Interview with Fred Noe, November 14, 2013

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

 

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00:00:04 - Bourbon industry families in Bardstown, Kentucky

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Partial Transcript: Let's start off with a basic question.

Segment Synopsis: Fred Noe talks about growing up on Distillers' Row in Bardstown, Kentucky with other families that were also involved in the bourbon industry.

Keywords: Bourbon industry; Bourbon industry families; Charlie DeSpain; Distillers' Row (Bardstown, Ky.); Friends; Jim Beam Distillery; Knob Creek Guesthouse; Master Distillers

Subjects: Distilleries--Kentucky; Distillers.; Families.; James B. Beam Distilling Company; Whiskey industry--Kentucky

GPS: Bardstown (Ky.)
Map Coordinates: 37.815556, -85.463056
00:02:48 - Family business

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Partial Transcript: You are, uh--tell us your relationship to, uh, Jim Beam.

Segment Synopsis: Noe talks about the descendants of Jim Beam who have worked in the distillery, and how he came to work at Jim Beam. He talks about the various jobs he has held at the distillery over the years. He talks about his favorite place in the distillery.

Keywords: Booker Noe (Frederick Booker Noe II); Bottling lines; Bourbon industry; Childhood; College; Decisions; Departments; Fathers; Fermenters; First jobs; Generations; Hank Williams Jr.; Jim Beam; Jim Beam Distillery; Learning; Mash; Night shifts; Parents; Supervisors; Tailbox; White whiskey

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

GPS: Jim Beam Distillery (Clermont, Ky.)
Map Coordinates: 37.928317, -84.499245
00:09:09 - Changes in the bourbon industry and the bourbon making process / super premium bourbons

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Partial Transcript: Once again, close to thirty years in the business, have you seen many changes in how bourbon is made?

Segment Synopsis: Noe talks about how the process of making bourbon and the bourbon industry have changed over the years. He talks about how the category of super premium bourbons began. He talks about changes in the bourbon making process that create variations in the products.

Keywords: "Bourbon Renaissance"; Aging; Booker Noe (Frederick Booker Noe II); Bottling proof; Bourbon industry; Changes; Computers; Consistency; Differences; Drinking bourbon; Elmer T. Lee; Enjoying; Jimmy Russell; Laws; Popularity; Process; Products; Single barrel bourbon; Special; Super premium bourbons; Technology; Traveling; Variables

Subjects: Alcoholic beverages.; Distillation.; Distilleries--Kentucky; Distillers.; James B. Beam Distilling Company; Quality of products.; Sales promotion.; Whiskey industry--Kentucky; Whiskey.

GPS: Jim Beam Distillery (Clermont, Ky.)
Map Coordinates: 37.928317, -84.499245
00:15:14 - Jim Beam / Booker Noe and small batch bourbons

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Partial Transcript: What would--in your--what would you think your great-grandfather would think about the bourbon industry today?

Segment Synopsis: Noe talks about the careers Jim Beam tried outside of the distilling industry during Prohibition, and tells a story about Jim Beam. He talks about his father, Booker Noe, traveling to promote Jim Beam products. He talks about Booker beginning to create super premium bourbons, and the production of the Booker's brand bourbon.

Keywords: Booker Noe (Frederick Booker Noe II); Booker Noe Plant; Booker's bourbon whiskey; Bourbon industry; Elmer T. Lee; Fathers; Formal; Jim Beam; Jim Beam Boston distillery (Boston, Ky.); Jim Beam Clermont distillery (Clermont, Ky.); Jim Beam Distillery; New products; Pictures; Sampling; Small batch bourbon; Stories; Super premium bourbons; Three-piece suits; Traveling

Subjects: Beam, James B., 1864-1947; Families.; Genealogy.; Prohibition.; Sales promotion.; Whiskey industry--Kentucky; Whiskey.

00:22:21 - Beam family's involvement with other distilleries

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Partial Transcript: Um, your family is so synonymous with bourbon.

Segment Synopsis: Noe talks about various members of the Beam family who have worked for other distilleries in the area. He talks about why so many members of his family are involved in the bourbon industry.

Keywords: Beam family; Bourbon industry; Craig Beam; Generations; Heaven Hill Distilleries; J. Elmo Beam; Jim Beam; Jobs; Park Beam; Parker Beam

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

00:25:25 - Jim Beam's international market / fame

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Partial Transcript: Switching gears. Bourbon in its early days was a regional spirit and then it grad, gradually became a national spirit.

Segment Synopsis: Noe talks about promoting and selling Jim Beam products in countries outside of the U.S. He talks about signing autographs, having his likeness on a bottle of Jim Beam, traveling, and meeting celebrities due to his fame in the bourbon industry.

Keywords: Australia; Booker Noe (Frederick Booker Noe II); Booker's bourbon whiskey; Celebrities; Chris Penn; Germany; Global market; Growth; International sales; Japan; Jim Beam bourbon whiskey; Labels; Language barriers; Master Distillers; Russia; Signing autographs; Traveling; United Kingdom (U.K.)

Subjects: Business enterprises, Foreign.; Export marketing.; Fame.; James B. Beam Distilling Company; Marketing.; Product demonstrations; Sales promotion.; Whiskey industry; Whiskey.

00:32:33 - Camaraderie in the bourbon industry / new products / next generation of the Beam family

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Partial Transcript: Um, bourbon industry has, has had its share of characters.

Segment Synopsis: Noe talks about the friendships between people in the bourbon industry, and talks about strong personalities in the industry. He talks about new trends and products in the bourbon industry. He talks about the next generation of the Beam family, and his son, Frederick Booker Noe IV.

Keywords: Beam family; Bill Samuels; Bourbon industry; Camaraderie; Characters; Distillers' Row (Bardstown, Ky.); Elmer T. Lee; Freddie Noe (Frederick Booker Noe IV); Generations; Infused bourbons; Innovation; Jim Beam Devil's Cut bourbon whiskey; Jim Beam Distillery; Jimmy Russell; New consumers; New products; Parker Beam; Stories; Super premium bourbons; Trends; Whiskey festivals

Subjects: Alcoholic beverages.; Beam, James B., 1864-1947--Family.; Consumers.; Distilleries--Kentucky; Distillers.; Families.; Family-owned business enterprises.; Genealogy.; James B. Beam Distilling Company; Quality of products.; Whiskey industry--Kentucky; Women in the whiskey industry

00:37:18 - Bourbon making process

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Partial Transcript: Um, could you tell us a little bit o--step by step the process of making bourbon?

Segment Synopsis: Noe describes the bourbon making process step-by-step, from the grains to fermentation to distilling and then aging.

Keywords: Aging; Alcohol; Angel's share; Beer stills; Bottling; Charred oak barrels; Chill filtered; Column stills; Corn; Distiller's beer; Doublers; Fermentation; Grains; Heat; Jim Beam; Malted barley; Mash cookers; Rackhouses; Rye; Seasons; Sugar; Thumpers; Vapors; White whiskey; Yeast strains

Subjects: Beam, James B., 1864-1947; Distillation.; Distilleries--Kentucky; James B. Beam Distilling Company; Whiskey industry--Kentucky; Whiskey.

GPS: Jim Beam Distillery (Clermont, Ky.)
Map Coordinates: 37.928317, -84.499245
00:41:38 - Barrels and rackhouses

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Partial Transcript: The barrel is such an important part of the process. Can you tell us what kind of barrels you use and how you, um, char them?

Segment Synopsis: Noe talks about the barrels used by the Jim Beam Distillery to age their products, and talks about why the barrels are charred. He talks about the rackhouses at the Jim Beam Distillery, how barrels age differently in various locations in the rackhouse, how the seasons affect the aging process, and how the distillery maintains consistency in their products. He talks about why most bourbon is made in Kentucky.

Keywords: Aging; Alcohol proofs; American white oak barrels; Barrels; Bourbon whiskey; Charred; Climate; Consistency; Cooperage; Iron; Jim Beam; Kentucky; Limestone water; Number 4 char; Rackhouses; Seasons; Sugar; Temperatures; Vertical cross-sections

Subjects: Beam, James B., 1864-1947; Distillation.; Distilleries--Kentucky; James B. Beam Distilling Company; Quality of products.; Whiskey industry--Kentucky; Whiskey.

GPS: Jim Beam Distillery (Clermont, Ky.)
Map Coordinates: 37.928317, -84.499245
00:46:11 - Jimmy Russell / advice from his father

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Partial Transcript: Alright, Jimmy Russell is a, a Master Distiller at another, um, distillery.

Segment Synopsis: Noe describes his relationship with Jimmy Russell, Master Distiller for Wild Turkey. He talks about the advice his father, Booker Noe, gave him about working in the bourbon industry.

Keywords: Booker Noe (Frederick Booker Noe II); Competition; Consistency; Fathers; Good grains; Ingredients; Jimmy Russell; Mentors; Relationships; Truth

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

00:49:34 - Stories about the Beam's kitchen table

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Partial Transcript: Now, uh, speaking--staying on the subject again of Booker and the making of bourbon and passing on of knowledge.

Segment Synopsis: Noe tells several stories centered around the kitchen table at the Beam house, including how Booker Noe conducted his taste tests for Booker's Bourbon, taste testing the last batch of Booker's Bourbon before his father's death, and his mother's cooking accidents.

Keywords: Accidents; Annis Wickham Noe; Beam house; Booker Noe (Frederick Booker Noe II); Booker's bourbon whiskey; Compliments; Cooking with bourbon; Kitchen tables; Last batch; Mothers; Research and development; Samples; Stories; Taste testing; Toogie Dick

Subjects: Alcoholic beverages.; Beam, James B., 1864-1947--Family.; Distillers.; Families.; James B. Beam Distilling Company; Quality control.; Quality of products.; Whiskey industry--Kentucky; Whiskey.

00:55:52 - Drinking bourbon / advice for his son

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Partial Transcript: What was your--Booker's favorite way to drink bourbon?

Segment Synopsis: Noe talks about his father's method for tasting bourbon, once called the "Kentucky Chew." He talks about how he and his father prefered to drink their bourbon. He talks about the advice he gave his son, Freddie Noe, before he started working in the bourbon industry. He talks about introducing bourbon to other countries.

Keywords: "Kentucky Chew"; Advice; Booker Noe (Frederick Booker Noe II); Bourbon industry; Consistency; Drinking bourbon; Enjoyment; Flavors; Freddie Noe (Frederick Booker Noe IV); Fun; Honesty; Ice; Ingredients; Russia; Tasting; Traveling; Truth; Water

Subjects: Alcoholic beverages.; Beam, James B., 1864-1947--Family.; Distillers.; Families.; Family-owned business enterprises.; Genealogy.; James B. Beam Distilling Company; Quality of products.; Whiskey industry--Kentucky; Whiskey.

01:00:05 - Prohibition

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Partial Transcript: Uh, switching gears going back to a difficult time in your family's history, Prohibition.

Segment Synopsis: Noe talks about bootlegging in Bardstown, Kentucky during Prohibition, and why people were continuing to distill alcohol. He talks about how Jim Beam sold the distillery during Prohibition.

Keywords: Beverage alcohol; Bootlegging; Drinking alcohol; Farms; Government; Jim Beam; Jim Beam Distillery; Moonshining; Selling; Stillage; Stills

Subjects: Alcoholic beverages.; Bardstown (Ky.); Beam, James B., 1864-1947; Distillation.; Distillers.; Distilling, Illicit; Economic conditions.; James B. Beam Distilling Company; Prohibition.; Quality of products.; Whiskey industry--Kentucky--History.; Whiskey.

GPS: Bardstown (Ky.)
Map Coordinates: 37.815556, -85.463056
01:03:56 - Bourbon industry tourism

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Partial Transcript: Fred, bourbon is growing in, uh, in p, in popularity and, um, this area in, in K, uh, in Kentucky, um, where bourbon is made is becoming quite a tourist destination--

Segment Synopsis: Noe talks about the popularity of distillery tours and the Kentucky Bourbon Trail. The interview is concluded.

Keywords: Jim Beam American Stillhouse; Kentucky Bourbon Trail; Popularity; Visitors

Subjects: Consumers.; Distilleries--Kentucky; James B. Beam Distilling Company; Product demonstrations; Sales promotion.; Tourism.; Whiskey industry--Kentucky

GPS: Jim Beam American Stillhouse (Clermont, Ky.)
Map Coordinates: 37.9310608, -85.6536011