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UK opens world's largest teaching distillery on campus

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Posted at 10:24 AM, Aug 08, 2023

LEXINGTON, Ky. (LEX 18) — The University of Kentucky officially opened its James B. Beam Institute for Kentucky Spirits on Monday, set to be the largest teaching distillery in the world.

The facility includes a 30-foot column still and a barrel warehouse, able to hold 660 barrels.

University leaders, donors, and industry experts joined together on Monday to celebrate with a ribbon cutting.

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According to the Kentucky Distillers' Association, the state's distilling industry is responsible for over 22,000 jobs and an economic impact of nearly $9 billion.

"To have this opportunity where students can come in and train on-site, get their hands on equipment at work and understand it, and come out of here job-ready, is perfect," said KDA president, Eric Gregory.

The university is set to offer courses in a variety of areas through the institute, including chemistry, engineering and business.

"There's not just one degree that leads you into a career in the distilled spirits industry," said institute director Seth DeBolt.

The university is aiming to invest in the future of the industry. The KDA explained the industry is in need of more people in the workforce.

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Students, like UK senior Mike Hemmer, will be able to get more hands-on experience in the field before graduation.

"I came to Kentucky to be a chemical engineer, but I didn't know what I wanted to do with it," Hemmer said.

"As soon as I heard that we have a distillation, wine and brewing sciences course, I was like...that's amazing."

Hemmer plans to work in a distillery after completing his degree.

Public tours of the facility are set to be offered in early 2024.