Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History

Interview with Craig Beam, August 28, 2013

Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries


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00:00:00 - Beginnings at Heaven Hill Distilleries / bourbon ingredients

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Partial Transcript: This is Dixie Hibbs interviewing Craig Beam on August 28th, 2013 for the Kentucky Bourbon Tales oral history project of the University of Kentucky Nunn Center for Oral History.

Segment Synopsis: Craig Beam talks about how he followed in his father and grandfather's footsteps by coming to work at Heaven Hill Distilleries. He talks about the ingredients used to make bourbon, and whether one is more important than the others.

Keywords: Beam name; Bourbon whiskey; Corn; Earl Beam; Farms; Fathers; Grain; Grandfathers; Hammer mills; Heaven Hill Distilleries; Ingredients; Jobs; Limestone water; Parker Beam; Sweet yeast; Veterinarians; Weather

Subjects: Distillation.; Distilleries--Kentucky; Distillers.; Families.; Genealogy.; Quality of products.; Whiskey.

GPS: Heaven Hill Distilleries (Bardstown, Ky.)
Map Coordinates: 38.0487074, -84.499245
00:05:14 - Families in the bourbon industry

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Partial Transcript: One of the questions I asked your father also--I'm--now I don't want you to feel like I'm just following along, uh, asking the same but I--

Segment Synopsis: Beam talks about how Heaven Hill being a family-owned business makes it different from other distilleries. He talks about how the job of distiller is often passed from father to son, mentioning his own family as well as the Russell and Noe families. He talks about his friendships with other Kentucky bourbon distillers.

Keywords: Bosses; Bourbon festivals; Bourbon industry families; Business owners; Corporations; Greg Davis; Heaven Hill Distilleries; Leadership; Noe family; Production; Russell family; Traditions

Subjects: Distilleries--Kentucky; Distillers.; Families.; Family-owned business enterprises.; Genealogy.; Whiskey industry--Kentucky

00:12:07 - Traveling to represent Heaven Hill / training a successor

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Partial Transcript: Um, the, um--what, uh, is your biggest challenge in the future now?

Segment Synopsis: Beam talks about traveling as part of his job as Master Distiller, and meeting people interested in bourbon. He talks about how he oversees the distillery while he is away. He talks about who he is training to take over his duties someday.

Keywords: Challenges; Charlie Downs; Evan Williams Bourbon Experience; Master Distillers; Microdistilleries; Overseeing; Representing Heaven Hill Distilleries; Training; Traveling

Subjects: Distilleries--Kentucky; Distillers.; Whiskey industry--Kentucky

GPS: Heaven Hill Distilleries (Bardstown, Ky.)
Map Coordinates: 38.0487074, -84.499245
00:16:00 - Favorite bourbon / Kentucky Bourbon Trail / concerns over barrel supply

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Partial Transcript: What is your favorite bland?

Segment Synopsis: Beam talks about his favorite Heaven Hill Distilleries bourbons: Evan Williams Single Barrel and Larceny. He talks about the popularity of the Kentucky Bourbon Trail. He discusses his concerns about the supply of white oak barrels not growing fast enough to meet the needs of the growing bourbon industry.

Keywords: Barrel manufacturers; Concerns; Consistency; Corn whiskey; Evan Williams Single Barrel Vintage Bourbon; Industry growth; Kentucky Bourbon Trail; Larceny Kentucky Straight Bourbon; Logs; Return customers; White oak barrels

Subjects: Alcoholic beverages.; Distilleries--Kentucky; Quality of products.; Sales promotion.; Tourism.; Whiskey industry--Kentucky; Whiskey.

00:21:37 - Buffalo Trace Distillery / marketing

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Partial Transcript: This particular distillery, uh, I know we've talked about some of it but, what do you think makes it most unique?

Segment Synopsis: Beam talks about what makes the Buffalo Trace Distillery different from other Kentucky bourbon distilleries. He talks about marketing and advertising, and talks more about traveling to promote Heaven Hill Distilleries.

Keywords: Antique distillery; Barton Brands; Bourbon industry; Brick warehouses; Building; Demand; Economic downturn; Master Distillers; Meeting people; Older equipment; Product promotion; Production; Signing autographs; Time; Traveling; Unique; Volume

Subjects: Bardstown (Ky.); Buffalo Trace Distillery; Consumers.; Distilleries--Kentucky; Distillers.; Economic conditions.; Fame.; Marketing.; Sales promotion.; Whiskey industry--Kentucky; Word-of-mouth advertising.

GPS: Buffalo Trace Distillery (Frankfort, Ky.)
Map Coordinates: 38.217506, -84.869702
00:26:46 - Beam's grandfather and other Kentucky distillers

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Partial Transcript: I have a few--

Segment Synopsis: Beam talks about his grandfather, Earl Beam, and what he taught Craig about distilling. He talks about other distillers from his grandfather's time. He discusses the history of Heaven Hill Distilleries' yeast culture. The interview is concluded.

Keywords: Booker Noe (Frederick Booker Noe II); Bourbon industry families; Calhoun; Earl Beam; Farmers; Germany; Grandfathers; Heaven Hill Distilleries; Honeybee Graham; Hudson; Jacob Beam; James B. Beam Distilling Company; Jug yeast; Learning; Seven generations; Sweet yeast; Teaching

Subjects: Beam, James B., 1864-1947--Family.; Distillation.; Distilleries--Kentucky; Distillers.; Families.; Genealogy.; Whiskey industry--Kentucky