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Jim Beam: Seven generations of distillers

Seven generations of the Beam family have headed the distillery making Jim Beam bourbon whisky for more than 200 years. While the company is not owned by the family anymore, they are still involved in the production and are the public face of the brand.
The Jim Beam website describes them as “seven proud generations of hard-working, bourbon-loving men who have stayed true to their family’s namesake.

Jacob Beam

David Beam

David M Beam

James Beam

Jere Beam

Booker Noe

Fred Noe


Jacob Beam (1770 – 1834)

Jacob Beam started it all, making whisky in the 18th century before the name bourbon whisky was even invented. While not the first person to start making bourbon whisky as we know it today, he was one of the first and is a true pioneer. And the fact the brand he started is now world famous and top selling, his legacy is not in dispute.
Jacob Beam was born in 1770 as Johannes Boehm. He was one of a number of German immigrants who settled in America, later changing his name to Beam. At the age of 18 he settled in Kentucky to farm. Like many other in the area, he experimented with the grains and corn he grew on the farm. He used water from a spring and aged the distilled liquor in barrels.
The first bourbon whisky Jacob Beam sold was in 1795 and was called old Jake Beam. He called the distillery Old Tub.
Jacob Beam was married to Mary Myers and they had a son, David. Jacob ran the distillery until handing it over to his son in 1820. Jacob Beam died in 1834.


David Beam (1802 – 1854)

David Beam was only 18 when took over responsibility for running the bourbon whisky distillery his father had started. He was a very enterprising man who developed and grew the business. This was during a time of considerable change in America. It was the industrial revolution. The telegraph, the railways and steam-powered ships were changing the way business was done. David Beam embraced these changes, expanding the distribution of his bourbon whisky.
He had a son, David M Beam, with his wife Elizabeth Settle and was known as being quick-witted. He passed the business on to his son in 1850.


David M Beam (1833 – 1913)

In 1854, after four years in charge of the family distillery, David M Beam moved it Nelson County. This was to be closer to the ever-expanding railway network. This took the brand – known at the time as Old Tub from D M Beam Distillery – national.
David M Beam ran the distillery during the American Civil War. Kentucky was split and David M Beam found himself dealing with both Union and Confederate soldiers who passed through his land. Bourbon whisky was, of course, used extensively at the time for bartering.
David M Beam is said to have been well-spoken and he looked after his appearance. He married Margaret Ellen Phillips and one of their sons, James B Beam, took over the distillery when David M Beam stepped back from the day-to-day operation in 1894.


Colonel James Beauregard Beam (1864 – 1947)

James B Beam is the man the Jim Beam bourbon whisky we drink today is named after. He took over running the distillery in 1894 and it thrived. Then prohibition was implemented in 1920 and everything had to be shut down. For 13 years it was illegal to make, transport or sell alcohol in the US.
When prohibition ended in 1933, James B Beam was ready to restart the family business. He rebuilt the distillery in Clermont Kentucky, near his home in Bardstown, to make bourbon whisky using the same recipe his grandfather used. He was 70 at the time but, as the Jim Beam website says, he was “gregarious, unassuming and self-confident”. The new distillery – James B Beam Distilling Company – and the new bourbon whisky brand – Jim Beam – he created are now world famous.
James B Beam was married to Mary Catherine Montgomery. One of their children, T Jeremiah Beam took over as head of the distillery in 1946. This ended James B Beam’s 52 year tenure. He died a year later at the age of 83.


T Jeremiah Beam (1899 – 1977)

Known as Jere, T Jeremiah Beam helped his father build the Beam distiller at the end of prohibition. His passion for the family business was evident from a young age – he started working at the distillery when he was 13.
He helped his father build the Beam brand worldwide, travelling extensively to share his knowledge of bourbon whisky and tell the story of his family’s legacy. Jim Beam bourbon whisky started to be sold internationally, firstly to US servicemen serving abroad but also to pubs and restaurants in Europe.
After the death of his father T Jeremiah Beam continued to grow the business. He opened a distillery in Boston Kentucky in 1954 and remained as the head of the distillery until 1960. He was married to Lucy Kavanagh.


F Booker Noe II (1929 – 2004)

Booker Noe’s mother was Margaret Beam Noe. She was the daughter of James B Beam. Booker Noe took over as head of the Jim Beam Distillery in 1960 with the title Master Distiller Emeritus.
He was a straight-talking, big man who “took great care in upholding and maintaining the Beam family’s commitment to quality”, according to the Jim Beam website. In 1988 he introduced a new bourbon whisky, named after himself, Booker’s. It was the world’s first uncut, straight-from-the-barrel bourbon whisky. It was also the first bourbon whisky in the Jim Beam Small Batch Collection.
Booker Noe, who was married to Annis Wickham, headed the distillery for over 40 years.


Fredrick Booker Noe III (1957 – present)

Fredrick Booker Noe III, or Fred Noe, is the son of Booker Noe and is the seventh generation of Beam distillers. Making bourbon whisky has been part of his life from an early age. As well introducing people to Beam bourbon whisky he says he is working to stamp his own legacy on the industry.
Fred Noe is married to Sandy Shewmaker and lives in Bardstown beside the Beam family home.


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