John H. “Jack” Beam
Inventor of Early Times
The youngest son of David Beam was John Henry "Jack" Beam. He was born in December of 1839 near Mooresville, KY. After working at his father's distillery until age 21, he built his own plant near Bardstown,KY in 1860. That enterprise was successful for many years, but he lost financial control of it during the Panic of 1880, staying on as distiller until his death at 75 years old in 1915. Jack's only child, Edward, worked there too and was supposed to follow in his father's footsteps, until his untimely death that same year at age 42.
The name of Jack and Edward's distillery, and the name of the whiskey they made there, was Early Times. Eventually the brand, though not the distillery, was acquired by Brown-Forman. When Brown-Forman built a new distillery in 1955, in the Louisville suburb of Shively, they named it after their bestselling whiskey brand, Early Times. Early Times continues to be a leading seller throughout the world.
In about 1856 his brother David. M. Beam began a distillery in Nelson County, but Jack Beam, continued to operate the farm distillery, making only about 1/2 barrel a day. Jack worked at the family distillery on a farm near Mooresville, KY, and married Maria McNall in 1863.
In 1866 he moved the operation to a place on the railroad, afterwards known as Early Times station in Nelson County, there he built a 50 bu. plant. His brands during the distillery’s life were Early Times, Jack Beam and A. G. Nall. Some time later, the wholesale firm of Pierce, Hurt & Co. were contracted to distribute the goods which gained wide popularity. In the panic of the 1880s, Pierce, Hurt & Co. gained control of the distillery and B. H. Hurt became President., while Jack Beam was VP and distiller. Beams death allowed his nephew John W. Shaunty to become President. Shortly thereafter, the main office was moved to Paducah, Shaunty's home and the home base of Pierce, Hurt & Co.
Operations ceased in 1918 and in 1920 S. J. Guthrie purchased the property and company. This is when the whiskey and brand names were sold to Brown-Forman for medicinal bottling. In 1934 when most buildings had been razed, the J.T.S. Brown family purchased the property and built a 40 bu. plant known as J. T. S. Brown's Sons Co. to produce Old J.T.S. Brown. This distillery is what they claimed as the smallest distillery in Kentucky. About 1956, the Browns sold out and the distillery was dismantled after selling the brand to Schenley.
Jack Beam was inducted posthumously into the Kentucky Bourbon Hall of Fame in 2009 in only its eight class of inductees. Jack Beam became the 9th of 13 Beam family members to be inducted into the Bourbon Hall of Fame behind Parker Beam, Booker Noe, Colonel Jim Beam, Earl Beam, T. Jeremiah Beam, Carl Beam, Baker Beam and David M. Beam.