Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History

Interview with Frederick Booker Noe III, November 28, 2008

Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries
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00:00:01 - Booker Noe's beginning in the distilling business

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Partial Transcript: So Fred, how did your father Booker Noe get his start in the distilling business?

Segment Synopsis: Frederick Booker Noe III (Fred) is introduced. He talks about how his father, Booker Noe, became involved in the family business of distilling bourbon and gives a brief overview of Booker's career.

Keywords: Booker Noe (Frederick Booker Noe II); Booker Noe Plant; Bottling; Bourbon industry; Carl Beam; Fathers; Jerry Beam (T. Jeremiah Beam); Jim Beam; Jim Beam Clermont distillery (Clermont, Ky.); Jim Beam Distillery; Master Distillers

Subjects: Beam, James B., 1864-1947--Family.; Bourbon whiskey; Distilleries--Kentucky; Distillers.; Families.; Family-owned business enterprises.; Genealogy.; James B. Beam Distilling Company; Noe, Frederick Booker, II; Whiskey industry--Kentucky

00:03:05 - Connection between the Beam family and the Noe family

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Partial Transcript: So why did the master distiller's position pass from the Beams to the Noes?

Segment Synopsis: Noe talks about the genealogical connection between the Beams and the Noes and why the tradition of distilling bourbon passed from the Beam family to his grandfather, Frederick Booker Noe I.

Keywords: Beam family; Booker Noe (Frederick Booker Noe II); Children; Competition; Competitors; Familial connections; Family lines; Family names; Family traditions; Frederick Booker Noe I; Generations; Grandmothers; Jerry Beam (T. Jeremiah Beam); Margaret Beam Noe; Margaret Noe; Master Distillers; Noe family; Relationships; Willett Distillery; Willett family

Subjects: Beam, James B., 1864-1947--Family.; Bourbon whiskey; Distilleries--Kentucky; Distillers.; Families.; Family-owned business enterprises.; Genealogy.; James B. Beam Distilling Company; Noe, Frederick Booker, II; Whiskey industry--Kentucky

00:06:14 - Booker Noe's personality

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Partial Transcript: So your dad had a reputation for having kind of a larger than life personality.

Segment Synopsis: Noe talks about how his father Booker Noe came to have the reputation of having a 'larger than life' personality. He talks about his father's work traveling to promote the Jim Beam brand. He retells stories that his father loved to tell.

Keywords: Booker Noe (Frederick Booker Noe II); Bourbon tastings; Cooks; Dinners; Drinking; Drinking bourbon; Entertaining; Fathers; People; Personalities; Popularity; Product promotion; Promotion (Marketing); Public relations; Reputations; Stories; Traveling; Wives

Subjects: Bourbon whiskey; Distilleries--Kentucky; Distillers.; Families.; James B. Beam Distilling Company; Marketing.; Noe, Frederick Booker, II; Product demonstrations; Sales promotion.; Whiskey industry--Kentucky

00:12:19 - Creation of the small batch, ultra-premium bourbons

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Partial Transcript: So tell me about some of the changes that Booker made while he was at Jim Beam.

Segment Synopsis: Noe mentions some of the ways his father changed Jim Beam during his career there. He talks about Booker's personal experimentation with small batch bourbons, which were later used to create Jim Beam's ultra-premium line of bourbons. He talks about how ultra-premium bourbons changed the bourbon industry.

Keywords: 'House of knowledge'; 1987; Approval; Barrel-strength bourbons; Barrels; Better; Booker Noe (Frederick Booker Noe II); Booker's bourbon whiskey; Bottling; Bourbon industry; Bourbon tastings; Changes; Cost; Country hams; Efficient; Engineering; Experiments; Filtration; History; Jim Beam (Brand); Jim Beam Distillery; Mike Donohoe; Parker Beam; Past; Plans; Popularity; Price; Processes; Production; Sales; Samples; Selection; Single barrel bourbons; Small batch bourbons; Small batch whiskey; Ultra premium bourbon; Ultra premium bourbons; Ultra-premium bourbons; Visitors

Subjects: Bourbon whiskey; Distillation.; Distilleries--Kentucky; Distillers.; Economic conditions.; Families.; James B. Beam Distilling Company; Marketing.; Noe, Frederick Booker, II; Product demonstrations; Quality of products.; Sales promotion.; Whiskey industry--Kentucky

00:24:24 - Booker Noe's role in the community

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Partial Transcript: So was your father, um--was he a prominent figure in the community because of his role at Jim Beam?

Segment Synopsis: Noe discusses his father's role in the community, which he says was mainly as a silent supporter through donations and fundraising for schools and other organizations.

Keywords: Bardstown Hall of Fame; Behind the scenes; Booker Noe (Frederick Booker Noe II); Charity; Communities; Contributions; Donations; Fundraising; Helping; Roles; Schools; Silent supporters; Sports; Traveling

Subjects: Bardstown (Ky.); Distillers.; Families.; Noe, Frederick Booker, II

00:27:26 - Bourbon as a part of Bardstown's culture

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Partial Transcript: So how would you say bourbon in general is a part of Bardstown culture?

Segment Synopsis: Noe talks about the role of bourbon and distilleries in Bardstown. He talks about the tourism that bourbon brings to the area through events like the Kentucky Bourbon Festival. He talks about reactions from the community to these events.

Keywords: Bourbon Capital of the World; Bourbon industry; Businesses; Communities; Competition; Competitors; Culture; Events; Festival events; Growth; Heaven Hill Distilleries; Jim Beam; Jim Beam Distillery; Kentucky Bourbon Festival; Kentucky Bourbon Trail; Makers Mark Distillery; Public; Relationships; Tourists; Traveling; Very Old Barton bourbon whiskey; Visitors

Subjects: Bardstown (Ky.); Bourbon whiskey; Consumers.; Distilleries--Kentucky; Distillers.; Families.; James B. Beam Distilling Company; Tourism.; Whiskey industry--Kentucky

00:32:45 - His role as Bourbon Ambassador

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Partial Transcript: So let's talk about how you got in the business.

Segment Synopsis: Noe talks about his role as Bourbon Ambassador in educating the public about bourbon and promoting the Jim Beam brand. He talks about some of the places he has traveled, the role of his family's legacy in the marketing of the product, and his reaction to having his picture put on the Jim beam label.

Keywords: Beam family; Booker Noe (Frederick Booker Noe II); Bottles; Bourbon ambassadors; Cutting grass; Education; Family legacies; Fathers; Generations; Honors; Labels; Pictures; Product promotion; Products; Public; Public relations; Reactions; Roles; Russia; Stories; Traditions; Traveling; United Kingdom (U.K.); Whiskey professors

Subjects: Beam, James B., 1864-1947--Family.; Bourbon whiskey; Distilleries--Kentucky; Distillers.; Families.; Family-owned business enterprises.; Genealogy.; James B. Beam Distilling Company; Marketing.; Noe, Frederick Booker, II; Product demonstrations; Sales promotion.; Whiskey industry--Kentucky

00:41:26 - Balancing the duties of public relations and making bourbon

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Partial Transcript: So how is what you do today at Jim Beam different and similar from what your dad did?

Segment Synopsis: Noe talks about the difficulty of balancing his work in promoting the Jim Beam brand and his work in the distillery making the bourbon. He talks about the experiences that prepared him for this role, including his college education and his work in various positions throughout the distillery. He talks about how his work in the distillery gives him credibility when promoting the brand.

Keywords: Advertising; Balance; Booker Noe (Frederick Booker Noe II); Bourbon market; Colleges; Credibility; Differences; Distilling; Education; Fathers; Hank Williams, Jr. (Artist); Jobs; Learning; Off-premise; On the job training; On-premise; Positions; Preparation; Public relations; Sales; Sponsorships; Traveling; Truth

Subjects: Beam, James B., 1864-1947--Family.; Bourbon whiskey; Distillation.; Distilleries--Kentucky; Distillers.; Families.; Family-owned business enterprises.; Genealogy.; James B. Beam Distilling Company; Marketing.; Noe, Frederick Booker, II; Product demonstrations; Sales promotion.; Whiskey industry--Kentucky

00:49:55 - International markets for bourbon

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Partial Transcript: So obviously you just started talking about the international aspect of Jim Beam.

Segment Synopsis: Noe talks about the growth of bourbon in international markets and tells stories about his experiences in various countries. He talks about some of the difficulties associated with selling in international markets. He talks more about the role of his family's legacy in the marketing of the product, specifically in international markets.

Keywords: Asia; Australia; China; Credibility; Cultural barriers; Culture shock; Cultures; Differences; Distance; Emerging markets; England; Family legacies; Family lines; Family role; Family traditions; Fathers; Foreign markets; Genuine; Germany; Heritage; History; Honesty; International markets; Language barriers; Opportunities; Overseas sales; Product promotion; Reactions; Responses; Russia; Spain; Traveling; Truth; United Kingdom (U.K.)

Subjects: Beam, James B., 1864-1947--Family.; Bourbon whiskey; Business enterprises, Foreign.; Distilleries--Kentucky; Distillers.; Export marketing.; Families.; Family-owned business enterprises.; Genealogy.; James B. Beam Distilling Company; Marketing.; Noe, Frederick Booker, II; Product demonstrations; Sales promotion.; Whiskey industry; Whiskey.

01:01:02 - What makes Jim Beam's bourbon different from its competitors

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Partial Transcript: So here's a question: What does make your bourbon different?

Segment Synopsis: Noe discusses what makes Jim Beam's bourbon different from its competitors. He talks about doing tastings of Jim Beam compared to competitors' products and the importance of educating the public about their product.

Keywords: Age; Aging; Bourbon tastings; Brand education; Competition; Differences; Drinking bourbon; Growth; Heaven Hill Distilleries; Heaven Hill bourbon whiskey; International markets; Jack Daniel's whiskey; Labels; Maker's Mark bourbon whiskey; Makers Mark Distillery; Mingling bourbons; Mixing; Overseas sales; Popularity; Product promotion; Sales force; Wild Turkey Distillery; Wild Turkey bourbon whiskey; Worldwide

Subjects: Bourbon whiskey; Business enterprises, Foreign.; Distilleries--Kentucky; Distillers.; Export marketing.; James B. Beam Distilling Company; Marketing.; Product demonstrations; Sales promotion.; Whiskey industry; Whiskey.

01:06:54 - Jim Beam's acquisition of other brands

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Partial Transcript: Can you talk a little bit about, um, the acquisitions that have happened at Jim Beam since you've been there?

Segment Synopsis: Noe talks about some of the brands that Jim Beam has acquired during his time with the company. He talks about how the ownership of the company has changed, the effects of acquiring other brands, and some of their failed attempts to acquire certain brands.

Keywords: Absolut Vodka; Acquisitions; Allied Domecq; American Brands; American Tobacco Company; Beam Suntory, Inc.; Brands; Expansion; Family business; Fortune Brands; Future Brands; Jim Beam (Brand); Jim Beam Brands Co.; National Brands; Ownership; Sales groups; Seagram Company; Seagrams; Size

Subjects: Alcohol industry.; Beam, James B., 1864-1947--Family.; Bourbon whiskey; Distilleries--Kentucky; Distillers.; Families.; Family-owned business enterprises.; James B. Beam Distilling Company; Whiskey industry

01:13:06 - Complications of marketing to young people

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Partial Transcript: Has all this rapid growth ever caused any problems for the company?

Segment Synopsis: Noe talks about some of the problems associated with the rapid growth of the company. He talks about the challenge of marketing their product to young people over the age of 21 while also not marketing to people who are underage. He talks about Jim Beam's participation in the Drink Smart campaign and other ways that they try to promote responsible drinking.

Keywords: Advertisements; Brands; Children; Drink Smart campaign; Drink smart campaigns; Drinking age; Economy; Fads; Freddie Noe (Frederick Booker Noe IV); Growth; Jim Beam White Label; Lawsuits; Markets; Problems; Product promotion; Public relations; Publicity; Responsible drinking; Sales force; Sponsorships; Trends; Underage drinking; Young people

Subjects: Bourbon whiskey; Consumers.; Distilleries--Kentucky; Distillers.; Economic conditions.; James B. Beam Distilling Company; Marketing.; Noe, Frederick Booker, IV; Product demonstrations; Sales promotion.; Target marketing.; Whiskey industry--Kentucky

01:22:16 - Bourbon as a part of Kentucky's culture

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Partial Transcript: How do you think Kentuckians respond differently to the Jim Beam brand than people from different places around the country?

Segment Synopsis: Noe talks about Kentuckians' interest in Jim Beam. He talks about the role of bourbon and distilleries in Kentucky. He talks about the tax money earned through the bourbon industry, as well as the tourism that bourbon brings to the area through events like the Kentucky Bourbon Festival.

Keywords: Bourbon festivals; Contributions; Culture; Dry counties; Family business; Freddie Noe (Frederick Booker Noe IV); Generations; Jim Beam (Brand); Jim Beam Distillery; Jim Beam White Label; Kentuckians; Kentucky Bourbon Festival; Kentucky Bourbon Trail; Nelson County (Ky.); Reactions; Sales; School systems; Taxes; Tourists

Subjects: Alcohol--Taxation--United States.; Bourbon whiskey; Consumers.; Distilleries--Kentucky; Distillers.; Families.; James B. Beam Distilling Company; Noe, Frederick Booker, IV; Tourism.; Whiskey industry--Kentucky

01:26:18 - Family involvement in Jim Beam

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Partial Transcript: So how important would you say it is that Jim Beam continue to maintain the family involvement as it grows even larger and more international in scope?

Segment Synopsis: Noe talks about whether it will be important for the Jim Beam brand to maintain its image as a family tradition. He talks about some of the negative aspects associated with having family members involved with the business. He talks about how family members have higher expectations put upon them and are held to higher standards. He talks about the career he almost had before being offered at job at Jim Beam.

Keywords: Attitudes; Booker Noe (Frederick Booker Noe II); Brands; Careers; Expectations; Family business; Family members; Freddie Noe (Frederick Booker Noe IV); Growth; Hank Williams, Jr. (Artist); Higher standards; Jobs; Negatives; Problems; Road managers; Sales; Sponsorships; Touring; Whiskey brands

Subjects: Beam, James B., 1864-1947--Family.; Bourbon whiskey; Distilleries--Kentucky; Distillers.; Families.; Family-owned business enterprises.; Genealogy.; James B. Beam Distilling Company; Marketing.; Noe, Frederick Booker, II; Noe, Frederick Booker, IV; Sales promotion.; Whiskey industry--Kentucky

01:33:15 - Opinions on the direction of the Jim Beam brand

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Partial Transcript: So overall, would you say you're satisfied with the direction that the Jim Beam brand and its image are going right now?

Segment Synopsis: Noe discusses his opinions on the current direction that the company is headed. He talks about the recent changes that have been made that make him hopeful for the future. He talks about how he sees his future role with the company.

Keywords: Absolut Vodka; Beam Global Spirits & Wine, Inc.; Brand image; Brands; Changes; Economy; Future Brands; Master Distillers; Portfolios; Problems; Roles; Sales force; Transitions; Traveling; Turning points

Subjects: Alcohol industry.; Bourbon whiskey; Distilleries--Kentucky; Distillers.; Economic conditions.; James B. Beam Distilling Company; Marketing.; Sales promotion.; Whiskey industry

01:37:15 - Preparing his son Freddie to join Jim Beam

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Partial Transcript: So you mentioned that your son has shown interest in the company.

Segment Synopsis: Noe talks about how he will prepare his son Freddie to work for Jim Beam in the same way that his father Booker prepared him. He talks about the relationship his son had with Booker. He talks more about the challenges associated with family involvement in the company. The interview is concluded.

Keywords: Booker Noe (Frederick Booker Noe II); Children; Colleges; Difficulty; Education; Family involvement; Family members; Family relationships; Fathers; Freddie Noe (Frederick Booker Noe IV); Grandchildren; Grandfathers; Grandsons; Legacies; Legacy; Preparation; Relationships; Sons; Traveling

Subjects: Beam, James B., 1864-1947--Family.; Bourbon whiskey; Distilleries--Kentucky; Distillers.; Families.; Family-owned business enterprises.; Genealogy.; James B. Beam Distilling Company; Noe, Frederick Booker, II; Noe, Frederick Booker, IV; Whiskey industry--Kentucky