This article was produced in partnership with Hardin’s Creek
In the bourbon pantheon, there’s no name more well-known than Jim Beam. While most drinkers recognize it as a whiskey brand, Jim Beam—or, more precisely, Colonel James B. Beam—was a real person, a descendant of Jacob Beam, one of Kentucky’s earliest distillers. The Jim Beam name is famous throughout the world for its top-quality bourbon, but there was a time when Colonel Beam made no whiskey at all—a low point that almost wiped his legacy off the map.
We’re talking about Prohibition, the 13-year span of American history that shut down virtually every distillery in the nation, including the one owned by Beam. Forced to sell off his beloved business, Beam turned his hand to all kinds of other ventures, including citrus farming, coal mining, and limestone rock quarrying. None of them worked out, and his heart always lay with bourbon.
So when Prohibition was lifted with the passage of the 21st Amendment, Beam, then 70, threw his energy into starting a new distillery in Clermont, Kentucky. Within 120 days, it was up and running, producing bourbon to the same exacting standards as before, with one initial catch: Since they were building up stocks from scratch, the whiskey could only be aged for a short period of time before being sold. That didn’t make a difference to its quality, though; Beam knew how to create great flavor in bourbon regardless of its time in barrel.
His efforts succeeded in re-establishing the Beam family’s long legacy of whiskey-making that extends all the way back to 1795, and is now cemented as America’s leading bourbon distiller, the James B. Beam Distilling Co. The distillery is currently led by father-and-son master distillers, and Beam descendants, Fred and Freddie Noe. They’ve launched a new line of limited-edition whiskeys called Hardin’s Creek that pays tribute to their heritage while looking ahead with innovations in aging, ingredients, production processes, and more.