Sustainable Spirits Summit fosters increased white oak growth

By Staff

Division of Compliance Assistance

Each year, the Energy and Environment Cabinet’s Division of Compliance Assistance (DCA) partners with the Kentucky Distillers’ Association to host an event that allows industry members to discuss issues and share their efforts of environmental stewardship and sustainability.

“Last year’s (Sustainable Spirits) summit was the largest to date with over 60 people attending,” said Robyn Whitted, the KY EXCEL program coordinator and pollution prevention specialist who plans the event each year. “It provides a round table for discussion of ideas and what specific distilleries and breweries are doing that others may not be.”

The Angel’s Envy distillery introduced an idea at the 2017 summit from their social media campaign that is not only good publicity for their distillery, but also benefits the environment.

“They are doing this really neat idea called “Toast the Trees” that really got the other distillers excited,” said Whitted. “For every picture or post on social media referencing their product during September, Angel’s Envy plants one white oak tree.”

According to their website, Angel’s Envy distillery has planted 24,032 white oak trees since 2014 due to their social media plan. The trees are planted by employees through a partnership with Green Forests Works and the Arbor Day Foundation. The team is steadily working to reclaim land previously given over to strip mining in Kentucky through innovative thinking that tackled both marketing and a heavy issue for the bourbon industry.

Currently, about 6.6 million barrels of bourbon are aging in Kentucky. Bourbon can only be aged in charred, new white oak barrels so the white oak found in Kentucky is in high demand to the distillery industry. White oak also is an important tree for many Kentucky ecosystems, as it acts as both a food source and a home for many species.

Unfortunately, it is a slow-growing tree so any effort to make white oak more sustainable is a good thing for both the Commonwealth and distilleries.

Spirit industries face unique environmental challenges. By providing a place for conversation, questions and idea sharing, master distillers and industry representatives are able to compare notes, brainstorm solutions and share best management practices for the overall health of Kentucky’s ecosystem.

“The summits go over so well, we are expanding,” said Whitted. “Individual workshops and a website redo are only some of what we can hopefully build on.”

Ideas are exchanged at the summit that takes place on distillery grounds.

Ideas are exchanged at the summit that takes place on distillery grounds. Photo courtesy of DCA.

This spring, DCA will begin to hold separate workshops specifically targeted at distilleries, craft brewers and hopefully wineries.

“We have a lot of things planned and it is really exciting,” said Whitted. “Through the summit we have seen more engagement within the community and our department and that is a really good thing.”

Angel’s Envy will be hosting the next summit on Oct. 23, 2018. For more information or to register for the summit, please contact Robyn Whitted by e-mail at or by calling 502-782-6476.


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