Heaven Hill Distilleries are an American family-owned and operated distillery company headquartered in the Bourbon Capital of the world, Bardstown, Kentucky. It is the second-largest bourbon distiller with the second largest inventory in the world.
This Founders page takes a deep look into Heaven Hill's two most influential families in Shapiras and the Beams. The five Shapira brothers and their decedents have run the business side of things so successful that the name Heaven Hill is recognized and consumed all over the world. The Beam family ran the distilling or whiskey production side of Heaven Hill.
Heaven Hill Founders
Parker Beam is one of the greatest minds ever to have worked in the bourbon industry. He was named after Park Beam, his grandfather and legendary 5th generation Beam distiller, Jim Beam’s brother. Parker learned the art of making bourbon from his grandfather, and to a larger degree his father Earl Beam at Heaven Hill.
The Shapira Brothers
The Shapira family (brothers Gary, George, David, Ed and Mose) agreed to pay $17,500 to start a distillery that had no still, no brands, no inventory and no warehouses. On Dec. 13th, 1935, the first barrel was filled and a tradition started at Heaven Hill Distillery.
Joseph L. Beam “Mr. Joe”
Known as "Mr. Joe" Beam was Jim Beam’s cousin, he was the son of Joseph M. Beam, a distiller. Joe and several of his sons worked at the Stitzel Distillery in Louisville. After prohibition ended, Mr. Joe helped found and open the Heaven Hill Distillery. Joe's youngest son, Harry, remained at Heaven Hill as its first master distiller.
Max Shapira was the only son of Ed, one of the five brothers who founded Heaven Hill Distilleries following the repeal of Prohibition. Max has been at the helm during a period of rapid growth and expansion and brand acquisitions which has tmade Heaven Hill the world’s second largest bourbon distiller by volume.
In 1955 Heaven Hill under Earl’s supervision filled their 500,000th barrel of bourbon. In 1957 Earl introduced what would go on to become their Flagship brand in Evan Williams. The brand was named after the very first licensed distiller in the Commonwealth of Kentucky and used “K. S. P. 1” plant number
Harry Spapira was the Executive Vice President at Heaven Hill's and led the creation and design the company's two new modern attraction centers: the Bourbon Heritage Center in Bardstown and the Evan Williams Bourbon Experience in the Louisville on the city's historic "Whiskey Row."
Elijah Craig was born in 1743 in Orange, Virginia. Craig opened a distillery in 1789 and in June of that year, one of his barns burned down. Some were burned barrels were just on the inside and some not badly charred on the outside. Being a frugal man, he used them anyway.
Evan Williams was born in Virginia and moved to Kentucky in early adulthood. It was in 1783 that Evan Williams founded the first commercial spirit distillery "K.S.P. #1" Williams was the Harbor Master of Louisville. The harbor was located at the "Falls of the Ohio River" which was a major port for water traffic.
Henry McKenna was born in the Draperstown, County Derry in Ireland in 1819 and moved to Nelson County, KY in 1838. As a youth Henry worked in an Irish distillery and a liquor store. McKenna is said to have been a stickler for sanitation. He never simply white washed his fermenting tubs with lime as most of the early distillers did to save time.
John E. Fitzgerald
The history of John E. Fitgerald is one full of mystery and intrigue, with tall tales and folklore dating as far back as 1870, then he was canonized when Stizel-Weller named the Old Fitzgerald brand after him. Fitzgerald was a bonded treasury agent, who at the time were the only people legally allowed to carry a second secured key to the barrel storage rickhouses.