Bourbon is an $8.6 billion industry in Kentucky and boasts more than 21,000 jobs and rising, 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 will offer an inaugural industry conference Feb. 27 in the UK Gatton Student Center.

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.

"We wanted to offer an information-rich learning experience for those who work every day to produce the top-quality products Kentucky is known for worldwide," said Seth DeBolt, UK horticulture professor and Beam Institute director. "We are hoping this first conference will be educational, memorable and ultimately provide information and resources industry professionals can use in their jobs."

The conference will address key topics those in the industry deal with on a regular basis. UK and industry representatives will lead sessions focused on fermentation, spent grains, warehouse issues, maturation, white oak and a grains panel. Exhibits and vendors will offer interactive displays and opportunities for networking. Attendees will also earn a certificate of continuing education for participation.

Confirmed speakers include:

Beam Suntory

Manager of environment, health and safety Tony Ising

Health and safety manager Tate Preston

Director of maturing inventory and barrel performance Phil Luddeke

Whiskey blending scientist Tyler Gomez

UK College of Agriculture, Food and Environment

Professor Seth Debolt, Department of Horticulture

Professor Dave VanSanford, Department of Plant and Soil Sciences

Associate professor Jeffrey Lehmkuhler, Department of Animal and Food Sciences

Extension professor Mike Potter, Department of Entomology

Independent Stave Company

CEO Brad Boswell

Director of spirits research and innovation Andrew Wiehebrink

U.S. Forest Service Southern Research Station project leader Dana Nelson

Sazerac Buffalo Trace master distiller Harlen Wheatley

Associate professor Steven Schafrik, UK College of Engineering Department of Mining Engineering

Jeptha Creed CEO and master distiller Joyce Nethery

Heaven Hill master distiller Connor O'Driscoll

Brooks Grain, LLC president Erica Fields

South Fork Malthouse maltster and owner Russell Case

Wilderness Trail co-owner and master distiller Shane Baker

Walnut Grove Farms owner and farmer Sam Halcomb

Buzick vice president and chief engineer Kevin Aldred

Brewing and Distilling Analytical Services owner and manager Gary Spedding.

The day will begin with registration at 7:30 a.m. EST and wrap up with closing remarks at 4 p.m. Early bird registration is $95 through Jan. 15. Student registration is $25. Beginning Jan. 16, registration is $195. The price includes the full-day of educational sessions, exhibits, breakfast, lunch and snacks. Organizers are accepting vendors through Jan. 31. To register as a participant or vendor, visit the Eventbrite page at

For more information, visit the Beam Institute website at Participants are welcome to stay after the conference and attend the Bourbon and Distilled Spirits Career Fair, which requires a separate registration,

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.

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