Colonel James B (“call me Jim”) Beam, the man whose name graces the bottles of “the world’s finest bourbon” was actually only the fourth generation of Beams to head up the family distillery.
The Beams were originally Boehms, German immigrants to the USA. Great-granddaddy Jacob founded the distillery in 1795. At this stage, the whiskey produced went by the name Old Tub. When Jim Beam took over in 1894, he continued this tradition until Prohibition started in 1920 and he sold the distillery to start a citrus farm instead. Luckily for the world, Jim rebuilt the distillery in 1933 when Prohibition ended, taking just 120 days to complete the construction and add his moniker to the product. Jim Beam Bourbon was born.
Today, the name Jim Beam is everywhere. It graces not only the bourbon itself, but also food (such as bourbon-based sauces and marinades, and meat products infused with the bourbon), home recreation products, clothing and wall art. The company’s The Stuff Inside Matters campaign, which celebrates people who embody the Jim Beam spirit, such as NASCAR driver Robby Gordon, has also ensured that the Jim Beam brand remains omnipresent and uppermost in people’s consciousness.
So, the question then has to be asked… does the bourbon live up to all this branding hype?
Well, there’s no doubt that the distillery, now run by the seventh generation of the Beam family, takes pride in its product. Jim Beam, for example, was so protective of the yeast strain used to make the bourbon that he took a jug of it home with him every weekend, a tradition that is still continued today.
However, the standard Jim Beam offering, the White label (aged 4 years, 80 proof), garners mixed reviews from bourbon drinkers. Our feeling is that this is probably a good introductory bourbon, something you’ll cut your whiskey teeth on, so to speak. But, once you have a few tastings down your gullet, you’ll more than likely start seeing the limitations in this label. Then it’s time to move on to the other colours in the Jim Beam label spectrum – Green (aged 5 years, 80 proof), Black (aged 8 years, 86 proof) and Yellow (rye whiskey, aged 4 years, 80 proof) – or to bypass those entirely for the distillery’s super-premium bourbons from their Small Batch Collection.
This collection of handcrafted bourbons was officially launched in 1992 with the addition of Baker’s, Basil Hayden’s and Knob Creek to the already existing Booker’s. Today, Knob Creek (aged 9 years, 100 proof) is the world’s top-selling super-premium bourbon, and one of our personal favourites. It’s good. Very good. Trust me.
General Tasting Notes
After reading all about the Jim Beam distillery, we bet you’re curious to taste their whisky – click here to buy a bottle of Jim Beam now!
Distillery Contact Information
Address: 149 Happy Hollow Road, Shepherdsville, Kentucky, 40165
Tel: +1 502 543 9877
Tours: Monday to Friday (all year) 09:00 – 16:30, Sunday (March to December only) 13:00 – 16:00. Closed New Year’s Day, Easter, Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Tours are free of charge, and are currently largely self-guided, although the distillery is in the process of revamping these.
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