Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Jim Beam Fills 13 Millionth Barrel

Jim Beam Bourbon made history today as the first bourbon-maker to fill 13 million barrels since the repeal of Prohibition in 1933. The barrel was personally filled and sealed by Fred Noe, Jim Beam’s great-grandson and seventh generation master distiller, at the company’s flagship distillery in Clermont, Ky. Also on hand to celebrate the milestone was Fred’s son Freddie Noe, an eighth generation Beam who also works at the distillery.

“I guess, in this case, 13 is a lucky number,” said Fred Noe. “As a family, we’re proud of this milestone. It speaks loudly and proudly to our longevity and history, and bolsters our position as the world’s largest producer of bourbon. We’ve been making bourbon a long time and we’ve made a lot of it.”

The historic milestone, achieved less than three years after filling the 12 millionth barrel, underscores bourbon’s soaring popularity the world over. Domestic sales of bourbon have increased by 40 percent in the past five years and exports have topped the $1 billion mark. Demand for Jim Beam Bourbon is on the rise, as well – not just Jim Beam’s flagship white label bourbon, but its entire bourbon portfolio that includes Jim Beam Black, Jim Beam Devil’s Cut, Jim Beam Honey, Jim Beam Maple, Jim Beam Signature Craft, Red Stag by Jim Beam, and Jim Beam Single Barrel.

“This recent success is a testament to the craft and heritage of ‘America’s Native Spirit,’” said Noe, who has been on hand for a number of barreling milestones in his 30 plus years at the Beam distillery. “Globally, bourbon is in huge demand, and we’re producing it at a faster rate than ever before. We expect even less time to pass between now and the 14 millionth barrel fill than the three short years it took us to hit 13 million after 12 million.”

The 13 millionth barrel will be aged inside the distillery’s historic rackhouse D, a nine-story rackhouse re-built after Prohibition by Jim Beam, his brother, Park, and their sons T. Jeremiah, Carl, and Earl. It is on the distillery grounds and open to Beam’s bourbon fans who come to tour the Jim Beam American Stillhouse. 

To rain on Beam’s parade a little, Jack Daniel’s decision to call its Tennessee-made bourbon-style whiskey ‘Tennessee whiskey’ often gives Beam, and Heaven Hill’s Evan Williams, bragging rights they don’t exactly deserve. Historically close in sales, Daniel’s has in recent years opened up a very large lead on Beam, especially internationally. Although privately-owned Heaven Hill doesn’t release sales figures, it is widely believed that Evan Williams is a fairly distant #3.

Therefore, this milestone is only ‘historic’ if you lean on the word ‘bourbon,’ as Jack Daniel’s passed it some time ago, even though they got a later start due to the 1938 repeal of Tennessee state prohibition. Beam calls itself the world’s #1 bourbon, which it is, but it’s the #2 bourbon-style American whiskey. Similarly, Evan Williams likes to call itself, truthfully, the #2 bourbon, but it’s actually the #3 bourbon-style American whiskey.

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