"Master Distiller Emeritus"
Parker Beam was named after the legendary 6th generation Beam distiller, Park Beam, his grandfather. Park Beam was the brother of Jim Beam. Parker learned the business from his grandfather, and his father Earl Beam at Heaven Hill. Parker’s pedigree as a bourbon maker was blue blood to the core and impeccable. As a grandnephew of Jim Beam, Parker Beam was born into a family that traces its whiskey-making roots in Kentucky all the way back to 1795, when Jacob Beam set up his first still.
Parker’s career as a whiskey maker spanned more than a half century at the Bardstown, Kentucky-based Heaven Hill. “He was a true industry giant long before the current bourbon renaissance,” and “Without question, he was committed to our industry and possessed a real passion for the craft of distilling,” said Max L. Shapira, president of Heaven Hill Brands. Heaven Hill is a family owned and operated distilled spirits company and maker of the popular Evan Williams brand. Parker Beam was responsible for distilling and aging Evan Williams, the world’s number two selling bourbon, as well as dozens of other Heaven Hill whiskey brands.
Parker Beam began his career at Heaven Hill in 1960 and learned the craft by working alongside his father, Earl Beam. The job of Master Distiller shifted from father to son in 1975 when Parker Beam assumed the role. He developed the company’s and the industry's first super premium small batch bourbon in "Elijah Craig Small Batch" and company's first single barrel bourbon in Evan Williams Vintage Single Barrel.
“If you were a Beam, you sort of were destined to follow in the footsteps of either your father, grandfathers, cousins or uncles,” Parker Beam said in a 2007 interview with The Associated Press. Another industry patriarch, Bill Samuels Jr., called his longtime friend “one of the good guys.” For some people, living up to a legendary family name can be a burden, but not so for Parker, Samuels said. “In his case, he lived up to and exceeded the burden of having the most famous name in bourbon,” said Samuels, who retired after a long career as the top executive at Maker’s Mark.
During the last 20 years, many of Parker's creations including Evan Williams, Elijah Craig Small Batch and Single Barrel, and Rittenhouse Rye have won numerous well-deserved awards and honors. He became a respected mentor to countless distillers, historians and writers, and took his rightful place in the inaugural class of inductees to Kentucky Bourbon Hall of Fame in 2001 and became the first and one of only four men to ever be given "The Lifetime Achievement Award" by the Bourbon Hall of Fame in 2015. In fact, the Lifetime Achievement Award has actually been named in Parker Beam’s honor.
During his years-long battle with the disorder of A. L. S., Parker Beam raised funds in hopes of helping find a cure. Parker Beam was among a small fraternity of master distillers who oversaw production at various Kentucky distilleries during bourbon’s revival. In fact, Parker along will Elmer T. Lee of Buffalo Trace and his cousin Booker Noe of Jim Beam are the three men credited with restoring Bourbon to his rightful place and reinvigorated the entire industry.
Banner photo by Pearlfisher. Bottle photos provided by Heaven Hill web site.