LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Wildlife biologist Jason Nally's work at Maker’s Mark might be just as important that of distillers: He protects the resources that power Kentucky’s bourbon industry.

Nally said he wants to make sure the state's signature industry lasts well into the future.

“We have a very special property here at Star Hill Farm,” he said. “It’s gorgeous.”

“We are making sure we can still maintain our economic growth for hundreds of years,” he said.

Maker’s Mark is partnering with the University of Kentucky to find out why a 300- to 500-year-old white oak has lived for so long and resisted disease.

The researchers are trying to find out what diseases could affect the white oak supply, and how it can be affected by climate change. They’re also studying forest management.

"We wanted to map and sequence the genome of the tree,” Nally said. “That has been done for a lot of species around the globe but it had never been done for a species so critical to our industry.”

White oaks are crucial to bourbon: The distilled spirit has to be aged in new charred white oak containers. No white oak, no bourbon.

Maker's Mark also has made changes to protect its lakes fed by limestone filtered springs. The two lakes on Star Hill Farm are the only water source for Maker’s Mark Bourbon.

The distillery is the first on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail to install charging stations for electric cars, and it is partnering with LG&E KU to install 650 solar panels at the rick house along Highway 52.

The solar array, which will be completed at the end of the year, will supply energy for security, lighting, barrel elevators and office space at the rick house.

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