We're not talking about the 1980s TV show or the great Mings of the 14th century. No, we're talking about the one family who has, for all intents and purposes, dominated the bourbon industry for more than 200 yearsthe Beams. Collectively, they are seven proud generations of hard-working, bourbon-loving men who have stayed true to their family's namesake. Individually, they made an indelible impression on what we know and loveJim Beam®, The World's Finest Bourbon.
Jacob Beamfounder of Jim Beam Bourbon
The man who started it all. And we love him for it. In 1788, Jacob Beam settled in the lush bluegrass hills of Kentucky. The land here was rich for farming and Jacob, like many of the settlers, experimented with the corn and grains that grew on his farm, blending them with the clear spring water that flowed nearby. This blend was run through a still, aged in barrels and eventually became bourbon, possibly named after Bourbon County, Kentucky. Jacob perfected the recipe and the world's finest bourbon was born.
David Beamson of Jacob Beam
David Beam took over his father's responsibilities in 1820 at the age of 18 (Can you imagine what he told his friends? "Sorry, chums. No time for fishing. I'm busy running my family's entire bourbon distillery.") During his reign, America was undergoing an industrial revolution, and the capable, enterprising and quick-witted David used such technology as the telegraph, steam-powered ships and the opening of waterways and railroads to expand distribution of Beam's bourbon. Maybe instead of "Go west young man," it should've been, "Go west, aged bourbon!"
David M. Beamson of David Beam
The well-spoken and always impeccably dressed David M. Beam was handed the reins to the family business in 1850. Four years later, in order to be near Kentucky's first railroad, David M. Beam moved the distillery to Nelson County, where he was as careful about adherence to the Beam family recipe as he was his appearance. In 1861, Civil War broke out. Kentucky was a split state, with both Union and Confederate soldiers passing through Beam land. During this period, bourbon was used as a means for barter and was often considered more valuable than Continental currency.
Colonel James B. Beamson of David M. Beam
Historians claim that James B. Beam couldn't stand being called anything other than Jim Beam because he liked to keep things simple and straightforward. Which made him the perfect man to take over the business from his father, David M. Beam. Under Jim Beam's tenure, the business thrived, despite the 13 years of Prohibition, when it was illegal to make, sell or transport alcohol in the U.S. His true passion, however, was always crafting his great-grandfather's honored recipe. So when Prohibition ended in 1933, the gregarious, unassuming and self-confident 70-year-old Jim Beam fired up the still. He built and moved to a new distillery in Clermont, near his Bardstown home. From this point forward, the bourbon was called "Jim Beam Bourbon."
T. Jeremiah Beamson of James B. Beam
Jeremiah, or "Jere," started working at the Clear Springs distillery in 1913, at the age of 13. In 1918 he left home to attend college, planning to return and take his place in the family business. A year later, however, Prohibition forced Jeremiah to put his dreams on hold. But when Prohibition ended in 1933, duty called, and Jeremiah helped his father set up a new distillery in Clermontin a mere 120 days. He later earned the title of master distiller, and because of his great gift of storytelling, Jeremiah traveled the world to share his knowledge of bourbon and the Beam family legacy. Even after the death of his father, Jeremiah continued to grow the business, opening a second distillery in 1954 near Boston, KY, which, just like the distillery Jim Beam built in Clermont, is still producing the world's finest bourbon.
Booker Noegrandson of James B. Beam
Booker, described as a big man with an even bigger heart, took great care in upholding and maintaining the Beam family's commitment to quality. As the Master Distiller Emeritus at the Jim Beam Distillery for more than 40 years, Booker knew every barrel of bourbon inside and out. In 1988, Booker introduced his own namesake bourbon: Booker's®, the world's first uncut, straight-from-the-barrel bourbon, and the first of the legendary Small Batch Collection®. Like his unfiltered bourbon, Booker had a tell-it-like-it-is style, and when he spoke of bourbon and his family's heritage, he did it straight from the heart. He continued to maintain the high standard of quality that his great-great-great grandfather, Jacob Beam, first established in 1795, until he passed away on February 24, 2004.
Frederick Booker Noe IIIson of Booker Noe
"Fred" Noe became the seventh generation Beam family distiller in 2007a milestone commemorated by the addition of his likeness to the side of the Jim Beam bottle. Fred learned everything from his father, Booker, even helping him choose the small batch bourbons in the same kitchen where his grandfather would mix the family strain of yeast. The quick-witted, sociable and knowledgeable Fred Noe introduces people around the world to his family's bourbons. Fred's stories of growing up on the distillery grounds are legendary, and people come in droves to see this real Kentucky bourbon legend talk about his family's heritage. He still lives in Bardstown, in a house built beside the Beam family home, with his wife, Sandy, and their son, Frederick Booker Noe IV. Fred aspires to explore and create new, innovative bourbons, and eventually leave his own legacy within the Beam empire and bourbon industry. And we can't wait!
Women of the Beam Family
Let's not forget... while these guys were distilling bourbon, these ladies were also continuing the Beam legacy (some of them about 12 times!):
- Mary Myers
wife of Jacob Beam
- Elizabeth Settle
wife of David Beam
- Margaret Ellen Phillips
wife of David M. Beam
- Mary Catherine Montgomery
wife of Jim Beam
- Lucy Kavanaugh
wife of T. Jeremiah Beam
- Annis Wickham
wife of Booker Noe
- Sandy Shewmaker
wife of Fred Noe
More than 60 other whiskey brands can be tied to a member of the extended Beam family.