Jim Beam Founders
The beam family has been producing whiskey since 1795 although it was interrupted by Prohibition. Seven generations and direct line descendants and many other family members of founder Jacob Beam have been involved in whiskey production for the company that makes Jim Beam Bourbon. The seven generations and many branches off of the main Beam tree have earned the reputation as "America's First Family of Bourbon."
Ten of the twelve men listed below are all important members of the beam family including eight with the last name Beam and two with the last name Noe who are the son and grandson of Margaret Beam (Jim’s Daughter). The other two are part of the Beam line of bourbons today because of acquisitions including Basil Hayden and Dr. Samuel Crow.
It was in Frederick, Maryland on his Uncle’s plantation in 1766 that Jacob learned how to ferment grapes, apples into hard cider and Rye whiskey. Three years after moving to Kentucky, Jacob began to distill his first whiskey in 1795. The three oldest of Jacob’s sons continued on in the Bourbon trade including David Beam who took over the family business.
Jacob Beam's son David helped his father the most in the whiskey business. David Beam was as smart as a whip and learned from the industrial revolution going on around him. He expanded the distillery from a modest family business into a large sized factory with high production, naming it the: “Old Tub Distillery.”
David M. Beam
David M. Beam stayed at home instead of going off to college. He over the distilling operation begun by his grandfather. Then in 1860, David M. moved the family distillery from its original site to Nelson County, to take advantage of a new railroad line between Louisville & Nashville where it became the first national brand calling it "Old Tub Bourbon."
Colonel James Beauregard Beam "Jim Beam" was born in Bardstown, Kentucky near the end of the Civil War in 1864. He took over the family business the "Old Tub Distillery" (later called the Jim Beam Distillery) in 1894 from his father David M. Beam.
“The Big Man in the Plant”
David M. Beam retired at the age of 59 just before the turn of the century in 1892. Upon his retirement he ceded control of the distillery and operations to his two youngest sons of four, Jim Beam and and Park Beam. Jim and their joint brother-in-law Albert ran the business side of things and Park Beam was the Master Distiller that not only made the bourbon but increased it production four fold in his lifetime.
T. Jeremiah Beam
Jim Beam had two children, a son, T. Jeremiah Beam, and a daughter, Margaret. Jere (pronounced "Jerry") was born in Bardstown in 1899 and went to work in the family distillery, Clear Springs at age 14. Jeremiah eventually gained full ownership of Beam Brands and opened a second distillery near Boston, Kentucky, in 1954.
“Dean of all Distillers”
Carl “Shucks” Beam
Carl Beam, nicknamed “Shucks” worked at the rebuilt Jim Beam Distillery right after Prohibition ended, along with uncle Jim and cousin Jere. Carl was 24 years old and was hired as a distiller when the plant opened in 1934. He went on to become Beam’s Master Distiller. Carl later became the Executive Vice-President of the James B. Beam Distillery Company in 1959 and his nick named changed to “Dean of all Distillers.” He retired in 1974.
Frederick Booker Noe was born in December 1929 and passed away in 2004. He introduced Booker’s Bourbon in 1987 and coined the phrase “small batch” to describe his uncut unfiltered bourbon. Master Distiller for over 40 years, Booker was a larger than life character.
“High Storage Advocate”
Edward “Baker” Beam worked at both these distilleries himself, and has his own small batch bourbon in the famous Jim Beam “Small Batch Bourbon Collection.” Baker retired at age 81 is an avid fan of high storage in the warehouse for his Baker’s Bourbon. He feels it 7 years is the maximum age when you use high storage. Baker grew up in the “big white house” (now called the T. Jeremiah House).
“Beam’s Global Ambassador”
Fred was steeped in whiskey culture early on. He was born in 1954 in Bardstown, Kentucky “the Bourbon Capital of the World,” and grew up in the same house his great grandfather, the legendary Jim Beam, once lived in. Fred, who’s birth name is Frederick Booker Noe III, became the Seventh Generation Beam family to be named Master Distiller in 2007 and regularly travels for promotional purposes.
"Old Grand Dad," & High Rye
Hayden led a group of one hundred Catholics from Maryland into what is now Nelson County, Kentucky in 1785. This area, Bardstown is home to many of the famous bourbon brands and is considered "The Bourbon Capital of the World." Hayden actually donated the land for the first Catholic church west of the Allegheny Mountains.
Dr. James Crow
Crow was a Scottish chemist and physician that arrived in the US in 1820 and worked for a couple distilleries until Oscar Pepper made the best move of his career, and probably the bourbon world by hiring Dr. Crow in 1838 to be his master distiller.
In 1810, Henry's son Abraham Overholt (1784–1870) took over management of the distillery and made it into a large business. By the 1820s, the distillery was putting out 15 gallons of rye whiskey per day. Abraham grew the company rapidly; by 1843, Baltimore newspapers were advertising Overholt's "Old Rye"; was the best in the country. At that time, only the very few top distilleries were advertised by name, not the brands.