|Type Bourbon whiskey|
Country of origin United States
Proof (US) 80 and 86
|Manufacturer Beam Suntory|
|Variants White label, Green label, Black label; (see below for complete list)|
Jim Beam is a brand of bourbon whiskey produced in Clermont, Kentucky, by Beam Suntory, a subsidiary of Suntory Holdings of Osaka, Japan. It is one of the best selling brands of bourbon in the world. Since 1795 (interrupted by Prohibition), seven generations of the Beam family have been involved in whiskey production for the company that produces the brand, which was given the name "Jim Beam" in 1933 in honor of James B. Beam, who rebuilt the business after Prohibition ended. Previously produced by the Beam family and later owned by the Fortune Brands holding company, the brand was purchased by Suntory Holdings in 2014.
During the late 18th century, members of the Böhm family, who eventually changed the spelling of their surname to "Beam", emigrated from Germany and settled in Kentucky.
Johannes "Reginald" Beam (1770–1834) was a farmer who began producing whiskey in the style that became known as bourbon. Jacob Beam sold his first barrels of corn whiskey around 1795. The whiskey was first called Old Jake Beam Sour Mash, and the distillery was known as Old Tub.
David Beam (1802–1854) took on his father's responsibilities in 1820 at the age of 18, expanding distribution of the family's bourbon during a time of industrial revolution. David M. Beam (1833–1913) in 1854 moved the distillery to Nelson County to capitalize on the growing network of railroad lines connecting states. James Beauregard Beam (1864–1947) managed the family business before and after Prohibition, rebuilding the distillery in 1933 in Clermont, Kentucky, near his Bardstown home. James B. Beam Distilling Company was founded in 1935 by Harry L. Homel, Oliver Jacobson, H. Blum and Jerimiah Beam. From this point forward, the bourbon would be called "Jim Beam Bourbon" after James Beauregard Beam, and some of the bottle labels bear the statement, "None Genuine Without My Signature" with the signature James B. Beam. T. Jeremiah Beam (1899–1977) started working at the Clear Springs distillery in 1913, later becoming the master distiller and overseeing operations at the new Clermont facility. Jeremiah Beam eventually gained full ownership and opened a second distillery near Boston, Kentucky, in 1954. Jeremiah later teamed up with childhood friend Jimberlain Joseph Quinn, to expand the enterprise.
Booker Noe (1929–2004), birth name Frederick Booker Noe II, grandson of Jim Beam, was the Master Distiller at the Jim Beam Distillery for more than 40 years, working closely with Master Distiller Jerry Dalton (1998–2007). In 1987 Booker introduced his own namesake bourbon, Booker's, the company's first uncut, straight-from-the-barrel bourbon, and the first of the company's "Small Batch Bourbon Collection".
Fred Noe (1957–present), birth name Frederick Booker Noe III, became the seventh generation Beam family distiller in 2007 and regularly travels for promotional purposes.
The Beam family has also played a major role in the history of the Heaven Hill Distillery. All of the Master Distillers at Heaven Hill since its founding have been members of the Beam family. The original Master Distiller at Heaven Hill was Joseph L. Beam, Jim Beam's first cousin. He was followed by his son, Harry, who was followed by Earl Beam, the son of Jim Beam's brother, Park. Earl Beam was then succeeded by the current Heaven Hill Master Distillers, Parker Beam and his son, Craig Beam.
In 1987, Jim Beam purchased National Brands, acquiring brands including Old Crow, Bourbon de Luxe, Old Taylor, Old Grand-Dad, and Sunny Brook. Old Taylor was subsequently sold to the Sazerac Company.
On August 4, 2003, a fire destroyed a Jim Beam aging warehouse in Bardstown, Kentucky. It held about 19,000 barrels of bourbon. Flames rose more than 100 feet from the burning structure. Burning bourbon spilled from the warehouse and set a nearby creek on fire. An estimated 19,000 fish died of the bourbon in the creek and a river.
For some period of time, Jim Beam was part of the holding company formerly known as Fortune Brands that was dismantled in 2011. Other parts of the remaining company were spun off as an IPO on the NYSE on the same day, as Fortune Brands Home & Security, and the liquor division of the holding company was renamed Beam, Inc. on October 4, 2011.
In January 2014, it was announced that Jim Beam would be purchased by Suntory Holdings Ltd., a Japanese group of brewers & distillers known for producing Japan's first whiskey. Suntory agreed to acquire Jim Beam, Maker's Mark, Teacher's Highland Cream and Laphroaig distillery Scotch whiskies for approximately $13.62 billion and also take on Beam's debt. This deal is the biggest Suntory has ever agreed to and will elevate them to the third largest maker of distilled drinks in the world. The combined company is expected to have annual sales of spirits products of more than $4.3 billion. Suntory will pay $83.50 per share, a 25 percent premium to Beam's Friday closing price of $66.97. The companies put the deal's value at about $16 billion, including debt. According to press releases regarding the deal, the Illinois-based Jim Beam will continue to be managed by its current leadership. Beam and Suntory unanimously approved the transaction; however, the deal needs to be approved by Beam Inc. stockholders. Pending approval by its shareholders, the deal was expected to close by June 30, 2014. Jim Beam and Suntory have a previous partnership where they would freely distribute each other's brands in different markets.
In October 2016 more than 200 workers went on strike at Jim Beam Distilleries in Clermont and Boston after voting to reject their latest contract offer.
In the history of the brand now known as Jim Beam, there have been seven generations of distillers from the Beam (and Noe) family. Retired Master Distiller Jerry Dalton (1998–2007) was the first non-Beam to be Master Distiller at the company, and his successor was a member of the family.
Several varieties bearing the Jim Beam name are available.
Several of these offerings have performed quite well at international spirits ratings competitions. For example, Jim Beam's Black label was awarded a gold medal at the 2012 San Francisco World Spirits Competition. Jim Beam Black also won a Gold Outstanding medal at the 2013 International Wine and Spirit Competition.
Bourbon whiskey distillers must follow government standards for production. By law (27 C.F.R. 5), any "straight" bourbon must be: produced in the United States; made of a grain mix of at least 51% corn; distilled at no higher than 160 proof (80% ABV); free of any additives (except water to reduce proof for aging and bottling); aged in new, charred white oak barrels; entered into the aging barrels at no higher than 125 proof (62.5% ABV), aged for a minimum of 2 years, and bottled at no less than 80 proof (40% ABV).
Jim Beam starts with water filtered naturally by the limestone shelf found in Central Kentucky. A strain of yeast used since the end of Prohibition is added to a tank with the grains to create what is known as "dona yeast", used later in the fermentation process. Hammer mills grind the mix of corn, rye and barley malt to break it down for easier cooking. The mix is then moved into a large mash cooker where water and set back are added. The "set back" is a portion of the old mash from the previous distillation—the key step of the sour mash process, ensuring consistency from batch to batch.
From the cooker, the mash heads to the fermenter where it is cooled to 60–70 °F and yeast is added again. The yeast is fed by the sugars in the mash, producing heat, carbon dioxide and alcohol. Called "distiller's beer" or "wash", the resulting liquid (after filtering to remove solids) looks, smells and tastes like (and essentially is) a form of beer. The wash is pumped into a column still where it is heated to over 200 °F, causing the alcohol to turn to a vapor. As the vapor cools and falls it turns to a liquid called "low wine", which measures 125 proof or 62.5% alcohol. A second distillation in a pot still heats and condenses the liquid into "high wine", which reaches 135 proof (67.5% alcohol).
The high wine is moved to new, charred American oak barrels, each of which hold about 53 gallons of liquid. A "bung" is used to seal the barrels before moving them to nearby hilltop rackhouses where they will age up to nine years. As the seasons change, natural weather variations expand and contract the barrel wood, allowing bourbon to seep into the barrel, and the caramelized sugars from the charred oak flavor and color the bourbon. A significant portion (known as the "angel's share") of the 53 gallons of bourbon escapes the barrel through evaporation, or stays trapped in the wood of the barrel. Jim Beam ages for at least four years, or twice as long as the government requires for a "straight" bourbon. At the end of the aging period the amber liquid is filtered, bottled, packaged and sent to one of many distributors around the world using the three-tier distribution system.
Food and merchandise
On July 26, 2004, THANASI Foods announced the release of Jim Beam Soaked Sunflower Seeds, a snack product soaked in Jim Beam and available in 3 flavors; Original, Barbeque, and Jalapeño. On October 18, 2004, the company announced the addition of Jim Beam Soaked Beef Jerky to the range. Jim Beam has a licensing agreement with Vita Food Products to manufacture and sell Jim Beam BBQ Sauces, Marinades, Mustards, Steak Sauces, Hot Sauce, Wing Sauce, Pancake Syrup and Glazes. Vita Specialty Foods also produces a range of Jim Beam hot smoked and fresh, marinated salmon. Top Shelf Gourmet specializes in Jim Beam bourbon-infused fresh pork and poultry products, including Jim Beam Bourbon Barrel Ham, Pulled Pork, and Pulled Chicken.
Brandmark Products produces a full range of Jim Beam branded billiard and home recreation products. Zippo produces a range of Jim Beam branded pocket and multi-purpose lighters. Bradley Smoker produces a line of Jim Beam branded smokers and smoking briquettes made from Jim Beam Barrels. Silver Buffalo designs Jim Beam wall art, dartboards and accessories for home recreational use. Concept One develops Jim Beam headwear. Headline Entertainment develops Jim Beam T-shirts and outerwear. Sherwood Brands produces a full line of Jim Beam gift sets.
Outside the United States, Beam Global Spirits & Wine has had a sales and distribution alliance with The Edrington Group since 2009.