Kentucky’s Moonshine University Getting Busy In 2016

| December 17, 2015

If you’re serious about becoming a professional in the beverage alcohol industry—as in making and selling your own—then you’ll want to scan the 2016 schedule of classes at Moonshine University in Louisville, Kentucky.

Not that recreational moonshining didn’t teach many an accomplished professional distiller how the craft works, but these classes, held at the Distilled Spirits Epicenter, cover everything you need to know about the business of spirits production and marketing.

Created by renowned beverage expert and flavor scientist David Dafoe, the workshops provide an outlet for specialization and continued education in the distilling field. Expect hands-on sessions that’ll take you in the still room grinding grain, pumping beer into the still, pumping stillage out, and tasting distillate as it spills into the parrot. Those activities are complemented by detailed and interactive classroom sessions taught by the 60-member DSE staff and a rotating list of spirits experts and master distillers.

Pete Kamer, distilling instructor at Moonshine University, demonstrates how to use a hydrometer. Photo by Stephen Coomes.

Pete Kamer, distilling instructor at Moonshine University, demonstrates how to use a hydrometer. Photo by Stephen Coomes.

According to Colin Blake, a Moonshine University faculty member and creative director, since classes began in 2013, more than 400 people have journeyed from 38 states and 11 foreign countries to attend its classes. It’s the exclusive education provider for the Kentucky Distillers Association, and it’s the only intensive distilling workshop in the U.S. offering college credit. And who said booze and school didn’t go together!

A news release I received on the matter said it well: “Nowhere else can you talk one-on-one with a seasoned distillery building consultant, chat about maturation with master distillers, and engage with knowledgeable beverage pros on their successes and failures in one place.”

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In other words, if you can’t get your questions answered here, I’m not sure where else you can. When I took “Moon U’s” one-day bourbon course, I tried but couldn’t wear out its instructors with questions. Seemed the more I asked, the readier they were with answers.

The Moonshine University 2016 schedule includes:

Jan. 18 or April 18, Stave & Thief Society Bourbon Making Workshops

This day-long workshop combines classroom instruction, hands-on distilling, and advanced sensory training for spirits and hospitality professionals as well as advanced enthusiasts, and includes certification as Executive Bourbon Stewards in the Stave & Thief Society. Cost is $500 for individuals and $1,000 for establishments (which includes 10 handbooks to certify staff).

Five-Day Distiller Course

Jan. 25-29 or June 27-July 1

This flagship workshop is taught by industry leaders giving technical and practical insight into what it takes to start a distillery. Cost is $5,950. (What whiskey wonk wouldn’t want to spend a week’s vacation in that class?)

2-Day Fermentation Workshop

March 14-15

In conjunction with Wilderness Trail Distillery and Ferm Solutions, this hands-on learning experience dives into yeast cycle and viability to best manage fermentation. Cost is $1,795.

5-Day Rum Course

April 11-15

Moonshine University and The Rum University join forces to offer the most comprehensive rum training to existing and future rum distillers. Cost is $5,495.

Route to Market Workshop

May 26-27

Intensive study into the considerations and strategies for building a brand, taking a product to market and planning for growth in the future. Cost is $1,895.

Distilling Operations 201

June 8-10

For graduates of the 5-Day Distiller Course, this three-day study goes in-depth into the day-to-day for production and development in the distillery. Cost is $4,995.

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For more information or to register for a course, visit, call 502-301-8126 or email [email protected].

It’s worth noting that Flavorman, Dafoe’s first company, is Moonshine University’s parent company. Its role is that of a custom beverage development and ingredient supply company that helps beverage pros refine ideas through every phase of development and production. Defoe alone has created thousands of beverages. If perhaps that’s where you are in your spirits creation journey, visit and to learn more.

Also, while you’re there, read the inspiring story of how Flavorman helped former beverage novices Joe and Lesley Heron create two of the most widely recognized beverages in the U.S. Now the Herons own Copper & Kings American Brandy Distillery in Louisville, which you should tour if you visit for a class. It’s located less than 10 minutes away.


Steve Coomes

is an award-winning journalist and book author specializing in whiskey and food. In his 30-year career, he has edited and written for national trade and consumer publications including USA Today, Southern Living, Delta Sky Magazine, Nation’s Restaurant News, Pizza Today, Restaurant Business, Bourbon + and American Whiskey magazine. In 2013,...