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Interview with Baker Beam, November 14, 2013

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

 

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00:00:04 - Beam family

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Partial Transcript: Okay. Um, can you please tell us your name and where you were born?

Segment Synopsis: Baker Beam talks about where he was born and where he lived during his childhood. He talks about his relation to James B. Beam, and discusses other members of the Beam family.

Keywords: Beam family; Brothers; Carl Beam; David Beam; Distillery grounds; Fathers; Grandfathers; Jeremiah Beam House; Jim Beam Distillery; Master Distillers; Park Beam; Post office house

Subjects: Beam, James B., 1864-1947; Clermont (Ky.); Distilleries--Kentucky; Distillers.; Genealogy.; James B. Beam Distilling Company

GPS: Jeremiah Beam House (Clermont, Ky.)
Map Coordinates: 37.930824, -84.499245
00:03:02 - Career path at Jim Beam Distillery

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Partial Transcript: But you literally grew up here at--

Segment Synopsis: Beam talks about his first job as a nightwatchman at the distillery. He talks about being in the labor pool, transferring to the bottling house, becoming a relief operator, and being a distillery supervisor before finally becoming a distiller. He talks about what he learned from Booker Noe and his father, Carl Beam. He talks about a market slump that occurred in the bourbon industry during his time at the distillery.

Keywords: Booker Noe (Frederick Booker Noe II); Bottling houses; Bourbon business; Bourbon industry; Careers; Carl Beam; Distillery supervisors; Fathers; First jobs; Jim Beam Boston distillery (Boston, Ky.); Jim Beam bourbon whiskey; Labor pools; Nightwatchmen; Relief operators; Sales; Shut down; Teaching; Trouble; Truck driving; Yeast

Subjects: Distilleries--Kentucky; Distillers.; Economic conditions.; Families.; Family-owned business enterprises.; James B. Beam Distilling Company; Whiskey industry--Kentucky

GPS: Jim Beam Distillery (Clermont, Ky.)
Map Coordinates: 37.928317, -84.499245
00:09:09 - Memories of living on the distillery grounds / Beam name

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Partial Transcript: Let's back up again before we get into your career here.

Segment Synopsis: Beam talks about growing up in a house on the distillery grounds. He talks about how remote the location was, hunting and fishing on the grounds, and playing in the distillery as a child. He discusses when he realized the significance of the Beam family name.

Keywords: Beam bottles; Beam name; Bourbon industry families; Capacity; Carl Beam; Delivery trucks; Distillery grounds; Fathers; Fishing; Hunting; Jeremiah Beam House; Louisville (Ky.); Production; Remote areas; Rural areas; Signing autographs; Steam engines; Steam-powered

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

GPS: Jim Beam Distillery (Clermont, Ky.)
Map Coordinates: 37.928317, -84.499245
00:15:44 - A story about Jim Beam / danger in the distillery

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Partial Transcript: Um, do you have, um, you, you have some vague memories of your grandfather?

Segment Synopsis: Beam tells a story about his great uncle, Jim Beam, hiring a man to clean the distillery smokestacks. He talks about the dangers of working in the old distillery, and talks about several fires that have occurred over the years.

Keywords: Boiler rooms; Cleaning smokestacks; Dangerous; Dick Shepard; Dryer houses; Fires; Jim Beam; Lack of safety; One-legged man

Subjects: Beam, James B., 1864-1947; Distilleries--Kentucky; Distillers.; James B. Beam Distilling Company

GPS: Jim Beam Distillery (Clermont, Ky.)
Map Coordinates: 37.928317, -84.499245
00:20:23 - Bourbon making process

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Partial Transcript: Um, how long have y--did--were you in the bourbon industry?

Segment Synopsis: Beam talks about the bourbon-making process and how it has changed as the distillery has become more modernized over the years. He describes the steps in the distilling process. He talks about the importance of keeping the Jim Beam strain of yeast safe.

Keywords: Advancements; Barrels; Bourbon industry; Bourbon making process; Careers; Computers; Doublers; Dryer houses; Equipment; Fermenters; Grain; Jim Beam; Jim Beam bourbon whiskey; Jobs; Mash cookers; Mills; Modernized; Quality; Stillage; Stills; Trucks; Volume; Warehouses; Water; Yeast strains

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

GPS: Jim Beam Distillery (Clermont, Ky.)
Map Coordinates: 37.928317, -84.499245
00:25:45 - Drinking bourbon / Old Tub / Prohibition / small batch bourbons

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Partial Transcript: Um, you grew up obviously drinking bourbon. What, um--how does a Beam drink bourbon?

Segment Synopsis: Beam talks about how he and his father prefer to drink bourbon. He talks about the Old Tub brand of bourbon. He discusses the activities of moonshiners during Prohibition. He discusses his opinions on small batch bourbons.

Keywords: Alcohol proofs; Baker's Bourbon; Bourbon industry; Carl Beam; Cola; Drinking bourbon; Fathers; Interest; Jim Beam White Label; Moonshine stills; Moonshiners; Nelson County (Ky.); Old Tub bourbon; Prices; Products; Risks; Small batch bourbons; Super premium bourbons; Water

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

00:31:13 - Bourbon industry community

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Partial Transcript: Um, the bourbon industry in, in a sense is like one big family.

Segment Synopsis: Beam talks about his relationships with other people in the bourbon industry, including his brother David, as well as Parker Beam, and Booker Noe. He talks about his feelings on new products and the products of Jim Beam's competitors. He talks about why he did not travel to promote the company, and why most bourbon is made in Kentucky.

Keywords: Beam name; Booker Noe (Frederick Booker Noe II); Bourbon community; Bourbon industry; Brothers; Carl Beam; Competing brands; Competition; David Beam; Fathers; Fish; Fred Noe (Frederick Booker Noe III); Friends; Jeremiah Beam House; Jim Beam American Outpost; Jim Beam American Stillhouse; Jim Beam Boston distillery (Boston, Ky.); Jobs; New products; Parker Beam; Traveling

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

00:37:35 - Working at the Clermont, Kentucky Jim Beam distillery

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Partial Transcript: Can you describe, going back to when you were in the distillery and you were running the Clermont plant, which is a--the--a very big plant, uh, a typical day?

Segment Synopsis: Beam describes a typical day working at the Jim Beam distillery in Clermont. He talks about his responsibilities as a distiller. He discusses the other employees, whether they often socialized with each other, and whether they drank any of the whiskey while working.

Keywords: "Shiny barrels"; Cafeterias; Drinking bourbon; Ethyl carbamate; Jim Beam Clermont distillery (Clermont, Ky.); Lifetime employees; New distillery; On time; Overflow; Responsibilities; Schedules; Socializing; Stills; Typical day; White whiskey; Work shifts; Working around-the-clock

Subjects: Alcoholic beverages.; Distillation.; Distilleries--Kentucky; Distillers.; James B. Beam Distilling Company; Whiskey industry--Kentucky; Whiskey--Anecdotes

GPS: Jim Beam Distillery (Clermont, Ky.)
Map Coordinates: 37.928317, -84.499245
00:43:15 - Government inspectors at the distillery during the 1950s

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Partial Transcript: Um, tell us a little bit about the warehouses when they used to be locked up by the government.

Segment Synopsis: Beam talks about government agents whose job was to inspect the distillery and its products, and to keep the buildings locked in order to ensure the proper amount of taxes were paid.

Keywords: "Gaugers"; Alcohol proofs; Alcohol taxes; Friends; Government agents; Government inspectors; Locked; Resentment; Warehouses

Subjects: Alcohol--Taxation--United States.; Distillation.; Distilleries--Kentucky; Quality control.; Quality of products.; Whiskey industry--Kentucky--History.

GPS: Jim Beam Distillery (Clermont, Ky.)
Map Coordinates: 37.928317, -84.499245
00:47:15 - Retirement / Beam family in the bourbon industry

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Partial Transcript: Um, you've been retired now for a number of years. Do you miss the business?

Segment Synopsis: Beam talks about how he has been spending his time since he retired and how he would feel about going back to the distillery. He talks about the Beam family tradition of working in the bourbon industry, his work ethic, and what advice he would give to someone in the bourbon industry now. The interview is concluded.

Keywords: Advice; Aggressive; Beam family; Booker Noe (Frederick Booker Noe II); Bourbon business; Carl Beam; Different; Distillery talk; Fathers; Fred Noe (Frederick Booker Noe III); Freddie Noe (Frederick Booker Noe IV); Growing industry; Hardworking; Knowledge; Leadership; Learning; Modernized; Retired; Role models; Teaching; Truck driving; Word-of-mouth advertising

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