Nunn Center to Collect Oral Histories of Kentucky’s Legendary Bourbon Industry

Nunn Center to Collect Oral Histories of Kentucky’s Legendary Bourbon Industry

"Kentucky Bourbon Tales" will collect the timeless stories of the state’s most cherished distillers and the iconic distilleries they represent.
LEXINGTON, Ky. — In a state where there are more barrels of bourbon than people, it’s no surprise the spirit has a major impact on the Commonwealth's culture and economy.

In celebration of this signature industry's historical significance and the growing popularity of the Kentucky Bourbon Trail® adventure, the University of Kentucky Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History and the Kentucky Distillers' Association (KDA) have teamed to create "Kentucky Bourbon Tales™."

Beginning with interviews of Master Distillers Parker Beam and Craig Beam of Heaven Hill Distilleries Inc., "Kentucky Bourbon Tales" will collect the timeless stories of the state’s most cherished distillers and the iconic distilleries they represent.

This landmark initiative will capture each distiller's personal story, history of the distilleries, changes to the industry and background on the distilling process, as well as favorite yarns related to the people and products behind America’s only native spirit.

The inaugural distilleries to be featured in "Kentucky Bourbon Tales" are Brown-Forman Corp., Diageo North America, Four Roses Distillery, Heaven Hill, Jim Beam, Maker's Mark, and Wild Turkey Distillery.

"With 200 years of tradition and so many colorful characters and stories, it’s amazing that our industry has never captured the true collaborative spirit and camaraderie of Kentucky bourbon from the experts themselves," said KDA President Eric Gregory.

"Sadly, many of the keepers of this history and storytellers whose voice can never be recreated are slipping away. That’s why 'Kentucky Bourbon Tales' is one of the most important projects of our lifetime, and a legacy that will benefit generations yet to come."

Distillers and industry veterans also will talk about why Kentucky is the birthplace of bourbon, qualities that make Kentucky bourbon the best in the country, and the tourism and economic importance of the Kentucky Bourbon Trail® tour to the state.

UK Libraries is honored to host such an important collection. "The individual story matters to history, and our job is to make sure we record and preserve as many as possible. The stories of 'Kentucky Bourbon Tales' represent a key part of Kentucky's history, culture and identity and will have a profound impact on students, researchers and all those interested in better understanding and celebrating Kentucky's bourbon industry," said Doug Boyd, director of the Nunn Center.

As the Nunn Center digitizes the content, the public will be able to easily search the collection using OHMS, the Oral History Metadata Synchronizer, which connects searches to text in transcripts and correlating moments in audio or video interviews.

UK Libraries’ Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History is internationally recognized for its outstanding collection of more than 9,000 oral history interviews. The number of interviews available online continues to grow, providing greater access to the collection.

Topics are wide-ranging from Appalachia, politics, veterans’ stories, as well as documenting important Kentucky industries such as the horse, coal and bourbon industries.

“Kentucky Bourbon Tales” is made possible through the support of the KDA and its member distilleries. The nonprofit organization, which traces its roots back to 1880, is a leading international voice on bourbon and distilled spirits issues.

In 1999, the KDA created the Kentucky Bourbon Trail® experience, which has quickly become one of the state’s most famous and fastest-growing tourism attractions. More than 2.5 million people from all 50 states and more than 50 countries — have visited the state's legendary distilleries in the last five years alone.

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