FRANKFORT, Ky. (FOX 56) — It’s no secret that the distilling industry has a lot of history here in Kentucky.

Now industry leaders are looking towards its future with a new scholarship hoping to open the door for a more diverse group of distillers.

Established by Castle & Key Distilling in partnership with the Kentucky Black Bourbon Guild, the Diversity in Kentucky Distilling scholarship aims to do exactly what it says, support scholarships for students of color who have an interest in working in distilling.

Whether it be agriculture, engineering, or hospitality, an interest a student may have as it pertains to the distilling industry works when applying for the scholarship.

The $5,000 award will allow winners to continue their education for an additional year. The hope is this will incentivize and inspire a younger, more diverse generation of distilling.


Representatives for the scholarship say there have been some challenges surrounding diversity in the field and see this as a way to take the first step in creating a better future for the industry.

“As our industry became more commoditized after prohibition and more corporate and with, the civil rights era, dovetailing to the Jim Crow era, I think there was a lot of lack of opportunity, lack of lack of advancement for people of color in our field and then in the seventies and eighties, as our industry was cutting jobs, as you know, bourbon was dealing with the influx of new spirits,” said Head Blender for Castle & Key Distilling Brett Connors.

Connors said some of the industry’s oldest distilleries have such rich histories with amazing stories, so now is a chance to tell some new ones.

“People are looking for modern, progressive, thoughtful, innovative ideas and I think having a larger spectrum of personalities and opinions and backgrounds and life experiences is just going to allow us to be more interesting,” Connors explains.

Applicant criteria for the Diversity in Kentucky Distilling Scholarship are as follows:

  • Must be a full-time Kentucky resident
  • Must be a student of color
  • Currently enrolled as a full-time undergraduate or graduate student at a Kentucky state university
  • Minimum of a 2.75 cumulative GPA
  • Studying in one of the following fields:
    • Agriculture
    • Science
    • Engineering
    • Hospitality
    • Marketing
  • Be currently enrolled or plan to enroll in a distilling certificate program at the school where they attend

Applications are due by 11:59 p.m. EST on March 6, 2023.

You can apply here through the Blue Grass Community Foundation.