Lexington, KY – The University of Kentucky Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History and the Kentucky Distillers' Association (KDA) have teamed to create "Kentucky Bourbon Tales," an oral history of Kentucky’s native spirit.
Beginning with interviews of Master Distillers Parker Beam and Craig Beam of Heaven Hill Distilleries Inc., Kentucky Bourbon Tales will collect the stories of the state’s distillers and the iconic distilleries they represent.
The initiative will capture each distiller's personal story, history of their distilleries, changes to the industry and background on the distilling process, as well as favorite stories related to the people and products behind bourbon, which also rates as the nation’s lone native spirit.
The inaugural distilleries to be featured 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," he said.
Distillers and industry veterans will also talk about why Kentucky is the birthplace of bourbon, qualities that make Kentucky different from other places around the country, and the tourism and economic importance of the Kentucky Bourbon Trail tour to the state.
"The individual story matters to history, and our job is to make sure we record and preserve as many as possible,” said Doug Boyd, director of the Nunn Center. “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."
As the Nunn Center digitizes the content, the public will be able to search the collection using 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 has a collection of more than 9,000 oral history interviews. The number of interviews available online is growing.
Topics range from Appalachia to politics to veterans’ stories, as well as documenting important Kentucky industries such as equine, coal and bourbon.
The Nunn Center also has an oral history of the Buffalo Trace Distillery that was recorded between 2008-10. Buffalo Trace is not currently a member of the KDA.