Whiskey Profile – Fred Noe, Jim Beam

September 30, 2015
By Alana House

Following on from Beam Suntory’s Great Whisk(e)y Rumble, drinks bulletin caught up with the characters behind the whiskies.

Fred Noe – Jim Beam:

What was your first experience with whiskey?
I was always hanging around the Distillery, talking with the employees and observing everything going on, but when I turned 21, I started enjoying the fruits of my family’s labour with my dad Booker. It’s those times hanging out at the distillery when I learned the age-old bourbon distillers’ tradition of “sweating barrels,” which inspired my decision years later to develop a premium way to extract liquid from the barrel and create Devil’s Cut – a bolder, complex bourbon.

Did you always know you wanted to be in the whiskey business? What inspired that start? 

I was always interested in the family business, but I’d be lying if I said I always knew that I’d become a distiller. After college,
I hit the road with Hank Williams, Jr. and spent time having fun… that’s when Booker, let’s call it “motivated,” me to start working at the distillery and learning the craft of bourbon production.

What do you see in the future for your whiskey brand?
I see us continuing to grow as the world’s #1 bourbon, using the traditions that my family started more than 200 years ago and sharing “America’s Native Spirit” with the world. I always like to say, “as long as you keep drinking it, we’ll keep making it.”

What is it about the craft of distilling whiskey that is the most “romantic” or “appealing” to you?
When I’m distilling our bourbon, I think about the six generations of Beams that perfected their craft before me. Jacob started it all in 1795, and later my great-grandfather Jim Beam brought things back to life after Prohibition in the 1930’s. Every single drop of bourbon I produce is made with the same tradition and passion as my dad Booker and the Beam distillers that came before him. Now it’s my job to not screw it up!

Your brand has significant history, how has the style changed over the years?
Jim Beam has always contained certain elements throughout the years, such as the same grains, our sour mash distilling process, and the classic Jim Beam flavour profile. But in recent years, as interest in bourbon has exploded across the globe, we’ve had the opportunity to experiment and innovate products like we’ve never done before. Now, when visiting the Jim Beam American Stillhouse in Clermont, Kentucky, you can find a diverse range of options… from the original “white label”, to Jim Beam Black, Devil’s Cut, Jim Beam flavours, Red Stag, Jim Beam Signature Craft and our Small Batch Bourbon Collection. We’ve really got something for everyone.

What is your favourite whiskey? And how do you like it served?
That would be like picking my favourite child! Well, since I only have one child, I’ll admit that Freddie’s my favourite son…
As far as whiskey goes, I enjoy everything from Jim Beam Black to Booker’s Bourbon to Knob Creek. I usually drink it with a couple of ice cubes or a splash of water.

What has been a career highlight for you?
Back when I was getting started, working and traveling alongside my dad, Booker, and learning from him.

What was one of the most difficult challenges in your career in relation to your whiskey brand?

My greatest challenge is making enough bourbon to meet the incredible demand from all over the world. You folks in Australia are keeping me busy with your love of the brand! But don’t be fooled – I’m not complaining.

What is your advice to Aussie drinkers on how best to enjoy whiskey?
Like my dad used to say, drink it any damn way you please!

What are your BBQ-ing skills like? Do you have a special technique or cooking secret?
I do a lot of barbecuing and grilling in my backyard. We have our own smokehouse where I like to smoke my own hams. My greatest cooking secret, which is a family tradition, is throwing cooking pork chops on the grill and then drizzling some Booker’s Bourbon over them. The high alcohol content makes for a perfect flambe.

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