Jim Beam Distillery
Founded in 1795, the Jim Beam distillery has been family operated for seven generations. The brand was given the name “Jim Beam” in 1933 after Colonel James B. Beam, who rebuilt the business following Prohibition. The company produces several varieties of bourbon and whiskey, as well as food products that include bourbon as an ingredient. Although the Beam / Noe family is still involved, Jim Beam Bourbon is owned by Beam Global Spirits & Wine, which is in turn owned by holding company Fortune Brands, both headquartered in the suburbs of Chicago, in Deerfield, IL.
During the late 1700s a group of immigrants from Germany came to America who would leave a lasting impression on the American spirits business. Members of the Boehm family, eventually changing the spelling to “Beam,” settled in the lush bluegrass hills of Kentucky. Johannes “Jacob” Beam (1770–1834) found the land rich for farming and began experimenting with the corn and grains that grew on his farm, blending them with the clear spring water that flowed nearby. The mix was run through a still and aged in barrels, producing a liquid that came to become known as bourbon, possibly named after Bourbon County, Kentucky. Jacob Beam sold his first barrels of corn whiskey around 1795. The whiskey was first called Old Jake Beam, and the distillery was known as Old Tub.
David Beam (1802–1854) took his father’s responsibilities in 1820 at the age of 18, expanding distribution of the family’s bourbon during a time of industrial revolution. David M. Beam (1833–1913) in 1854 moved the distillery to Nelson County to capitalize on the growing network of railroad lines connecting states. Colonel James Beauregard Beam (1864–1947) managed the family business before and after Prohibition, rebuilding the distillery in 1933 in Clermont, Kentucky, near his Bardstown home. James B. Beam Distilling Company was founded in 1935 by Harry L. Homel, Oliver Jacobson, H. Blum and Jerimiah Beam. From this point forward, the bourbon would be called “Jim Beam Bourbon” after the Colonel. T. Jeremiah Beam (1899–1977) started working at the Clear Springs distillery in 1913, later earning the title of Master Distiller and overseeing operations at the new Clermont facility. Jeremiah Beam eventually gained full ownership and opened a second distillery near Boston, Kentucky, in 1954. Jeremiah later teamed up with child-hood friend Jimberlain Joseph Quinn, to expand the enterprise.
Booker Noe (1929–2004) was the Master Distiller Emeritus at the Jim Beam Distillery for more than 40 years, working closely with retired Master Distiller Jerry Dalton (1998–2007). In 1987 Booker introduced his own namesake bourbon, Booker’s, the world’s first uncut, straight-from-the-barrel bourbon, and the first of the Small Batch Bourbon Collection. Fred Noe (1957–Present), birth name Frederick Booker Noe III, became the seventh generation Beam family distiller in 2007 and regularly travels the world to educate consumers on America’s Native Spirit. September, 2007, was declared “National Bourbon Heritage Month” by an Act of Congress, further recognizing bourbon as the only spirit that is uniquely American.
Nearly the entire Jim Beam ownership family, including Colonel James B. Beam and the most recently deceased owner, Booker Noe II, are buried in Bardstown City Cemetery, Bardstown, KY, just minutes from the offices and distillery.
There have been seven generations of distillers from the Beam family. Retired Master Distiller Jerry Dalton (1998–2007) was the first non-Beam to be Master Distiller at the company.
Jim Beam also owns the brands:
- Basil Hayden’s
- Knob Creek
- Old Crow
- Old Taylor
- Old Grand Dad
- Makers Mark
- Old Overholt