The bourbon whiskey distilling tradition is supposed to derive from the Scots-Irish of Appalachia, but Jim Beam Bourbon Whiskey is actually the product of a German family. They were called the Boehms, but they changed the spelling to “Beam” when they hit Kentucky.
The founder of this dynasty of bourbon distilling was a man named Johannes Reginald Beam. He was a farmer who started making bourbon, presumably for his own use and that of his friends and family, some time in the second half of the eighteenth century.
He was succeeded by Jacob Beam, who produced bourbon whiskey at the Old Tub distillery and marketed it under the name of “Old Jake Beam” from 1795 on. David Beam took over in 1820, and the operation became more industrialized. David M. Beam took the reins in 1854 and started shipping the stuff out to other parts of the country by train.
James Beauregard Beam got the family through Prohibition and got them started making bourbon again after it. “Jim Beam Bourbon” is named after him, but as you can see they had already been making bourbon for a long time.
Eventually the distilling operation came under the direction of Booker Noe, a Beam descendent through the maternal line. The Beams themselves are still involved in the business, but several Beams have also been the distillers at a separate distillery called Heaven Hill, which has just as much of a traditional connection to the Beam family as Jim Beam itself.
Here's to the Beam family- an American dynasty of whiskey!