This year Jim Beam turns 225 years old. That’s 225 years and seven generations of crafting the finest Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey in the world. We’re celebrating the success of Jim Beam’s long line of family distillers on their 225th year of crafting bourbon. Since their beginnings in 1795, every Master Distiller has found the opportunity to push the Jim Beam story forward, finding untapped places to innovate how we make and enjoy bourbon.
7 Generations of Beam
Jacob Beam, Master Distiller 1795 – 1820. Perhaps the best decision Jacob Beam ever made was to sell his bourbon. He sold his first barrel of Old Jake Beam Sour Mash in 1795, just three years after Kentucky became a state. His bourbon quickly became a local favourite-no small accomplishment considering that, by the early 1800s, Kentucky was home to about 2,000 distillers.
David Beam, Master Distiller 1820 – 1854. In 1820, Jacob Beam handed the distillery over to his sharp-as-a-tack son, David Beam. At this time in history, bourbon could only be practically distributed locally, so instead of bottling it and selling it in stores like we do today, people simply brought their own jugs to the distillery to fill them up straight from the barrel. David, however, could sense that a change was coming, and he had the foresight to enlarge the distillery for future growth and transition from pot stills to column stills to enable continuous operation
David M. Beam, Master Distiller 1854 – 1894. Let’s skip forward to 1854. After taking over distillery operations from his father, David M. Beam wanted to take advantage of bourbon’s newfound popularity. And having learned of a planned extension to the railroad line, he relocated the distillery to Nelson County, KY under the name D. M. Beam & Company. Now, mere yards from the new tracks, he was able to ship Old Tub both north and south. And by bottling and branding each bottle, he began to transform his bourbon into a national brand.
Colonel James B. Beam, Master Distiller 1896 – 1946. In 1894, James Beauregard Beam—Jim Beam to his friends and family—took over the family distillery from his father. Throughout the early 1900s, Old Tub and bourbon in general, continued to grow and expand, developing rigorous standards for production and quality. Then, in 1920, Prohibition brought it all to a screeching halt. For over a decade, bourbon was effectively out of business.
T. Jeremiah Beam, Master Distiller 1946 – 1960. While T. Jeremiah “Jere” Beam had been helping his father to run the family business since opening the new distillery, he officially took over in 1946, just as WWII came to a close. Soon after, not wanting any of his countrymen to be without bourbon, he began shipping cases of Jim Beam to American servicemen stationed overseas. Though he didn’t know it yet, this would introduce Jim Beam to the globe, setting the stage for it to become the world’s best-selling bourbon under his watch.
Booker Noe, Master Distiller 1960 – 1992. In 1978, Booker introduced Jim Beam Black, a bourbon with extra character and flavor. But this was just a prequel for what was to come. Booker began crafting bourbon the way it was originally made: in small batches. And in 1987, he flipped the bourbon game on its head with the release of Booker’s—the first small-batch bourbon from Jim Beam. Unfiltered, uncut and straight from the barrel, it was unlike anything people were used to.
Fred Noe, Master Distiller 1992 – Present. In 1992, Booker was succeeded by his son and our current Master Distiller, Frederick Booker Noe III. With this changing of the guard, Fred Noe became the seventh-generation Beam Family Master Distiller, and in 2005, he filled the ten-millionth barrel of Jim Beam.