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Maker’s Mark and University of Kentucky to map American oak genome

Bourbon brand Maker’s Mark has partnered with the University of Kentucky to research the DNA of the American white oak tree.

The research hopes to uncover traits that affect the growth of American white oak trees

The University of Kentucky College of Agriculture, Food and Environment, Maker’s Mark Distillery and Independent Stave Company will aim to discover traits that affect the growth of the trees.

The Beam Suntory-owned distillery and Independent Stave Company elected to fund the research as it hopes to gain a better understanding of the trees, which will ensure the production of new oak barrels for use in the Bourbon industry for “decades to come”.

Rob Samuels, chief distillery officer for Maker’s Mark Distillery, said: “American white oak is a key ingredient in Bourbon making. The colour, and much of the flavour, of Bourbon come from white oak barrels, so it’s critically important that this precious natural resource be managed and preserved for generations to come.

“At Maker’s Mark, we’re constantly stepping up our own environmental efforts, which have become a guiding principle for everything we do, and we’re proud to play a part in this research that will reach far beyond our home at Star Hill Farm and help this vital species thrive long into the future.”

It’s hoped the research will allow the team to map the genome of the American white oak and track its growth, similar to how farmers monitor agricultural crops.

Brad Boswell, chief executive officer for Independent Stave Company, added: “For 107 years, my family and our organisation has depended on the white oak species for our livelihood.

“We are excited to better understand its genetics to help ensure the next generation of Independent Stave Company stakeholders has a high-quality, plentiful supply of this noble species.”

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