23 Sep Jim Beam’s 150th birthday marked with Clermont statue

The name Jim Beam is recognized across the world as one of the best-selling brands of bourbon whiskey, the business having operated almost continuously since 1795, only interrupted by Prohibition. Indeed, across the seven generations of the Beam family who have been involved in the company’s whiskey production, James B. Beam might just be the most important figure of all.

It was he, after all, who got the business going again after Prohibition came to an end in 1933, his vital contribution acknowledged by the company adopting his name. Now, he has been commemorated still further with a sculpture that, as leading bronze statue makers ourselves, we are full of admiration for.

Where better to site that statue than the famous Clermont distillery itself, and when better to unveil it than during the week-long celebration of all things bourbon, the Bardstown Bourbon Festival? That Nelson County event took place just down the road from the distillery in Bullitt County, where the new statue was shown off in the company of Beam’s great-grandson and great-great-grandson.

Master distiller Fred Noe and his son Freddie Noe were joined in toasting the founder by 10 men named Jim Beam, who had been invited to the party by the distillery. The life-sized statue itself is the work of Lexington-based Benjamin Bartlett, whose research into Beam led him to the great man’s love of colorful neckties.

It’s fair to say that he’s better known for bourbon these days, though, which only makes it all the more befitting that the statue depicts him with a tot of a pre-Prohibition bourbon, Old Tub, in one hand, as his other hand waves his hat in welcome.

As Fred Noe commented to the gathered crowd before the statue outside the distillery’s visitors’ centre, “This is where our family got this whole thing cranked up after Prohibition. Today, we are celebrating the 150th birthday of my great grandfather.”

There can be no doubt of how far the brand has come, even since Jim Beam’s day. It is now the world’s best-selling premium bourbon, while shares are reportedly up 40 per cent compared to a year ago. It’s a good time to be an enthusiast of Jim Beam and bourbon in general, and the eponymous founder of the present-day company had much to do with making that possible.

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