The Story Behind Jim Beam Building Its Own Craft Distillery

by Lauren Boisvert

Settle in with a sip of good bourbon, friends, we’re taking a trip to both the past and the future of Jim Beam distilling. The Jim Beam company is gearing up to produce more small-batch bourbon, experiments, mistakes, and, as Freddie Noe, son of Master Distiller Fred B. Noe says, “here we have the opportunity to do some ‘oops’.” With this new “craft” distillery, Jim Beam is leaning heavily into learning, practicing, and perfecting.

Fred B. Noe’s New Craft Distillery

According to Yahoo, 7th generation Beam and current Master Distiller Fred B. Noe recently broke ground on a new craft bourbon distillery in Clermont, Kentucky. The distillery, named after Fred himself, is ” a facility that will focus on experimentation and smaller-scale production outside of the rest of Beam’s massive operation.” Two of Jim Beam’s Small Batch Collection bourbons, Booker’s and Baker’s, will move production to the new facility.

Yahoo reports on some exciting innovations, most notably, “renewable energy will be used to power the new distillery, a classroom for the University of Kentucky’s James B. Beam Institute for Kentucky Spirits will be located there, and visitors from the whiskey business will have opportunities to sample new liquids and try their hand in a blending lab.”

Fred Noe’s son, Freddie, is stepping into the limelight as owner of the new distillery. Currently, Freddie has his own brand of whiskey called Little Book. Launched in 2017, the annual release is a blend of different types of bourbon; most recently, Noe released Little Book Chapter 5, titled “The Invitation.” It’s a blend of 4 Jim Beam bourbon streams: 2-year-old straight bourbon, 3-year-old 100 percent malted rye whiskey, a 5-year-old straight bourbon, and 15-year-old straight bourbon.

History of Jim Beam

Jim Beam built its first distillery near the end of the 18th century, which started out with Johannes “Jacob” Beam producing barrels of corn whiskey in 1795. He called it Old Jake Beam Sour Mash. Later, in 1880, he sold it nationally under the name Old Tub. Before and after Prohibition, which lasted from 1920 to 1933, James Beauregard Beam ran the distillery.

In 1935, the James B. Beam Distilling Company was founded by Harry L. Homel, Oliver Jacobson, Harry Blum, and Jeremiah Beam. The name of the bourbon was subsequently changed from Old Tub to Jim Beam in 1943.

Booker Noe, Jim Beam’s grandson, was Master Distiller for more than 40 years. In 1987, he introduced the first of Jim Beam’s Small Batch Bourbon Collection, aptly named Booker’s. It was Jim Beam’s first uncut, straight from the barrel bourbon.

In addition, the Jim Beam Company has had two fires at their distilleries. One in 2003 that destroyed an aging warehouse in Bardstown, Kentucky; the other in 2019 destroyed nearly 45,000 barrels of bourbon.

Currently, Jim Beam reigns supreme as one of the best-selling bourbons in the world.