Our diverse research portfolio is addressing unmet needs throughout Kentucky's spirits industry. 

Trained in a variety of areas - from engineering to public health, chemistry to business, design to horticulture - our experts are coming together with one common goal: to maintain the prosperity and sustainability of Kentucky spirits for generations to come.

We are a single point of contact for industry professionals to access essential information. Our researchers are available for research and development, third-party testing and long-term experimental systems.

Industry Partners

In addition to the projects listed here, we have many collaborations with industry partners across the state such as: Jim Beam, Bardstown Bourbon Company, Wild Turkey Distillery, Four Roses Distillery, Vendome Copper & Brassworks Inc., Castle and Key Distillery, Buffalo Trace Distillery, Wilderness Trail Distillery, James E. Pepper Distillery and Heaven Hill Distillery.

How can we help?

The Beam Institute offers the following services for a fee:

To learn more about these services, please contact Dr. Brad Berron, Institute Research Director.

Current Projects

The characteristic oak barrels used to age bourbon are held together with steel hoops. In specific instances, these hoops can break from excessive corrosion, and the entire barrel of aged spirit is lost. Each barrel spilled costs several thousand dollars and the cumulative losses can mount quickly. Researchers are working with the Kentucky spirits industry to apply modern science and engineering tools to better understand and prevent these product losses.

Each beverage alcohol production facility has its own unique community of microorganisms, known as its “microbiome”. The differences in these microbiomes lead to significant differences in the characteristic flavors produced at each facility. Researchers are currently investigating the identity of these microorganisms and assessing their diversity at different stages of the production process.

During long periods of maturation in oak barrels, a substantial volume of bourbon is lost to the Angel’s share. Interestingly, the volume of bourbon lost varies considerably across each warehouse, each distillery, and the industry at large. A team of statisticians are using the latest data analysis tools to discover new relationships between liquid recovery and maturation conditions in the Kentucky spirits industry.

Every step in the bourbon production process has a significant impact on the flavor profile of the final product. The final filtration of bourbon preserves the clarity of the product, but also drives subtle changes in the product’s sensory experience. Industry experts are working with academic researchers to establish scientifically validated links between filtration processes and the product clarity, flavor, and feel.

One of the defining characteristics of bourbon is the aging process that occurs inside a new charred barrel made from white oak. The University of Kentucky College of Agriculture, Food and Environment is partnering with Maker’s Mark Distillery Inc. in Loretto, Kentucky, and Independent Stave Company to launch a new research initiative that will decode the genetics of this magnificent tree. The results of this research will enable the industry to better protect and manage the white oak, which in turn will help preservation efforts across the entire eastern forest. The research team also includes individuals from the University of Tennessee, Pennsylvania State University and the U.S. Forest Service. Read more. You can find an update on our progress here.

Let's Collaborate

Brad Berron

Research Director

(859) 257-2791 James B. Beam Institute for KY Spirits 1320 Nicholasville Road Lexington, KY 40546

Faculty Fellows

The Institute brings together a group of more than 60 researchers across campus - and across the country - who are working together to tackle issues relevant to distillation, wine and brewing studies. Areas include environmental sustainability, biotechnology, packaging, business, public health and much more.

Contact Information

Seth DeBolt, Ph.D.

309 Plant Science Building Lexington, KY 40546-0312