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UK Beam Institute marks historic milestone with first barrel filling

UK Beam Institute marks historic milestone with first barrel filling

UK Beam Institute marks historic milestone with first barrel filling

The distilling team celebrated the conclusion of the James B. Beam Institute Industry Conference by inviting attendees to witness the first barrel filling on the University of Kentucky’s campus.


The University of Kentucky James B. Beam Institute for Kentucky Spirits is advancing its mission leading the global advancement of the American whiskey industry through workforce education, scientific discovery, environmental sustainability, community and social responsibility. Since the building opened in 2023, the distilling team has been diligently working to enter the spirit aging process. 

This is the first spirit made in the Beam Institute’s distillery on UK’s campus. The barrel, provided by the Independent Stave Company (ISC), was filled at the conclusion of the 2024 Industry Conference. This year’s conference was the Beam Institute’s largest yet, with over 1,100 attendees and three days of sessions on various topics.

UK Beam Institute first barrel
The UK Beam Institute's personalized first barrel, provided by the Independent Stave Company. Photo credit: Sabrina Hounshell

“What better time to recognize this program and the state’s signature industry than when we can share it with 1,000 of our best friends,” said UK Beam Institute Director Seth DeBolt. “This is another step in well over a century of collaboration between the University of Kentucky and the American bourbon whiskey category. Now we can get to work.” 

The distilling team on this project is led by Brad Berron, Beam Institute research director, and includes Glenna Joyce, Beam Institute education coordinator; Kevin Baldridge, Beam Institute craft sustainability coordinator; and Jarrad Gollihue, Beam Institute technical director. Each team member has been involved in the distillation process from start to finish.  

“We were incredibly fortunate to develop our approach side-by-side with production experts from all across Kentucky's distilling community,” said Berron.  “Thanks to our time shadowing operators from Beam, Jeptha Creed, Castle & Key, James E Pepper, and Bardstown Bourbon, we were able to make an incredibly clean distillate for this first barrel.” 

The bourbon was made from 75% corn, 12.5% rye and 12.5% malt. The UK team filled the barrel with a 110-proof new-make spirit. The barrel staves were seasoned for six months before being formed into a barrel, then the barrel was given a #4 char before filling. 

The barrel will now be moved to the ISC Boswell Family Barrel Warehouse on-site at the Institute. It will be aged there for at least four years, which is the mark of a true Kentucky bourbon. 

To learn more about the James B. Beam Institute for Kentucky Spirits, visit


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Beam Institute

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Scovell Hall Lexington, KY 40546-0064