Bourbon isn’t bourbon without the mighty white oak. Distillers have been aging bourbon in oak barrels as far back as the Roman Empire. Oak barrels give bourbon its unique caramel, vanilla, nutty and toasted flavors. Kentucky distillers rely especially on the white oak. But what if disease hits the species? How would industry professionals protect it? The University of Kentucky College of Agriculture, Food and Environment is partnering with Maker’s Mark Distillery Inc. in Loretto, Kentucky, and Independent Stave Company to research the DNA of the white oak.