Bourbon is retaking a claim on the Commonwealth


Second year library science graduate student Alexa Clark edits video of an oral history interview at the Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History Lexington, Ky., on Tuesday, September 24, 2013. Photo by Emily Wuetcher

By Brooke Hamilton | News Writer

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In a region where basketball and horse racing most commonly take the spotlight, bourbon is retaking a claim on the Commonwealth.

The UK Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History and the Kentucky Distillers’ Association have partnered to create Kentucky Bourbon Tales, which will “fill in the gaps of Kentucky history,” said Doug Boyd, director of the Nunn Center.

The Kentucky Bourbon Tales will be a collection of video interviews with people in the industry telling their stories and their involvement with the bourbon industry.

“There hasn’t been an initiative to record distillery history, and we want to make new initiative happen,” Boyd said. “We want to document a history that is uniquely Kentucky, so people can access and learn from it for decades to come.”

Kentucky Bourbon Tales will begin with interviews of Heaven Hill Distilleries’ master distillers Parker Beam and Craig Beam.

The oral history will document their individual life stories and the iconic distillery they represent.

“This is the most important job we’ve ever done,” KDA President Eric Gregory said. “Bourbon is the oldest industry in the state, it’s been around for 200 years and has grown from small distilleries to global icons.”

Distillers and others engaged in the industry will discuss the importance of bourbon to Kentucky’s culture and its economic importance to the region.

“One hundred years from now, I want people to be able to pull up Bill Samuels talking about making Maker’s Mark. Our history is slipping away from us and we need to safeguard our history and tradition,” Gregory said.

The Nunn Center will digitize the content and the public will be able to easily search the collection using OMHS, the oral history metadata synchronizer developed by UK, which makes videos searchable through transcripts and moments in audio or video interviews.

“Bourbon is personally important to me because it is my family’s drink of choice,” finance sophomore Ryan Panoushek said. “Bourbon has been in my family for years and brings us together at social events.”

Now, thanks to the Nunn Center, the KDA and those willing to share their stories, UK will represent both bourbon and basketball.

“Bourbon is an entire history and heritage,” Gregory said. “It’s more than just a drink.”