Jim Beam fills 15 millionth barrel

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By Kacie Goode

Jim Beam has again made history as it filled its 15 millionth barrel this week — the most barrels filled to date by a Kentucky distillery. The filling comes less than two years after the 14 millionth barrel was celebrated.


“We talk about making history here at Jim Beam,” seventh-generation Master Distiller Fred Noe said. “This 15 millionth barrel is a hell of a milestone.”

Noe said when the distillery started up after Prohibition, it took 30 years to get to one million barrels. “It kind of shows you how much this bourbon industry has grown,” he said.

Jim Beam family members, officials, employees, special guests and media gathered in front of the American Stillhouse in Clermont Monday afternoon to witness Noe and son Freddie top off the barrel and seal it. The spectacle was met with Noe mentioning the changes in bourbon consumers over the years. 

“In the ’70s, bourbon was kind of your dad’s drink; your granddad’s drink,” Noe said. “Young people weren’t drinking much bourbon.”

But with the release of small batch bourbons from Beam and other distilleries, he said, “It rekindled the fire under the bourbon category,” and has led to the industry taking off.

According to the Kentucky Distillers’ Association, bourbon is an $8.5 billion industry in Kentucky and Jim Beam has led that growth with a strong global presence. When talking to guests earlier in the event, Noe mentioned his travels around the world and the realization of the impact a family business can make.

“It doesn’t matter if I’m in Moscow, Tokyo, Louisville, you see a bottle of Jim Beam, it comes from right here,” Noe said.

While the Beam family history was in the spotlight Monday, the distillery’s workforce was also recognized, with a special nod to some of Beam’s top tenured union employees.

“We are one big family here at Beam,” Noe said. “We can’t do it by ourselves. We have a lot of help.”

That collaboration was evidenced with all of Beam’s Kentucky employees’ signatures on the barrel. The bourbon will age in a warehouse rebuilt after prohibition.