Bourbon was born in Kentucky. An $8.6-billion industry in the Bluegrass State, it boasts more than 21,000 jobs, accounting for a third of all distilling jobs in the United States. The James B. Beam Institute for Kentucky Spirits at the University of Kentucky is committed to offering industry professionals and enthusiasts innovative research and educational opportunities. The institute will offer its second annual Bourbon Industry Conference virtually March 10-12.

The Beam Institute is a collaboration between the UK colleges of Agriculture, Food and Environment; Arts and Sciences; Business and Economics; and Engineering. Its vision is to educate the next generation of distillers through a curriculum that develops skills for undergraduates, graduate students and professionals to succeed in the distilled spirits industry.

“Our inaugural conference was a great success, and we didn’t want COVID-19 to interrupt our momentum,” said Seth DeBolt, Beam Institute director and UK horticulture professor. “We’ve put a lot of planning into offering an equally successful virtual conference this year to provide information and resources industry professionals can use in their jobs.”

The conference will once again address key topics those in the industry regularly encounter. UK and industry representatives will lead sessions focused on Beam Institute success stories, spent grain, tariffs, fermentation, threats to the industry boom, quality control and technical services management, bourbon and environmental law, financial benchmarking in distilleries, bourbon terroir, oak sustainability, flavor and chemistry, diversity, equity and inclusion in the bourbon industry, sensory evaluation and more. Partners and vendors will offer interactive displays and opportunities for networking. Attendees will also earn a certificate of continuing education for participation.

Confirmed speakers include:

Eric Gregory – Kentucky Distillers’ Association

Kevin Brent Smith – Jack Daniels Distillery

Brent Elliott – Four Roses Bourbon

Jane Bowie – Maker’s Mark

Rob Arnold – TX Whiskey

Chris Swonger – Distilled Spirits Council of the United States

Andrew Weihebrink – Independent Stave Company

Stephanie Lawrence – Beam Suntory

Tess Aldredge – Beam Suntory

Louis Mcintyre – CoBank

Kurt Rosentater – Iowa State University

Bill Gorton – Stites & Harbison PLLC

Pat Heist – Ferm Solutions

Billy Van Pelt – American Farmland Trust

UK and Beam Institute representatives

       Seth DeBolt – director, James B. Beam Insitute for Kentucky Spirits

       Brad Berron – Chemical Engineering

       Steven Schafrik, Mining Engineering

       Lindell Ormsbee – Kentucky Water Resources Institute

       Steven Evans – Kentucky Water Resources Institute

       Rachel Schendel – College of Agriculture, Food and Environment

       Surendranath Suman – College of Agriculture, Food and Environment

       Kathleen Trask Montgomery – Patterson School for Diplomacy and International Commerce

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Panel:

Gathan Borden – VisitLEX

Chelsea Nichols – Michter’s Distillery

Hanna Lowen – New Riff Distilling

Andrea Meriwether – BarFare Concepts

Each day will begin at 9 a.m. EST. March 10 and 11 will end with a virtual happy hour at 4:30 p.m.

Early bird registration is $50 through March 1. Regular registration is $75 and ends March 8. UK faculty and staff may register for $25, and student registration is $15. Organizers are accepting vendors through March 8. Vendors will receive two free conference registrations, a company profile in the virtual exhibitor center and their company name will appear on all conference materials. To register as a participant or vendor, visit the Eventbrite page at All registrants will receive physical conference materials in the mail.

Partners at the time of this release include Kentucky Distillers’ Association, Agilent, American Farmland Trust, Averitt Express, Beam Suntory, Bruker, Foss, Great Western Malting, H&A Barrell Management, Independent Stave Company, JCS Process and Control Systems and Malteurop Malting Company.

For more information, visit the Beam Institute website at  

UK and Jim Beam-parent Beam Suntory are dedicated to the responsible consumption of alcohol and together will develop and expand successful alcohol awareness programs, including programming already funded by Beam Suntory.


Victoria Pook,, Seth DeBolt,