The Beam Family’s Bourbon Heritage

The Beam Family’s Bourbon Heritage is a fascinating look at one family’s contribution to Kentucky Bourbon. Most people are aware of the Jim Beam brand and its leading role in the industry. Many members of the family made considerable contributions to forerunners of the Beam brand and then that brand itself. However, some of the family members impacted the industry well beyond the family brand. Here is a brief snapshot of a segment of the family.

Colonel James B. Beam entered the Kentucky Bourbon Hall of Fame in 2002. He was known to his friends as Jim Beam but carried the formal title by being a Kentucky Colonel. Colonel Beam unveiled the brand Jim Beam Bourbon with each bottle featuring his signature. It has been the world’s number one bourbon ever since.

The Jim Beam Distillery
The iconic Jim Beam Distillery featuring much of the Beam Family’s bourbon heritage.

Worldwide Distribution

Jeremiah Beam was Jim Beam’s son and joined the Hall of fame in 2005. He joined the family business at the Clear Springs Distillery in 1913. He was a great marketer and made sure Beam manufactured bourbon was made available to servicemembers overseas.

Carl Beam joined the Hall of Fame in 2006. Carl became the master distiller of the James B. Beam distillery Company in 1945. He went on to become extremely knowledgeable of all things bourbon. Using his extensive knowledge, he taught many distillers the craft, including his sons Baker and David.

In 2007, Edward Baker Beam became a member of the Hall. He is the son of Carl Beam, grandson of Jeremiah Beam, and great-grandson of Col. James B. Beam. He became the Master Distiller at the Clermont Distillery in 1974. In 1978, the company released the premium Jim Beam Black Label, which was aged longer than Jim Beam White Label.

David M. Beam became a member of the Hall in 2009. He was the father of Colonel James B. Beam. In 1856 he moved the family distillery to Nelson County, Kentucky. Having new and easier access to railroad lines, his D. M. Beam Company could ship his whiskey where needed. The brand Old Tub took on National significance through this increased distribution network.

Tasting Room at Heaven Hill Distillery
Inside a tasting room at Heaven Hill Distillery

Heaven Hill Distillery

Parker Beam was a member of the introductory Hall of Fame class of 2001. After learning the business from his father Earl at Heaven Hill Distillery, he went on to become the master distiller succeeding his father in 1975. He was a recipient of “The Lifetime Achievement Award from the Bourbon Hall of Fame in 2015. This prestigious award now carries his name.

Earl Beam joined the Hall in 2003. Earl was Jim Beam’s nephew. Earl worked in the family business until he became only the second Master Distiller at Heaven Hill Distillery. In 1957, Earl introduced Heaven Hill’s flagship Bourbon Evan Williams.

Early Times, Four Roses, and Eagle Rare.

John Henry “Jack” Beam entered the Hall in 2009. He was the son of David Beam and worked with his father until, at the age of 21, he built is own plant near Bardstown. The Early Times Distillery was successful, but Jack eventually lost financial control. He stayed on as Master Distiller and produced the Early Times and Jack Beam brands. Brown Forman later purchased the Early Times brand.

Charles L. Beam is the grand nephew of Jim Beam. During World War II, he was a distinguished member of the Army Air Corps who flew 30 missions over Europe. Charles began working at Four Roses Distillery and was named Master Distiller after just six years. Charles led the development and introduction of Benchmark and Eagle Rare Bourbons.  Both of these bourbons are now owned by the Sazerac Company. Charles joined the Hall in 2010.

This article is a small snapshot of the Beam family’s bourbon heritage. They are one of the most influential bourbon families, and their importance to the industry cannot be understated. They are all proud and deserving members of the Kentucky Bourbon Hall of Fame.