Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History

Interview with James Beam Noe, January 18, 2009

Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries
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00:00:00 - Typical day as a plant engineering manager

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Partial Transcript: So what is your job at Jim Beam?

Segment Synopsis: James Beam Noe describes his duties as a plant engineering manager at the Jim Beam distillery and what a typical day is like there.

Keywords: Broken; Careers; Duties; Employees; Engineers; Equipment; Jim Beam Distillery; Job titles; Jobs; Machinery; Maintenance; Occupations; Operations; Plant engineering managers; Problems; Responsibilities; Workers

Subjects: Bourbon whiskey; Distillation.; Distilleries--Kentucky; Distillers.; Employment--Kentucky; James B. Beam Distilling Company; Whiskey industry--Kentucky

00:01:01 - Family connections at the Jim Beam distillery

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Partial Transcript: Have you always worked at Jim Beam?

Segment Synopsis: Noe talks about his genealogical connection to the Beam family and how he came to work at the distillery. He talks about the high expectations placed on family members working at the distillery.

Keywords: 200th anniversary; Attitudes; Beam family; Booker Noe (Frederick Booker Noe II); Careers; Difficulty; Employees; Engineers; Expectations; Familial connections; Family connections; Family lines; Family members; Family names; Family traditions; Generations; Heritage; Jim Beam (James B. Beam); Jim Beam Distillery; Job titles; Jobs; Noe family; Occupations; Ownership; Plant engineering managers; Relationships; Standards; Workers

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

00:03:53 - Training at Jim Beam

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Partial Transcript: So, um, when you came to Jim Beam, who trained you and what was your training like?

Segment Synopsis: Noe talks about the minimal training he received when he began working at the distillery and mentions the person who trained him.

Keywords: Bobby Hagin; Booker Noe (Frederick Booker Noe II); Distilling; Engineers; Equipment; Guidance; Jim Beam Boston distillery (Boston, Ky.); Learning; Plant engineering managers; Training

Subjects: Bourbon whiskey; Distillation.; Distilleries--Kentucky; Distillers.; Families.; James B. Beam Distilling Company; Noe, Frederick Booker, II; Whiskey industry--Kentucky

00:06:10 - Increasing production / Jim Beam's secret to quality products

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Partial Transcript: So between the time that you went to work at the distillery and now, what kinds of changes have happened?

Segment Synopsis: Noe talks about how the distillery has changed since he began working there, focusing on their increased production through the use of technology. He talks about how they maintain the quality of the product while increasing production. He talks about some of the factors that make Jim Beam a quality product, including raw materials, cleanliness, their strains of yeast, and their mash bill.

Keywords: "World's finest bourbon"; Barrels; Building; Changes; Cleanliness; Consistency; Contaminants; Distilling; Equipment; Expanding; Expansion; Factors; Fermentation; Fermenters; Grains; Jacob Beam; Jim Beam Boston distillery (Boston, Ky.); Jug process; Mash; Mash bills; Methods; Popularity; Processes; Production; Products; Prohibition; Raw materials; Secrets; Settings; Speed; Stills; Technology; Testing; Warehouses; Yeast; Yeast colonies; Yeast cultures; Yeast strains

Subjects: Bourbon whiskey; Distillation.; Distilleries--Kentucky; Distillers.; James B. Beam Distilling Company; Quality control.; Quality of products.; Technological innovations; Whiskey industry--Kentucky

00:13:23 - Environmental friendliness of the Jim Beam distillery

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Partial Transcript: So in recent decades, consumers have become conscientious about the environment.

Segment Synopsis: Noe talks about the ways that Jim Beam decreases their impact on the environment and maintains a zero environmental discharge policy. He talks about the various ways they recycle their byproducts and waste products to be more environmentally friendly.

Keywords: Anaerobic digesters; Animal feed; Barrels; Byproducts; Distilling; Dry house; Dryhouse; Energy use; Environmental concerns; Environmental impact; Environmental issues; Environmentally friendly; Grains; Improvements; Landfills; Recycling; Reuse; Scotch whisky; Stillage; Waste products; Wines; Zero environmental discharge policies

Subjects: Bourbon whiskey; Distillation.; Distilleries--Kentucky; Distillers.; Environmental policy; Environmental protection; Environmentalism; James B. Beam Distilling Company; Technological innovations; Whiskey industry--Kentucky

00:17:54 - Jim Beam's international growth

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Partial Transcript: Another contemporary concern of Jim Beam is international growth, which you already mentioned.

Segment Synopsis: Noe talks about Jim Beam's growing popularity internationally and the ways they are attempting to meet international regulations.

Keywords: Accreditation; America; ISO certification; Impact; International Standards of Organization (ISO); International consumers; International markets; International sales; Regulations

Subjects: Bourbon whiskey; Business enterprises, Foreign.; Distilleries--Kentucky; Distillers.; Export marketing.; James B. Beam Distilling Company; Marketing.; Quality control.; Quality of products.; Whiskey industry; Whiskey.

00:19:47 - Family involvement at Jim Beam

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Partial Transcript: So one of, one of the bra--the Jim Beam brand's trademarks is the legacy of family involvement.

Segment Synopsis: Noe talks about the legacy of family involvement at Jim Beam and it's importance to the company's image. He talks more about the high expectations placed on family members working at the distillery. He talks about his research on the Beam family genealogy.

Keywords: Beam family legacy; Changes; Descendants; Family legacies; Family members; Fred Noe (Frederick Booker Noe III); Future; Generations; Growth; Heritage; Jacob Beam; Jim Beam (James B. Beam); Labels; Promotional efforts; Relations; Relationships; Roles; Stigma

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

00:25:45 - Origins of corn whiskey / Jim Beam's start in distilling

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Partial Transcript: So have you traced the origins of the Beams' involvement in distilling?

Segment Synopsis: Noe continues his discussion of his research on the Beam family genealogy with an explanation of the origins of the use of corn to make whiskey. He talks about how Jim Beam came to be a distiller, following in his father's footsteps. He talks more about the descendants of the Beam family who were involved in distilling.

Keywords: Beam family history; Beam family legacy; Bourbon County (Ky.); Clermont (Ky.); Companies; Corn; David M. Beam; Descendants; Family legacies; Family members; Farms; Fathers; Generations; Germans; Heritage; Jim Beam (James B. Beam); Kentucky; New Orleans (La.); Old Tub; Old Weller; Origins; Pennsylvania; Prohibition; Repeal; Reputations; Rye; Sons

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

00:32:48 - Impact of the Jim Beam distillery on the community

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Partial Transcript: How does Jim Beam give back to the communities that surround it?

Segment Synopsis: Noe talks about the ways in which the company gives back to the community. He cites taxes for schools, employment, and revenue from the Kentucky Bourbon Festival as Jim Beam's main impacts on the community.

Keywords: Alcohol taxes; Attractions; Benefits; Bourbon industry; Bullitt County (Ky.); Businesses; Communities; Community involvement; Cultural impact; Cultures; Giving back; Heritage; Impact; Kentucky Bourbon Festival; Kentucky Bourbon Trail; School systems

Subjects: Alcohol--Taxation--United States.; Bourbon whiskey; Consumers.; Distillation.; Distilleries--Kentucky; Distillers.; Employment--Kentucky; Families.; James B. Beam Distilling Company; Tourism.; Whiskey industry--Kentucky

00:34:58 - Bourbon tourism

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Partial Transcript: Is tourism a big, a big factor for Jim Beam?

Segment Synopsis: Noe talks about the popularity of tourism in bourbon distilleries and talks about the ways Jim Beam has improved their tourism experiences over the years. He compares and contrasts the Kentucky Bourbon Trail and Napa Valley.

Keywords: Accessible; Atmosphere; Collaboration; Experiences; Foreign; Government; Improvements; Interest; International; Kentucky Bourbon Trail; Kentucky Distillers Association (KDA); Kentucky Tourism Division; Napa Valley; Tourists; Visitors centers

Subjects: Bourbon whiskey; Consumers.; Distillation.; Distilleries--Kentucky; James B. Beam Distilling Company; Marketing.; Product demonstrations; Tourism.; Whiskey industry--Kentucky

00:41:40 - Relationships among coworkers at Jim Beam

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Partial Transcript: So among the workers at Jim Beam, including yourself, do you notice that there's a feeling of community?

Segment Synopsis: Noe talks about the community atmosphere at Jim Beam. He talks about the role of the union at the distillery.

Keywords: Careers; Communities; Contracts; Coworkers; Employees; Family; Interactions; Jim Beam Distillery; Jobs; Occupations; Positions; Relationships; Strikes; Supervisors; Work environment; Workers; Working conditions

Subjects: Distilleries--Kentucky; Employment--Kentucky; Families.; James B. Beam Distilling Company; Labor unions--Kentucky; Whiskey industry--Kentucky

00:43:40 - Booker Noe and small batch bourbons

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Partial Transcript: So, when you were working--I'm just going to ask you a little bit more about Booker.

Segment Synopsis: Noe describes his uncle, Booker Noe. He talks about his personality and his role at the distillery. He talks about Booker's creation of small batch, premium bourbons. He talks about how a barrel's placement in the warehouse affects the bourbon's characteristics. He talks about Jim Beam's public image.

Keywords: Aging; Barrels; Booker Noe (Frederick Booker Noe II); Booker's bourbon whiskey; Bourbon industry; Categories; Characteristics; Configurations; Differences; Experimentation; Experiments; Hands on; Image; Isolated; Jim Beam (Brand); Jim Beam Boston distillery (Boston, Ky.); Jim Beam Distillery; Jim Beam White Label; Labels; Personalities; Prestige; Processes; Production; Rebuilt; Roles; Small batch bourbons; Small batch whiskey; Super premium bourbons; Ultra premium bourbon; Ultra premium bourbons; Ultra-premium bourbons; Variants; Variety; Warehouse profiles; Warehouses; Young people

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

00:51:58 - 1997 flood at the Jim Beam Boston plant

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Partial Transcript: So are there any memoral--memorable events that come to mind from your time at Jim Beam?

Segment Synopsis: Noe describes a flood that occurred at the Boston distillery location in 1997.

Keywords: 1997; Flood walls; Flooding; Indicators; Jim Beam Boston distillery (Boston, Ky.); Memorable moments; Raining; Warnings

Subjects: Bourbon whiskey; Distillation.; Distilleries--Kentucky; Distillers.; Floods--Kentucky; James B. Beam Distilling Company; Whiskey industry--Kentucky

00:53:36 - More on bourbon tourism

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Partial Transcript: Um, do you often personally deal with tourists that come into the plant?

Segment Synopsis: Noe talks about his interactions with tourists at the distillery. The interview is concluded.

Keywords: Birthplace of bourbon; Pipelines; Stories; Tour guides; Tourists; Tours

Subjects: Bourbon whiskey; Consumers.; Distillation.; Distilleries--Kentucky; James B. Beam Distilling Company; Marketing.; Product demonstrations; Tourism.; Whiskey industry--Kentucky