SAMPLE: Interview with Fred Noe, November 14, 2013

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

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0:04 - 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

2:48 - 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

9:09 - 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

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.

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.

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.

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

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

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

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

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.

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.

60:05 - 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

63:56 - 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

 UNKNOWN MALE: ----------(??)

JIM KORKORUS: Okay, let's start off, uh, with a basic question. Can you tell us your name and, um, your, your, your job title or function here at, at the distillery?

FRED NOE: I'm Fred Noe. I'm the Master Distiller here at Jim Beam.

KORKORUS: And we're sitting in a beautiful setting here. Can you describe that here on the distillery grounds?

NOE: We are in the Knob Creek Guest House on the distillery grounds, here, in Clermont.


NOE: Uh, we acquired this house. Uh, when we bought this property, and we use it for letting customers stay here if they come visit, and, uh, meetings, and lunches, and interviews like we're doing right now.

KORKORUS: And we're only a few miles from Bardstown, Kentucky. Uh, can you tell us, um, a little bit about the town, and is that where you were born?

NOE: Yeah. I was born and raised in Bardstown, Kentucky, the bourbon capital of the world. Bardstown's about fifteen miles from where we're sitting right now. Uh, it's, uh, was the home for many, many distilleries before Prohibition. 1:00Uh, several came back after Prohibition. Now there's just a couple that are still up and running there, but that was the main industry in Bardstown back in the old days. The main street, North Third Street, uh, was known as "Distiller's Row" because of the master distillers that lived along the main street of Bardstown. Now, I guess I'm the only master distiller that's still living on Third Street in Bardstown, but.

KORKORUS: What was it like growing up in Bardstown, in that environment, in that bourbon environment? Did, what, did the bourbon families intermingle? Did they associate with each other? Were they friends? Were they competitors?

NOE: Oh, you know, growing up in Bardstown when I was a kid, there was many, many families involved in the bourbon industry, and we were all friends. I mean, Charlie DeSpain, who was, at the time, was the plant manager at Heaven Hill. He lived about a half a block from our house. And every year at the 2:00Bourbon Open golf tournament, Charlie hosted a, a huge cocktail party in his backyard. And I can remember being, as a kid, watching the people come and go from his house that, that night. And everybody was friendly. I mean, you know, it was a, you know, a lot of families were touching bourbon. And it wasn't, you know, that was a big industry, so everybody's families worked in different distilleries--

KORKORUS: --um-hm--

NOE: --and that was just what your, your, uh, folks did, was, that's what, like my dad was at Jim Beam. Uh, friend of mine down the street, his mom worked at Heaven Hill, and there was Barton and Schenley and Double Springs and all these other distilleries right there in Nelson County. So, yeah, it was very common.

KORKORUS: You are, um, tell us your relationship to, uh, Jim Beam.

NOE: Jim Beam was my great-grandfather. Uh, I'm the seventh generation of Beams to be involved in the bourbon industry, here, in Kentucky.


KORKORUS: Um-hm. And growing up, were you aware that you were part of this, um, um, established, and albeit, famous distilling family? Were you aware of that?

NOE: Well, you know, growing up, you know, in the family, my dad was the boss at Jim Beam. That was all I knew as a boy and I went with him to the distillery. You know, and that's where I learned to hunt, where I learned to fish. You know, I rode on the trucks. The train that came in that delivered goods, grain, and other, uh, products they used, I would ride on the train. I mean, it was just a place where my dad worked. Then a lot of my friends' fathers worked there, too. So, that's just where our parents worked. And you didn't really think about it, what it was all about until later in life when--

KORKORUS: --um-hm--

NOE: --you know, I was away at military school and my father would bring bottles to the, all the teachers. That's probably what kept me in school. But 4:00for Christmas gifts, he would bring bottles of bourbon down. And then it kind of, I became aware that, you know, my family was pretty special because we made bourbon and a lot of people like bourbon. But when you're a kid growing up, it's just another job, I mean, for your, your parents did it.

KORKORUS: When you were young, younger, uh, maybe as a boy, did you always think you would just, was it assumed that you would go into the family business?

NOE: No, my dad, to be honest, Booker, he, he did a lot to try to discourage--

KORKORUS: --hmm--

NOE: --me from coming into the bourbon business to where it was my decision. He never wanted me to feel any pressure that I was expected to come to work at Jim Beam. I mean, he wanted it to be my call and the decision that I wanted to do. So, I mean, he would try to paint a bad picture. And, you know, get your 5:00college education where you can do anything you want to do. You don't want to work at the distillery. You want to do something better, something different. So, but in the back of his mind that's what he wanted me to do. But in his way, that was his way of making it be my decision and not him dragging me into it.

KORKORUS: And when did you make that decision?

NOE: After I got out of college, I was, uh, that was Dad's one rule for me was, uh, finish college and then we'll talk about giving you a job, if that's what you want to do. Since he didn't finish college, you know, his thing for me was to make sure I had my college education. So, when I got finished with college, I considered going on the road with, uh, Hank Williams Jr. That was a, a country music band that Jim Beam was sponsoring at the time, and I was pretty friendly with Hank and the band. And, and, you know, I'd been to a lot of concerts, and I thought about going on the road, being the road manager for him. 6:00And my father saw that if they didn't have a job for me, I might go down that path. And they quickly found me a job here at Jim Beam. I think Booker knew that if I went--(laughs)--down that path, I might not of had a very long life with all the, the fun and games on the road with a country music band, but, uh--

KORKORUS: --what was your very first job here at the distillery?

NOE: Um, bottling supervisor. Bottling-line supervisor. Night shift. Uh, Dad wanted to start me at pretty much at the ground-up, and night shift, bottling-line supervisor is about as close to the ground as I think you can find here at the plant. But really, my job was, you know, relief supervisor, because when they weren't running a bottling line on night shift, they would stick me in whatever department needed a supervisor. I've pretty much worked in every department--well, have worked in every department here at Beam from watching the 7:00guys cut grass, to the warehouse, to the distillery, dry house.

KORKORUS: How long have you worked here at, at Beam?

NOE: This, uh, is my twenty-ninth year here at Jim Beam.

KORKORUS: And, and over the years, have you ever thought of leaving the industry and, or the distillery and doing something else?

NOE: No, I've never thought about leaving since I got here. You know, I, that's been(??), once I got here, I think I've took to it pretty well. You know, I had a good bunch of people I worked with on the night shift. You know, they took me under their wing. Once they figured out that I wasn't a spy--you know, being Jim Beam's great grandson and Booker's son, uh, when I first came to work, I know they kind of looked at me funny and thought, Well, we can't do anything around Fred. Uh, he'll tell his dad and we'll all get fired if we happen to take a drink or if we do anything. Well, after a little while, they figured out that I wasn't--(laughs)--a spy. Long as they got the work done, I 8:00didn't really care what went on. I was part of the, the crew. And they took me under, like I said, took me under their wing and I learned a lot. I think now looking back on it a lot of them respect me because I was who I was and I wouldn't a, you know, I didn't try to make the, I didn't know how to do the stuff. They had to teach me a lot of the, the ropes. You know, that's the way it was. They'd been doing these jobs a lot longer than me. I was brand new right out of college, you know. So, it was a, a good relationship.

KORKORUS: For twenty-nine years here, you've gotten to know the distillery pretty well. I imagine it's something of a second home for you. Um, what is your special, do you have a special place or spot at the distillery?

NOE: Oh, I like walking through, you know, the, the distillery, walking through the fermenting room to see the mash fermenting, and then stand by the, the tail-box where the white whiskies coming out, where you can see the whiskey coming out. And there's a little, little, little valve there, if you got a glass you can get a little taste. I always like sample the white whiskey right 9:00off the still to make sure everything's, uh, going like it should.

KORKORUS: Uh, and once again, close to thirty years in the business, have you seen many changes in the, how bourbon is made?

NOE: Well, you know, the way it's made has not changed much. Now, the process, you know, we have computer systems now that control the process. But all it allows us to do is control temperatures, measurements of ingredients going into the batch, so we can make it more consistently, cooking times. But as far as the basic process, it's the same as it was when I was a kid, fifty years ago when I was following Dad around. I mean, you still have the grain unloading, the grain grinding, the mash cooker, the fermentation, the still, the barrel aging, and the bottling. You know, technology has improved some of the machines 10:00used to do this, but the basic process is exactly the same as it was when I was a kid.

KORKORUS: Um-hm. So the process is the same but the industry has changed. Um, twenty, thirty years ago, bourbon was somewhat of a stagnant industry. Uh, bourbon, uh, was known, um, was something of your grandfather's drink. But that all changed in the, the late eighties and early nineties.

NOE: Um-hm.

KORKORUS: Can you describe what happened, why bourbon suddenly became a much more popular spirit?

NOE: Well, bourbon, I think experienced kind of a renaissance in the late eighties when my father, Booker, developed the Small Batch Bourbon Collection. And his good friend, Elmer T. Lee up in Frankfort developed Blanton's Single Barrel Bourbon, and Jimmy Russell at Wild Turkey, he came up with Russell's Reserve and more premium marks of the bourbons. They started developing 11:00super-premium bourbons. And those guys went out on the road and promoted bourbon. You know, sure, they promoted our, they had promoted our brands; Jimmy did Wild Turkey. But them being out on the road promoted the whole bourbon category. And really, they laid the groundwork for the success and the popularity of bourbon today. Makes it a lot easier for all of us that are out there traveling around now, promoting bourbon, because they got it started, developing new products, and like I say, introducing people to bourbon and showing them that bourbon is more than a shot.


NOE: You know, cocktails. And that's what I think has made the bourbon industry grow and become so popular today.

KORKORUS: Describe what's the difference between a, a standard, um, bourbon--and I'll use Jim Beam as an example, a premium bourbon if you will, and a super-premium--what makes a super-premium bourbon a super-premium bourbon?


NOE: Well, you know, you've got different aging techniques, you know, where you put the barrels in the rack house, the length of time you age the bourbon, the strength that you bottle it at. You know, you, you start aging bourbon longer, maybe bottling at higher strengths. That's considered more super premium. Or you put a little more tender loving care into what you do. We do Jim Beam, you know, millions of cases a year of Jim Beam White Label. That's the number one selling bourbon in the world? But like Booker's, for example, our super-premium, you know, it's thousands of cases. Fancier packaging. You know, put a little more age to the product, put the barrels in special spots in the aging rack houses, you know, to make it taste a little different and give it different taste profiles.

KORKORUS: If you had a--and I know there's many different steps made, uh, involved in the making of, of --------(??) bourbon or super-premium bourbon--um, if you were to say what's the one part of the process that can distinguish a 13:00bourbon from another bourbon? Is it the aging? Is it the ingredients? Is it the proof?

NOE: Well, I mean, when you start looking at, you know, there's pretty strict laws that we all have to follow to classify our bourbon as bourbon. You know, it's got to be made here in the United States; it's got to be corn based; uh, we have to use new barrels. Well, those things, you know, make it, we all have to follow the same rules. But now when you start talking about super-premiums or what makes it better, you know, each one of those factors, you know, your distillation proof, uh, the length of time you age it, where you put the barrel in the rack house, the strength you bottle at, all of those are your variables that you can create new products. You know, and there's so many different bourbons on the market. You know, what I do here at Jim Beam, what I think is premium may be something different, you know, at Wild Turkey with Jimmy Russell, or right down the road at Heaven Hill with Parker and Craig Beam. You know, 14:00each one's got their own opinions on what they do. I think the aging and the strength, strength at bottling, uh, has a big effect on what makes the finished product.

KORKORUS: Now, let's(??) switch gears for a second. Um, people enjoy their bourbons in different ways. How would you recommend enj-, enjoying a, a bourbon?

NOE: Oh, I think people should enjoy bourbon any damn way they want to. I mean, uh, if you want to mix it with Coke, that's fine. If you want to mix it with water, ice, uh, and I kind of got that from my dad. You know, there's no set rules for enjoying a bourbon. Some people like it neat. Some people like a splash of soda in it. Cocktails, the Manhattans, the Old Fashioned, it's whatever you like. You know, there's no rule that says you have to drink it a certain way. Hell, you can drink it right out of the bottle if you want to. I mean, that's the thing about bourbon. I mean, the scotch guys have so many 15:00rules on how to do scotch. I think us bourbon guys, we don't like rules, so we do it any way you want to drink it. It's your, it's your call on that.

KORKORUS: Um, what would you, what would you think your great-grandfather would think about the bourbon industry today?

NOE: Oh, I know Jim beam would be very, very proud of, you know, the industry that he brought back from the ashes. You know, when Prohibition was repealed, Jim Beam, at the age of seventy, got this plant back up and running where we're located today in one-hundred-twenty days. You know, heck, that's, that's a hell of a deal for a guy seventy-years-old. I'm fifty-six. And if I can get the grass cut at my house, I'm tickled to death. And you know, think to start a distillery back, but he did it to get our family back in this business. And to see how much it, it's grown. I'm sure he'd be very, very proud because, you 16:00know, he's the one who put us back on the map and got us started again.

KORKORUS: Um, Jim Beam had passed away well before you were born, but do you have any stories, um, favorite stories that were passed down through the family about your great grandfather?

NOE: Oh, I, you know, grew up right next door to Jim Beam's house. And, you know, I did, his wife, Mamaw Beam, was still alive when I was a little boy. And then I lived with Jim Beam's daughter, Aunt Mimi, you know, when I was in college. So I heard a lot of stories. But, you know, the one that really, really, I guess, or pictures that I've seen of him. He was a very formal man. He was always in a three-piece suit. I mean, I saw pictures of him fishing in Canada in a boat in a three-piece suit. And I guess I fell way far from that tree, because I'm the--(laughs)--if there's a three-, if I'm in a three-piece suit, there's probably a dead body in the room. Uh, you know, that's, I'm not 17:00as formal. I kind of got that from my dad. (laughs) You know, Booker dressed up a little bit, and I dressed up even less. So, but that was kind of wild to see, no matter where he was, at the distillery, any picture you see of my great-grandfather, he was always in a three-piece suit with a vest. And like I said, fishing in Canada was the one that took the cake, the old family photos. But I know he was a very, uh, loyal person, and what he did, he wanted to make the best bourbon in the world. And carrying that tradition on is something I'm very proud to do.

KORKORUS: Staying on the subject of your family, um, keeping on the subject of your family, if you'd just basically describe your, your father, Booker. We know he had a, a, a major impact on the bourbon industry.

NOE: Oh, Dad, I mean, bourbon was his life. I mean, Mom always said I was his second child; the first child was the distillery. And I was his second child, because, you know, when I was a little boy growing up, if there was any problem 18:00at the distillery, my father jumped in the car and drove down there. It didn't matter if a valve broke, if a pump went out, he wanted to make sure that he was right there seeing what was going on. And he wanted to make the world's finest bourbon. And he did for years and years and years. And it was his life. He went on the road to promote it. And when he got to be seventy-years old, he was tired of traveling. I mean, I think he would of still done it if they could have gotten him from point A to point B, kinda like Star Trek with a transporter, and not have to go through airports and take off his shoes and go through the x-ray machines--(laughs)--he would of traveled until the day he died. But all the stuff in the airports, and the traveling, and the airline seats didn't fit him; he was a big guy. He finally hung it up and put me out there on the road, but he still entertained at the house almost up until he passed away. And it was his life. I mean, Dad loved making bourbon, enjoyed 19:00tasting bourbon with people around the world, and promoting it. He promoted the whole bourbon industry, not just the Beam products.

KORKORUS: Um, tell, he had a major impact on the reshaping of the bourbon industry back in the late eighties and early nineties. Tell us about how that came about, his special bourbon, how he created it and how he ended up bringing it to market.

NOE: Well, Dad, we have two distilleries here at Jim Beam, one here at Clermont--(coughs)--excuse me, and another one over in Boston, Kentucky, the Booker Noe Plant, we call it today. And Dad was at that other plant, and he could kind of do things nobody knew what was going on. So he started making small batches of bourbon his way, putting the barrels in certain sweet spots in the aging rack houses, and sampling, and then fooling with it. And--(laughs)--he developed this product. Well, one of our vice presidents from our corporate 20:00headquarters in Chicago came down, and asked Dad, he said, "Well, we'd like for you to start looking at, to make a premium bourbon, super-premium style bourbon." And his quote was, "If you all came out of the house of knowledge in Chicago a little more and down here to Kentucky, where the work's being done, you'd know I already had it made!" And he said, "What do you mean?" And he said, "Come on. We'll go get in my truck." Took him up to one of the aging rack houses. They took the bung out of the barrel, dropped in the thief, pulled out some whiskey out of the barrel, sampled it, and said, "Now this is how we're gonna sell this bourbon: right out of the barrel." And that's how Booker's Bourbon was made. Dad did it all on his own. He let, during the development, he would let friends and family sample some of what he was making up at holiday seasons; he'd bring it out at Christmastime. And let my uncles and aunts and 21:00all of the kinfolk of age and all his friends that came by the house during the holidays, get a little taste of it, and he would watch their, uh, emotions to see if their eyes lit up or if they grimace. And that's how he worked on his Booker's Bourbon. And in 1987, we bottled up a few cases of it and was given to our distributor friends around the country to see if there was a market for fifty-dollar bottles of bourbon at that time. And that kind of, as they say, the rest is history. Uh, the small-batch bourbon category was, uh, launched twenty-, now to be well, at twenty-five years ago. And Dad kind of started the whole super-premium, uh, industry of our, uh, bourbon industry. You know, his buddy, Elmer T. Lee, was doing Blanton's up at Frankfort about that same time frame. So I guess Elmer and Booker were the guys that really brought 22:00super-premium bourbon to the world. You know, and so, that was kinda Dad's baby. And it bore his name. So that was kind of cool to see a bourbon with his name on it. He hand-wrote the first labels. Uh, it was a, it was a heck of a project and it was really cool. And he went on the road to promote it, too, so it was good.

KORKORUS: Um, your family is so synonymous with bourbon. Uh, can you tell us, and in, uh, outside of the Beam, Beam Company, uh, the impact your family's had on other distilleries?

NOE: Well, there's been a lot of Beams work at other distilleries. I mean, go right down the road to Heaven Hill. You know, Parker and Craig Beam are the master distillers there today. But if you go back, Jim Beam's brother, Park, he went to work at Heaven Hill. And his family lineage, which that's Parker and Craig's grandfather and great-grandfather, that's, you know, was the, the Beam family. Elmo Beam was the first master distiller at Maker's Mark. So I mean, 23:00there were several Beams, from going back to old Jacob, if you look at the family tree, spread out all through the bourbon industry. And I remember hearing a story when I was a kid that, an old timer said, "If it wasn't a Beam making your whiskey at the distillery, the whiskey couldn't be any good," because all the good distilleries had Beams making the whiskey, so.

KORKORUS: I mean, that's an extremely unique situation, to have one family so involved in an industry. Not so much a company, but an entire industry. Why, why, in your opinion, why are the Beams so good and so interested in making whiskey--

NOE: --well--

KORKORUS: --over the generations--

NOE: --I think our family, you know, the Beams, we do one thing: we make whiskey. And I mean, that's what we're good at. I remember hearing Parker and, uh, my dad saying you know, "That's what we do." You, and they named off some of our ancestors who tried their hands at other, uh, industries and failed 24:00miserably. But when they came back to the bourbon part, they did okay. You know, that's kind of what, I guess that's how we're all built. You know, our genes, or whatever's in us, uh, we're built to make bourbon. And being here from this part of Kentucky, this is, uh, what we do. We make bourbon. And we try doing anything else; we don't do very well in anything else.

KORKORUS: Uh, speaking of that, uh, during Prohibition, which was, um, thirteen-, fourteen-year period? I'm not sure.

NOE: Um-hm.

KORKORUS: Um, what did the Beams do?

NOE: Well, Jim Beam, just kinda shows you, he was making bourbon. Uh, the distillery was shut down when Prohibition came about. He tried citrus farming in Florida. Uh--(laughs)--Aunt Mimi, his daughter, said he failed miserably at that. Uh, he tried some coal mining up in eastern Kentucky. That didn't go so well either. But he did some rock quarry business right here in central Kentucky. Uh, and he made enough money to keep food on the table and keep the 25:00family surviving during Prohibition. But the day Prohibition was repealed, at the age of seventy, Jim Beam applied for a license and opened up the old Murphy Barber Distillery where we're located, located today, here, in Clermont.

KORKORUS: Um, okay, switch-, switching gears, bourbon in its early days was a regional spirit. Then it gradual, gradually became a national spirit. Uh, would you classify it now as a global spirit?

NOE: Oh yeah, bourbon's very much a global spirit. I mean, there's very few places in the world that beverage alcohol is consumed that you cannot get a taste of bourbon. I've touched just about every country in the world where bourbon is, uh, being sold. I mean, you know, in some Middle Eastern countries where alcohol is not legal, you're not going to see it. I'm sure they're 26:00sneaking some around there, too. But I mean, uh, you get into Australia, for example, Jim Beam White Label is the number one spirit sold in Australia. Uh, you get into Germany. Last year, we did one million cases of Jim Beam alone in Germany. Uh, bourbon is the number one whiskey, Jim Beam is the number one whiskey sold in Germany. And it's growing, everywhere. I mean, you go into the UK, I mean, bourbon is growing by leaps and bounds. Uh, you pick any part of the world. Japan, you know? It's, uh, bourbon is all over the world and growing every year.

KORKORUS: Uh, and part of the, would you agree that the statement that part of the success of bourbon, uh, has been those promotional efforts, and the, uh, the raising, you know, the profile of master distillers like yourself. Um, do you, 27:00and your father, Booker, really became the "first celebrity master distiller." Um, do you remember the--A) how's it like to be, how's it feel to be somewhat of a celebrity in the industry, and B) do you remember the first time someone ever asked you for your autograph?

NOE: Hmm, well, I mean, you know, everybody, we tease and they talk about celebrity, this and that. I don't think any of us really, any of the master distillers, we don't see ourselves as celebrity. I was just, I mean, we just make bourbon. Jimmy Russell and myself, we laugh about it. You know, people make a big deal about us at different events. In New York at the WhiskeyFest, people are coming up, asking for autographs, and want to take pictures with us. And we kind of laugh about it. But it's our lives. I mean, it's not really something that you, you think about as being a celebrity. It's just, it's just 28:00what we do. And, uh, I, I guess the, the first time I asked for an autograph, I was probably a kid with my dad. And Dad would sign bottles. And a lot of people would say, "Would you sign this bottle, too?" So, I kind of, I guess when I did it at first, I was just, I wasn't even working at Jim Beam. It was kind of a, and I didn't, he, I was kind of thinking about it and said, "Why they want my autograph?" You know. But now it is kinda funny. People want you to sign bottles and things, and they'll say, "Uh, I'm never gonna open this bottle." And I'll say, "Well, I'm not gonna sign it!" I'll say, "This stuff's for drinking; it's not for saving" And, uh, that kind of come from my dad, but, you know, it's, I think people make you a bigger celebrity than you really think yourself is, you know.

KORKORUS: Well, your likeness is now on the label of, of Jim Beam, which is the best-selling bourbon in the world. Tell us a little bit about what that must feel like, when you first saw your, your, your face on the bottle.

NOE: I got a little bit choked up when we unveiled the label. Uh, we had a 29:00little, uh, promotion here at the, uh, the plant, a celebration during Bourbon Festival when they unveiled it. And they kind of, they kind of got me, because they had seven rocking chairs lined up on the porch of, uh, the Beam house, and starting with Jacob and going to me. And we went down through there, and I was looking at them. When I saw my dad's empty chair, and then mine beside it, it kind of got me a little emotional, thinking, Oh, this is kind of cool. And you know, it, my friends and our sales folks have a lot more fun with my picture being on the label than I do. You know, when you go into an establishment, and they say, "You're Jim Beam's great-grandson," and his picture's on the label, and they kind of thinking, What? And they get the bottle. When they get the bottle and point out the picture, and then they kind of look at me and look at it, "Boy, it is you, isn't it?" I'm, "Well, yeah, it's supposed to be." So, we're, you know, but that end up costing you a little bit cause you end up having to buy a round. You know, when your picture's on the bottle, everybody 30:00expects you to buy them a drink of Beam. But that's no problem; we do that anyway.

KORKORUS: Now your, your post-, in your position of master distiller, uh, you have to leave the distillery more and more to help promote the brands. Um, in, have you traveled extensively overseas, and if so, what is your favorite country?

NOE: Oh, I'm traveled pretty much all over the world. I mean, I've set foot in Russia, which I never dreamed I would. You know, growing up, you know, in the sixties and seventies, Russia, man, that was the other side of the world. You didn't go over there. That's where those communists were. And I remember landing in there. I thought, What am I--(laughs)--doing here? But they enjoy the bourbon. And it's all, it's all good. It's been, uh, it's been, it's been a good ride for me. I've seen probably every country around it that, you know, probably I'm sure there was a few more I've got yet to visit. But probably my favorite one of all is Australia. You know, one thing, the language barrier, 31:00you know, we speak English. Our accents are very dissimilar, but I can understand what they're saying, they can understand what I'm saying. And if I have to go to the bathroom, we can, uh, we can figure it out. But when we were in Russia, or, uh, France, or some of these, I have, I've, I have a hard enough time with English. (laughs) You get me outside of that, uh, you can't do much talking. You know, and I'm not real good with translators, because you say something and the translator speaks, and people laugh, and you didn't say something funny, then you wonder, "Well, what did they really translate?"

KORKORUS: And over the years, you've obviously had occasion to drink with, um, or actually share a drink with many, many people.

NOE: Um-hm.

KORKORUS: Uh, can you tell us some of the more notable folks you've, you've, uh, sipped some bourbon with?

NOE: Well, probably the most memorable person was in, uh, Los Angeles, an actor who's no longer with us, uh, Chris Penn. Was a huge fan of my father's bourbon, Booker's.


KORKORUS: It's, I'm sorry, it's?

NOE: Chris Penn. He, uh, he, he came to an event we did. And, uh, we went to dinner and proceeded to see how much of, uh, Booker's Bourbon the two of us could consume, and there was a audience watching this contest. But we had a lot of fun. It was, uh, he had, he was a really good guy. It's a shame he's not, no longer with us, but.

KORKORUS: Um, bourbon industry has, has had its share of characters. Uh, your, not including your father, who we know was quite a character, can you name some the other, your favorite bourbon characters?

NOE: Oh, Jimmy Russell at Wild Turkey, Parker Beam at Heaven Hill. Always enjoyed hanging around with Elmer T. Lee. You know, that's the thing; when you go to these WhiskeyFests in Chicago or New York, we're all there together. You 33:00know, Bill Samuels from Maker's Mark. You know, Bill can, uh, can get you in trouble, too. You know, you start listening to some of his stories, he has a lot of stories about the Beam Family, and we all, we all have a lot of fun when we're together cause it's, uh, it's more like a fraternity.

KORKORUS: Now, the, the Samuels actually grew up next door to you, is that correct? The Samuels Family of Maker's Mark?

NOE: Yeah, Bill Samuels's grandfather, his house was next door to Jim Beam's house in Bardstown. He was one of the distillers on Distillers' Row there on, uh, Third Street of Bardstown. So, the Samuels Family and the Beam Family were pretty close back in the old days. So that, it was, uh, Bill's got some stories that he heard from his family that, you know, about mine; I've got some stories about his family from mine. So it's always good we get, you know, get on each other. And we tend to embroider on the truth just a little bit, you know. Doesn't necessarily have to be a whole lot of truth. Can be just a kernel of truth in the story.


KORKORUS: (laughs) Um, we're closing on some, the future of bourbon. Um, can you tell us about some trends in the bourbon industry?

NOE: Well, probably one of the newest trends are infused bourbons, you know, where you're taking natural flavors and infuse the bourbon. Uh, it's something new and I'm sure some of the purest and some of the old timers, I'm sure my father would, uh, grimace, you know, at the thought of taking black cherry and infusing the Jim Beam Bourbon. But it has brought a lot of new people to the bourbon industry. And, you know, so be it. I mean, uh, it's a little sweet for me. But it is bringing new consumers to the bourbon industry and they enjoy it. And so, so be it.

KORKORUS: What, what have been some of Beam's more recent and more successful product innovations in the last couple years?

NOE: Well, we have, uh, Devil's Cut, which is a product where we sweat the 35:00barrels after we get, dump the bourbon out of the barrel, we put water in it, pulling more of the bourbon out of the wood, then using that water to bring the bourbon down to the bottling strength. Uh, you know, with all the super-premium bourbons, you know, the Knob Creek, Knob Creek Rye, Knob Creek Single Barrel, you know, all these are new products that we've developed over the years that have been very, very successful. And, uh, you know, the sky's the limit. They will continue to grow with people looking for super premium products. We tend to, uh, fill that void and always coming up with new innovations for all of our loyal fans around the world.

KORKORUS: Um, you're the seventh-generation distiller. Is, are there plans for an eighth generation of Beam, a Beam family member to be involved in the business?

NOE: There is an eighth generation of Beams that has started working. My son, 36:00Frederick Booker Noe IV, uh, he finished college in December of, uh, 2012, and he started to work in January of 2013. He's in a training mode right now, learning the industry like I did. And then he'll select what part of the industry he wants to work in, whether it's distilling. Who knows? He may want to go into marketing or sales or, uh, who knows. So, I mean, so we're gonna give him the freedom to pick what he wants to do and not say he's destined to be the very next master distiller. Who knows? You know, maybe one of my cousins, you know, might have, even a girl that wants to come into the business. Who knows? Doesn't have to always be guys. That question comes up all the time. So, sure, as I said, I don't got a problem with a Beam family member who's a female coming in and making the liquor. Long as she does good, it'd be all right.

KORKORUS: Um, take a break? Is that okay, to stop here?



KORKORUS: Thanks. You did great, Fred.

NOE: Thanks.

[Pause in recording.]

UNKNOWN MALE: I'm ready to roll again.

KORKORUS: We'll start with a process question first.

NOE: Okay.

KORKORUS: I'll just walk you through, if you can walk us through. Uh, just tell me when.

UNKNOWN MALE: We're good. We're ready(??).

KORKORUS: Um, can you tell us a little bit, step-by-step, about the process of making bourbon?

NOE: Oh yeah, the process of making bourbon is pretty simple, and, you know, I can give you the Bourbon 101 class. I mean, we bring in grains, whole kernel, uh, here to the plant at Beam.

KORKORUS: What kind of grains?

NOE: We use corn, rye and malted barley. That's our three grains. We bring them in here to the plant. We grind those grains. Uh, we put them in a mash cooker, which is similar to a pressure cooker that's holds ten thousand gallons. We cook the grains, or mash it, as we call it. During this mashing or cooking process, we are converting the starches in those grains to sugar. We take the 38:00mash, cool it down, add the yeast. Uh, the yeast that we use here at Jim Beam was started by my great-grandfather, Jim Beam, right after Prohibition. And every time we make a new batch of yeast, we inoculate the new batch with some of the old batch. So we're using the same strain of yeast today that Jim Beam started right after Prohibition. You know, this yeast, during the fermentation process, it eats up the sugar that was made during the mashing. As it eats up that sugar, it makes two things: C02, a colorless gas and alcohol. We don't worry about the gas; we're looking for that alcohol. After about four days of fermentation, depending on the temperature we started the fermentation process at, it would go from three to five days. But about a four-day process, all of 39:00the sugar has been eaten up, and we call the mash, distiller's beer. We take this distiller's beer, which has an alcohol content about like a bottle of beer and run it through the beer still. We use a column still for our first distillation. A column still, you feed the beer in about to--it's shaped like a silo. It's a cylinder. Ours is about sixty feet tall. We feed the beer in about two-thirds of the way up the still. The still is built with dykes and weirs and plates to where the beer stair steps its way down through the still. As it comes down through the still, we're heating it up with steam. As we heat that beer up, the alcohol turns into a vapor. The vapors go out the top. We catch those vapors, condense them back into a liquid. That's called the White Dog; that's the new whiskey. Uh, we distill the whiskey twice, we run it down 40:00through a pot still called a doubler, or a thumper, where we, it's full of this clear whiskey. We heat it, turning it into a vapor for a second time. Catch those vapors, condense them back into a liquid. Take that liquid, put it in the charred White Oak barrels, put it away in the aging rack houses here in Kentucky, and let nature take over. Hot summers, the whiskey expands going into the wood, passing through the caramelized layer of sugar that was set up in that barrel when the barrel was built and charred at the cooperage. In the wintertime, when the weather gets cold, the whiskey contracts and comes out. So, during the change of seasons here in Kentucky, you get an inward and outward flow of whiskey through the caramelized layer of sugar that was set up during that charring. That's where we get 100 percent of the color and probably 70 percent of the flavor in the bourbon. Also during the aging, we lose 4 percent 41:00a year to evaporation. That's always been called the angel's share. Losing the angel's share during the aging concentrates the flavor in what's left behind in the barrel. That's why you see these extra aged bourbons have much more flavor than younger bourbons. After we bring the bourbon out of the barrel, uh, it's chill-filtered, reduced down to the bottling strength, goes into the bottle, and then it goes on the shelf to be purchased by a consumer.

KORKORUS: The barrel's such an important part of the process. Could you tell us what kind of barrels you use and how you, um, char them?

NOE: Well, the barrels, we get them from the cooperage. They're built from American White Oak. They're charred inside up to, uh, a number 4 char. I think it's the heaviest char in the industry.

KORKORUS: You mean burned.

NOE: Burned. They set the barrel on fire before they put the ends in it. And 42:00it burns that barrel. And when it does, all the natural sugar that's in that American White Oak comes to the charred area. The wood is trying to heal itself from being set on fire. When they put the fire out, a caramelized layer of sugar sets up right where the char ends and the wood begins. And then we get those barrels, put the white clear whiskey in them, and let nature take over. And like I say, the inward and outward flow during the change of seasons picks up all the color and a lot of the flavor that's in bourbon.

KORKORUS: And the rack houses that the barrels are aged in, are, play a critical role in the development of bourbon. Can you tell us a little bit about what type of rack houses are, you use?

NOE: Well, our, we have several different kinds of rack houses but the old ones that my great-grandfather built, Jim Beam, they're nine stories high. There's three tiers of barrels in a floor. So it's twenty-seven barrels tall. You put 43:00those barrels away in that rack house. The barrels you put at the top where it's hot and dry, you see that that the during aging, more of the water will escape from the barrel and they'll drive the proof up. You'll see the barrel strength go from 125 proof at entry up to as high as 140 because that hot, dry area where you put it. Flip side of that coin, you put that barrel on the bottom floor where it's cool and moist, you'll see the proof go from 125 at entry down to maybe 110 because it's a cool, moist area and water will penetrate that barrel and you'll see the strength go down. So, you know, you get that big difference from top and bottom. We scatter the barrels out from top to bottom, left to right, and do what we call a "vertical cross-section" of that warehouse. So after aging, when you pull those barrels back out, you take some from the 44:00top, some from the middle, some from the bottom, mingle them back together to get a good, consistent flavor. That's how we get the flavor without having to physically move barrels around. And that's how we get, uh, the product to be the same every time.

KORKORUS: Are the rack houses heated and air conditioned? Are they temperature-controlled?

NOE: No, the rack houses are just barns outside. We don't control them. I kind of laugh and say, "If it's raining outside, the humidity's up." The good Lord controls the environment in that rack house. We don't, we want the change of seasons. We don't want it to be heated or cooled. We want, you know, the environment that we have here in Kentucky. This is the perfect climate to age bourbon. We want hot summers; we want cold winters. Too much of either one of the two, you won't get a nice inward and outward flow. So you want those extremes.

KORKORUS: Um, talking, speaking about the climate, why is Kentucky, um, the 45:00home of bourbon?

NOE: Oh Kentucky, you know, this is the perfect place to make bourbon for a couple reasons. Number one is the clean, iron-free limestone water that comes from the ground here in Kentucky. That makes great whiskey. If there's iron in the water, it will turn the bourbon black. Uh, you know, it's great, clean, good, pristine water. And that's just from the, where we live here, the geographic, uh, location of Kentucky. The change of seasons that we have, for the aging, is perfect. So I mean, if, if, I guess God made Kentucky to make bourbon. And that's why we make bourbon right here in Kentucky. And we make the world's best bourbon right here.

KORKORUS: Can bourbon only be made in Kentucky?

NOE: No, bourbon can be made anywhere in the United States. But, you know, I think the best bourbon is made right here in Kentucky. Ninety-five percent of 46:00the world's bourbon I think is made here in Kentucky. I don't really know where that other 5 percent comes from but I wouldn't drink it.

KORKORUS: Alright, Jimmy Russell is a, a master distiller at another, um, distillery. And in a, in an, in theory, he should be a competitor, but he's not in any way, shape, or form a competitor of yours. In fact, he's, over the years, has served as something of a mentor. Could you describe your, your relationship with, uh, Jimmy Russell?

NOE: Oh, Jimmy Russell is my dad on the road. And it kind of became a story that Jimmy and my dad and me put together years ago. You know, when Dad did quit traveling and put me out on the road, you know, that was, we were out, I think, I want to say it was maybe Houston, Texas, maybe, one of the first interactions I had with Jimmy away from here in Kentucky. And I was talking to a group of people, and there was, you know, several people there. And Jimmy 47:00eased over and acted like he was writing on his hand. And I looked at him, and I said, "What are you doing?" He said, "I'm taking notes." He said, "I'm gonna tell Booker what you're doing out here on the road when I get back home." I said, "Now, wait a minute. I don't need a dad on the road and a dad at home, too!" And that kind of became our joke that I had two dads: one in Kentucky, my father, Booker, and one on the road, Jimmy, because we'd be at different events and, uh, he's a great guy. I mean, Jimmy is like a second father to me. I mean, we, when Dad passed away, uh, me and Jimmy shared a lot of cocktails in bars and told stories and shed a lot of tears. My dad was Jimmy's best buddy. I mean, they were like brothers. I've always laughed and said, "If you put them both in a bag and pulled one out, you wouldn't know which one you got." I mean, because they're so much alike. And I see a lot of my dad in Jimmy and a lot of Jimmy in Booker. I mean, but they, they grew up in this industry. You know, 48:00and that's, that was their lives. I mean, Dad did it until he passed away, and Jimmy'll be doing it until he passes away. And he's a great guy. I mean, you don't get any better than Jimmy Russell.

KORKORUS: Um, your father, Booker, obviously was a character, uh, as well. Um, what's the one or two things that he passed down to you, uh, in, in regards to how to make bourbon?

NOE: My dad's big thing was make sure you have good grain. That's one of the first things he'd check when he'd come in. He'd walk over to where they're unloading the grain, get a handful of corn, and smell it. You know, if you don't have good ingredients going in to start with, what's coming out ain't gonna be any good either. So, you know, he always stressed that: make sure your grain's good. And be consistent. You know, and don't lie! You know, that was one thing he always said, "Don't lie to the customer just to sell a bottle. Tell the truth. Let the chips fall where they may." And I've found over the years, 49:00you know, just be straight up and people appreciate it. And nowadays, there's so much information out there on the Internet and stuff, when people ask you a question, you'd better give them the right answer because somebody in the crowd probably knows the right answer. And I've seen some people get tripped up trying to kind of change--you know, if you don't know the answer, it's not a sin to say you don't know and I'll get back to you. But I've seen some folks get in a little trouble by trying to answer something they didn't really know.

KORKORUS: Now, uh, speaking, staying on the subject again of Booker and the making of bourbon and passing on of knowledge, um, your, the, the, your father's kitchen table has played a role in the, in, in, in the development of the bourbon industry. Can you tell us a little bit about the kitchen table at your house in Bardstown?

NOE: Well, Dad, you know, we have fancy tasting labs here at Jim Beam, but Dad did most of his research and development sitting at the table in Mom's kitchen 50:00there in Bardstown. He'd bring samples home and have his friends over and people within the industry: "Come by the house. I want you to look at something." And he did a lot of his R&D, or research and development, right there in Bardstown at the kitchen. Every batch of Booker's Bourbon that Dad selected for, to be bottled was done at that kitchen table. There was no, uh--(laughs)--it was funny, it was funny, he did it right there! If you happened to stop by the night he was selecting, you were involved. Now, he would ask your opinion. But it didn't matter. Your vote didn't count. Because it was Booker's Bourbon; it wasn't Fred's or yours or whoever.

KORKORUS: And if I, tell us a little about the story when Booker was, was ailing and, and, and, um, well, dying, and his last, uh, batch of bourbon that he, he tasted and your, I believe it involved a family friend, uh, Toogie Dick.

NOE: Well, when Dad was, I guess, on his last, last, uh, weeks of life, we 51:00needed to do another batch of Booker's. And, you know, he'd, I was, been involved with him doing several batches over the years. And he was tasting it, and he said, "It just," said, "All this medicine," he said, "The liquor's not tasting right." He said, "You pick it out. And then let me know." I said, "Well, okay." So I went back out to the kitchen table and he stayed there in his bedroom. I selected the barrels and put them together and made up my composite sample, just like he did. I was pretty nervous. I remember carrying it into the bedroom. He got up, tasted it and said, "Well, you done pretty good, boy." Well, for Dad, that was a hell of a compliment from him. He wasn't big on compliments for me too much, but you know, that's kind of a father's way of keeping their son in check. So I went on back out into the kitchen, and sat down, and was looking at the newspaper. And his good friend, Toogie Dick, who 52:00owns a restaurant in Bardstown, came by the house. And she was having a bad day at the restaurant. And whenever she had a bad day at the restaurant, she would come to our house, and get her little drink, and get away from the business, so she didn't fire one of her kids who worked for her. I'm sure, she has her, her children worked for her at the restaurant. Instead of running one of them off, she'd come to our house and have a little taste, relax, talk to Dad and Mom, or whatever, and then go back and everything was okay. Well, she came in the house, obviously having a bad afternoon, and said, "Can I get a drink?" And I remember telling her, "If you can't get a drink here--(laughs)--something's wrong." She said, "Well, what've you got?" And she saw the stuff on the table where she knew that a, a batch of Booker's was being selected because she had seen my dad do it. And I said, "Well, this is the latest batch of Booker's." She said, "Really!" So she picked up her highball glass and put her little drink in there and got a little ginger ale, just like my mother. She took her a 53:00little drink, "Oooh!" And she said, "Boy, it's good!" And she took off into the front part of the house to see Dad. We had an intercom system set up where if Dad needed anything he could just say, "Fred, some ------(??)." And you could hear them and you could go in there. Well, she--(laughs)--she goes in there and said, "Ah! This batch of Booker's, I'll believe it's the best you've ever done!" I'm sure she was trying to build his spirits up. He said, "Well, I'm glad you like it." And so she left, and then I went in and got him later for dinner and brought him out in the wheelchair. And he said, "Well," said, "Toogie liked what you did. Said it was the best batch of Booker's I'd ever done!" Said, "I didn't have the heart to tell her that you did it." But, uh, he said, "I guess you're going to be okay, boy. Just keep doing it like you did." And that's kinda how I became the one doing Booker's today, you know. It was the last batch before Dad passed away.

KORKORUS: Uh, the kitchen at the, at the Beam house on, uh, Third Street in Bardstown also was the site of uh, some, uh, varied forms of, uh, calamities, 54:00uh--(Noe laughs)--with the, uh, the use of over-, over-proof bourbon, or high-proof bourbon while cooking. Could you tell us a little bit about that?

NOE: Well, Mom, she, she cooked a pork roast in a little granite roaster. And, uh, when the roast was about finished, she would take Jim Beam and pour it over her little roast, put the top back on the blue granite roaster, and put it back in the oven. And let it finish out and it would make a nice gravy. And when Dad came out with Booker's Bourbon, uh, there was a bottle of that sitting on the cabinet. Well, Mom grabbed the bottle of Booker's just like she would have her bottle of Jim Beam. You know, Jim Beam is 80 proof; Booker's is 127 [proof] 128 [proof]. She did the same technique; uh, put the top back on the roaster, stuck it back into the oven. Uh, when the oven came on, I guess there was a spark. Boom! It blew the oven door open. Uh, so my dad kind of told that 55:00story on my mother. And it happened to her twice. And his story was it took two kicks of the mule before she ever figured out what was going on. But she didn't realize that using that high-proof bourbon, when you heat it up, the flash point drops. So. it makes it a lot more volatile than 80 proof, when you start using 125 proof, uh, it changes the game. Mom didn't really know that. She just saw bourbon as another ingredient to cook with. So that became one of our, uh, recipes called "Pork and Beam," where Mom blew the stove up and, uh, the oven open twice.

KORKORUS: And the kitchen table, yet again, served another role, and just in, uh, sitting around after dinner and, and sipping bourbon. What was your--Booker's favorite way to drink bourbon?

NOE: Well, Dad took his bourbon a couple fingers. He always said good thing he 56:00had big fingers cause he liked a big, a big stout drink. He would add a little, a splash of water. And in the summertime, maybe add one or two cubes of ice, not much ice. And, and he just enjoyed it. He'd like to get, as he called it, "a big slug of it." He would take a big drink and get it in his mouth and chew on it! And a reporter one time coined his tasting technique, "The Kentucky Chew." And it wasn't, uh, doesn't sound good, doesn't look good, but that was Dad's way of drinking bourbon. So you know, he'd get this, different parts of the mouth pick up different flavors. So he wanted to get it all through his mouth to pick up all the flavor in the bourbon.

KORKORUS: Is there, um, can you demonstrate "The Kentucky Chew"?

NOE: Well, if I had a little drink of bourbon, I probably--(Korkorus laughs)--could but--(tasting sounds)--that's pretty much the sound that you would hear when Dad would. He popped them lips pretty good and he just worked it around his mouth.


KORKORUS: Um, what's your favorite way to drink bourbon?

NOE: I like a little, little more ice than my father, but same way, with water. And, uh, sip on it. And I chew on it a little bit, too.

KORKORUS: (laughs) Now, you talk about Booker passing on some, um, um, some things to you about the importance of honesty and also the importance of using good ingredients. What will you pass on to your son, Freddie, in the business?

NOE: Aww, I'll pass on the same basic things that Dad said: good ingredients, uh, you know, be consistent, you know, and tell the truth. And you know, a lot of this stuff now is, that I keep trying to stress to him is, you know, be yourself, don't let somebody in, say, marketing change you to, you know, to sell a product cause then, when the next product comes out, you know, you'll be changing yourself again. So, you know, just be yourself, be honest with people, and, you know, be straight up, and enjoy yourself. I mean, this is a have fun 58:00business. I mean, in this bourbon business, if you don't have fun doing this, there's something wrong with you. I mean, it's very social. I mean, you get to travel. And I'm sure he'll travel a lot more than me down the road. Uh, you'll see the world. You'll meet people in every corner of the world. And all of them really wanna know about bourbon. That's all they want, you know, tell them the truth. Tell them what it's all about! Share a drink with them. I mean, you don't get no better than this.

KORKORUS: Uh, speaking about world and global travels, uh, what's it like to introduce bourbon to a brand new country?

NOE: Well, when I was in Russia many years ago, it was, bourbon was brand new. And, you know, they, it was, to watch the crowd, you know, I couldn't speak because I didn't know what they were saying. You know, I'd speak in English, the translator would translate, and you'd watch them, you know. And to watch people's eyes light up, a lot of these people had never experienced bourbon before. And that's how, you know, when we get to the point and we taste, and 59:00I'm watching, well, they're behind me, because I'm explaining how to taste, how to do the Kentucky Chew, and I would do it. Well then, the translator would do the same thing. Well then, when they would taste it, the way their eyes would light up and then you'd hear "chhhh," you could tell the pleasant look in their face that they were enjoying it. You know, and to think that what we did right here in central Kentucky goes all over the world, it's amazing. You know, we're, you know, showing people a good time. I think bourbon can turn a conversation into a party. You know, it can turn a meal into a celebration, cause you're with your friends when you're drinking bourbon. You didn't go out and find your enemies and drink bourbon. Maybe if we did, it be less wars around the world. But I mean, if you, you think about it, you're with family and friends, you sip a bourbon, you start telling stories, your interaction, uh, it's, it's always good. You know, bourbon makes everybody have a good time.


KORKORUS: Uh, switching gears going back to a difficult time in your family's history, Prohibition, um, we, we've talked about, uh, Jim Beam was involved in other industries such as coal mining and rock quarrying. Um, was, was there a lot of bootlegging going on in the Bardstown area?

NOE: Oh! Yeah, I mean, there was bootlegging during Prohibition everywhere. You know, that was probably the worst time period for beverage alcohol in the world, because you can well imagine, you know, people weren't gonna quit drinking because somebody in Washington, DC, made a rule. They were used to enjoy beverage alcohol. And all of a sudden, you're saying you can't do it. Well, I mean, the stuff, the products that people were consuming. The quality, some of it was the bottom of the barrel. They were making bathtub gin. You know, and 61:00some of the whiskey being made in, it was terrible. I mean, a lot of people got sick. A lot of people died. Blindness, you know, because the quality, people wanted beverage alcohol so bad. You know, when it was repealed, then, you know, that's the thing. The distilleries cranked back up, but they had to age the product after Prohibition, you know, even though Jim Beam got cracked back up in hundred twenty days, it was a couple years before they had anything ready for the market because of the aging that you had to do to get the color and get the flavor right.

KORKORUS: Was there a lot of moonshining, uh, going on in the hills, here, in the Knobs here?

NOE: Oh, yeah, I'm sure, there were stills everywhere. I mean, just because the government said, "Quit making whiskey," that was tough times, too. You know, it, there wasn't much money around. You know, people were doing it, you know, for their own personal use. I'm sure they're making it to make a little money. You know, and it was hard times.

KORKORUS: What about the, uh, when the law went into effect? Um, what happened 62:00to the bourbon stock that was already in the rack houses?

NOE: Well, Jim Beam sold his distillery. At that time, the distillery was up in, uh, Bardstown area, up by Nazareth. And he sold that distillery to get away from it because he didn't want to go to jail. His daughter, Aunt Mimi, when we talked about Prohibition, she would always refer to Jim Beam as "Papa this," "Papa that." And she said, I asked about Prohibition, and she said, "Fred, Papa didn't want to go to jail. And he sold the distillery." Well, my question was, "How do you sell a distillery when it's illegal?" But back in those days, most of your distilleries had farms attached to them because we have a byproduct called stillage, or slop, which is the water and grain after the alcohol's been taken away that's still high in protein. Back in those days, they would feed this to the animals. Cattle, pigs, raise them up and sell them off as another means of income. Well, Jim Beam sold the distillery by selling the farm and 63:00through this end(??), the distillery, and to get rid of it, and then went into the rock quarry business, or coal mining, citrus farming. But the day Prohibition was repealed, he cranked this old Murphy Barber Distillery up where we're at here in Clermont, with the help of Carl and, uh, you know, his son, T. Jeremiah, and some other cousins. They got it all together and cranked it back up. And back in them days, everything was done by hand so then they were firing the boiler by hand, mashing the whiskey, you know, mashing the mash. You know, it was a, it was a hell of a job. And pretty amazing for a feller seventy-years old.


UNKNOWN MALE: Okay, that's great.

KORKORUS: Think that's it though? Get everything?

UNKNOWN MALE: Great! I think you did a great job.

----------(??) yes, sir.

[Pause in recording.]

KORKORUS: Fred, bourbon's growing in, uh, in popularity in, um, this area. In 64:00Kentucky, um, where bourbon is made is becoming quite a tourist destination point.

NOE: Um-hm.

KORKORUS: And part of it is just an inherent interest people are, have in bourbon. The other is the promotional, uh, efforts of the bourbon industry. Can you tell us a little bit about the promotional efforts, and specifically the Kentucky Bourbon Trail?

NOE: Well, yeah, now, you know, the Kentucky Bourbon Trail, Governor Beshear is, uh, using the distilleries as a hook to bring tourists to the state. I mean, and it's, you know, it, it's amazing how many people want to make a pilgrimage here to Kentucky to see where bourbon is made. Uh, we spent right at fifteen million dollars on our visitors experience, the American Still House, here, at Jim Beam. You know, and all of our brothers in the bourbon industry have all stepped up. And I mean, I go up to the Still House--I don't get up 65:00there every day when I'm in town, but when I'm around, I ease up there just to, you know, mingle with the, with the visitors. And there's people from all over the world. I mean, you're, you're liable to bump into somebody from Australia, New Zealand, Louisville, Chicago, Los Angeles. And it's year-round, you know. And it's not just during Bourbon Festival. I mean, we have visitors, last year, we had right at eighty thousand visitors came in, and we've had over a thousand on several days this year, on one day. So it just kind of shows you when you have eighty thousand for the year, and you get a thousand in a day, just to show you how many folks are coming to Kentucky to see what bourbon's all about and see where bourbon's made. They want to learn about it, and they want to see where their favorite beverage alcohol comes from. And, you know, and it's, it's a great weekend deal cause the distilleries are situated in such a close locale 66:00that you can, you know, get your passport and go to each and every distillery and get your stamp. At the end, you get a nice gift for making the circle of all the distilleries. And folks like doing it because, you know, it's beautiful here in Kentucky, especially in the fall of the year with the leaves changing. I mean, it's no place any prettier to me than right here in, uh, central Kentucky. And, I mean, it's, the bourbon, Kentucky Bourbon Trail is perfect vacation, weekend vacation for folks.

KORKORUS: Great. That a wrap?


KORKORUS: Anything else to--

NOE: --I miss anything?


[End of interview.]