Charles L. Beam
“Inventory of Eagle Rare and Benchmark”
In 1943 the decedents of the Jones family sold the distillery and the entire business to the Seagram's Company. Four Roses was the most popular bourbon in the world during the decades of the 1930's, 1940's and 1950's. At the time Seagram's was the largest spirit maker in the world and had seven distilleries including five in Kentucky, one in Maryland and one in Canada. In late 50's, despite the popularity of the brand of Bourbon, the company decides to convert to a cheaper Blended American Whiskey and market it internationally, discontinuing it sales in the United States.
Charles L. “Chuck” Beam was born in Louisville, Kentucky in October 1922. His parents Roy M. Beam, Sr. and Mattie D. Beam were intent on making sure that young Chuck received a good education. They sent his to Central Kentucky’s best prep school in St. Xavier High School and proceeded to graduate from the University of Louisville with his Bachelor’s Degree in Chemistry. When World War II broke out Chuck volunteered and served as a Staff Sergeant in the Army Air Corps flying 30 missions over Europe and earned the Distinguished Flying Cross. He married Mary Lee Kuhn in January 1946 in Louisville and had three children, Rebecca Beam Spitler, Charles Beam, Jr., and David Beam (who went on to work at the Beam Distillery).
Charles Beam was hired on at the Four Roses Distillery Lawrenceburg, Kentucky in 1962. In just six short years he was named only the fourth Master Distiller at Four Roses in 1968. In 1966 Jim Rutledge joined Seagram's at the Louisville Plant but was transferred in 1975 to be a student under Charles. Under Beam's tenure as Master Distiller, Four Roses introduced the Bourbon brands of Benchmark Bourbon in 1969 and Eagle Rare in 1975. Charles Beam retired in 1984 and both brands were later sold to the Sazerac Company in 1989. Both brands continued to be distilled by the Buffalo Trace Distillery even today. Eagle Rare has become Buffalo Trace’s second most popular brand and a great buy at the price while being aged 10 years. Benchmark or McAfee’s Benchmark Old No. 8 has turned into one of Buffalo Trace’s two “High Volume Economy Brands” and the one that Buffalo Trace experiments with. It adds flavoring to a base of Benchmark Bourbon and has released an Apple, Peach, Brown Sugar and Egg Nog brand.
Beam passed away at the age 84 in January 2007 at Baptist East Hospital in Louisville. Charles L. Beam was inducted posthumously into the Kentucky Bourbon Hall of Fame in 2010. In that induction class there were three honorees including Wild turkey Master Distiller Eddie Russell and Ronnie Eddins of Buffalo Trace. His proud wife of 61 years and widow Mary Lee Kuhn Beam, proudly accepted the award on Chuck’s and the family’s behalf. Charles Beam became the 9th of 11 of Beam family members to be inducted into the Bourbon Hall of Fame.