The man &
Baker Beam was born with bourbon in his blood and raised on the grounds of the Jim Beam Distillery in Clermont, Kentucky – where he began his career. Baker started working as a night watchman during high school and did every job imaginable before working his way up to becoming Jim Beam’s distiller.
Never one for the spotlight, Baker was more comfortable with a wrench and a flashlight doing whatever it took to keep the bourbon flowing. When he retired after 38 years, he knew every square inch of the Beam distillery like the back of his hardworking hands.
Baker & Booker, the family’s yin and yang.
For bourbon, there’s no family tree with more branches than the Beam’s. One of the most famous is Baker’s cousin, Booker Noe – larger than life, outspoken, charismatic and the undeniable father of small batch bourbon.
While Baker became irreplaceable at Jim Beam, Booker was hard at work in Boston, Kentucky, on a top-secret project, the Small Batch Collection. One of the first super premium bourbons Booker would make in this collection – Baker’s® – was for his favorite cousin.
Mavericks never rest.
Quiet and independent-minded, Baker had a way of getting things done nobody else could. Believe it or not, back in his day, there weren’t a lot of manuals and resources about running a distillery. It took hard work, dedication and often the ability to fly by the seat of your pants – which Baker mastered while keeping the Clermont distillery afloat during some tough years. It also helped that Booker was always just a phone call away.
“In his own words.
Q&A with Baker Beam.
Q&A with Baker Beam.
I always did more than necessary. It was just my nature to work hard. I always said, ‘If you need it to be done, go ahead and do it. Don’t fool around with it.’”
So, you literally grew up at the distillery – lived there?
“I grew up right on the grounds. It was our playground. If my dad was working and needed something, he’d send us boys to get it. We were kind of gophers.”
Did your family encourage you to go into the bourbon business?
“It was about the only choice I considered. I did consider driving a truck one time. Beam had big trucks. I told them I wanted to drive one of their trucks. And they said, ‘No, we think you’d be better off staying here.’”
What was your first job at the Jim Beam Distillery in Clermont?
“I guess night watchman. I worked that during high school summers. When I started, I think there were only about six different jobs in the distillery. In 1954, I was hired into the regular work force as a yard laborer. I stayed with that job until ’59 when I became the night supervisor. Then I became a distiller in ’74.”
What’s the one thing that makes Beam bourbons different?
“The water. You can’t go to any other country or state and find the quality or the type of water we have here.”
How do you drink your bourbon?
“Well, I’ve drank it a lot with water and with cola, too. You know, I like a little Baker’s with a splash of water every now and then.”
Tell us a little bit about Baker’s Bourbon. Is it an honor to have your name on a bottle?
“When Booker made it, I was flattered. I asked him, ‘Why would you pick my name?' He said, 'Well, it’s just a flashy name.’ He was a real jovial fella. We had a lot of respect for each other.”
A singular experience
Pour yourself a glass of a true bourbon-lover’s bourbon. Made for those who enjoy the unique and subtle differences between one barrel and the next.