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Jim Beam

 

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Quick links: Jacob Beam | Rebuilding Beam | The Modern Era

 

Jacob Beam

The Jim Beam Distillery, officially known as James B. Beam Distilling Co., has been a family-owned business for seven generations. It now makes a number of different bourbon whisky brands, including the best selling bourbon whisky in the world, Jim Beam White Label. The Jim Beam Distillery was founded in 1795 by Johannes “Jacob” Beam. He was a German immigrant farmer who settled in Kentucky. A number of German immigrants named Boehm settled in America at this time before changing their name to Beam. Jacob Beam made whisky (which would eventually become known as bourbon whisky) using corn and grains he grew on his farm and water from a nearby spring. The first barrels he sold were branded Old Jake Beam and he called his distillery Old Tub.


Jacob Beam passed the Distillery to his son David Beam who took over in 1802 at the age of 18. He expanded the business before passing it on to the third generation, David M Beam in 1850. In 1854 he moved the Distillery to Nelson County to be closer to the railway lines which were expanding and connecting more and more cities. The bourbon whisky they produced started to be sold nationally. The fourth generation owner of the Distillery was the wonderfully named Colonel James Beauregard Beam. The Jim Beam bourbon whisky we drink today is named after him, as is the Distillery.
He took over in 1894 and ran the business through one of its most difficult periods – prohibition. Many changes occurred in the company during this time, but through it all James Beam remained fiercely protective of his bourbon whisky. He was so protective of the yeast strain in particular that he would take a jug of it home on weekends, a tradition still honoured today.

 

Jim Beam

Rebuilding Beam

James Beam had to sell the business in 1920 but in 1933 he rebuilt the Distillery in Clermont, Kentucky and in 1935 renamed it James B. Beam Distilling Company. In 1941 he sold the company, ending the Beam family’s official ownership. However, he remained involved, as did subsequent generations of the Beam family. They are still the public face of Jim Beam bourbon whisky even though they are not the ultimate owners.

T. Jeremiah “Jere” Beam, James Beam’s son and fifth generation of the family involved in making bourbon whisky, took his place in 1946. He oversaw the expansion of Jim Beam bourbon whisky and started to sell it globally, primarily to US servicemen stationed overseas and European pubs and restaurants.

 

The modern era

The six generation of the Beam family to head the Distillery was F. Booker Noe II. He was the grandson of James Beam and took over the reins in 1960. He oversaw the filling of the one millionth barrel of Jim Beam bourbon whisky. Booker Noe also introduced the Distillery’s first small batch bourbon whisky, naming it Booker’s. Baker’s, Knob Creek and Basil Hayden’s would follow to make up what is now known as the Small Batch Collection.

Booker Noe was the Beam family head at the distillery for over 40 years before that honour was passed to the seventh generation, Fred Noe III. He is founder Jacob Beam’s great-great-great-great grandson and remains the Beam family head at the distillery to this day.
The James B. Beam Distilling Co. is owned by Beam Global Spirits and Wine which itself is ultimately owned by Fortune Brands. As well as things like Titleist golf balls and home improvement companies, Fortune Brands own a large selection of spirit brands, including Candian Club and Teacher’s whisky.

 

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Making Jim Beam

Seven generations of Beam distillers

 

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