3 March 2011

Whisky Insiders Interview - Fred Noe

Jim Beam

Master Distiller


How long have you been working in the whisky industry?
This is an industry I’ve had the privilege of being born into. I have been visiting the distillery since I was a young boy, although, in terms of employment, I began working with Jim Beam full time at the age of 27. Currently my 23-year old son is at college, with the potential to continue the family legacy by becoming the eighth generation to be directly involved with the distillery.

What has been your biggest career highlight to date?
The biggest career highlight was undoubtedly the moment when, two years ago, my portrait was added to the side of the Jim Beam White bottle, after my father passed away. Seeing my portrait up there with the six generations of family distillers before me – father, grandfather, great uncle and great-grandfathers – was an extremely emotional moment. To have my picture on the world’s best-selling bourbon, in nearly every bar in the world, is a true honour.

Can you remember your first dram, and indeed what it was?
In my family it was common practice to rub bourbon along a baby’s gums when teething, and my mother developed a recipe using bourbon, honey and lemon juice as a medicine for coughs and colds. So my first taste was as a baby.

What does whisky mean to you?
Whisky is my life; my family has been making it since 1795. It’s a real honour to be able to continue their work, as a way of bringing good cheer to the world. Enemies don’t meet over whisky; it brings friends and family together.

Where would you like to see yourself in five years time?
Still alive, and keeping the Jim Beam heritage alive. I see myself training my son, passing my knowledge and the reigns to the eighth generation of the Beam family. I know my father took real pleasure in training me, and I can’t wait to do it myself.

What was your last dram?
A double Jim Beam Black on the rocks.

Do you have a favourite whisky and food pairing combination?
I enjoy a good steak with my bourbon, and chocolate pairs really well too.

What’s your favourite time and place to enjoy a dram?
A dram is best enjoyed after a long day, in a relaxed environment, with someone I enjoying being with, or with a new acquaintance who enjoys the taste of bourbon. I love sharing my knowledge; travelling and telling others about bourbon.

What do you think is going to be the next big thing on the whisky horizon?
New innovations will continue to feature, not just from Jim Beam. Distillers are looking to create new flavours through different woods, and continue to research new ways of serving bourbon, for example at different temperatures.

There are plenty of my father’s generation who continue to drink bourbon as it was traditionally enjoyed for generations, but for younger people new, explorative forms of drinking are the only way forward. For example Jim Beam Red Stag, which is enjoying huge success in the U.S.

What’s the one dram you couldn’t live without?
Jim Beam Black. But then the Booker’s barrel selection was formulated by my father and so remains very close to my heart.

Many thanks to Fred Noe. Who will be the next Whisky Insider? Click back soon to find out!