View Full Version : David Beam--Michter's Pot Still

01-25-2004, 20:19
This is a great one. A man on a mission and mission accomplished. David Beam, the story of his mission.

David Beam, is a brother to Baker Beam. Their daddy was Carl Beam. Carl Beam was Master Disitller at Jim Beam. My Aunt Jo, told me that Carl Beam trained "Booker Noe" how to distill bourbon, the Beam way. Carl Beam's daddy (Park) and the famous Jim Beam were brother's.

David Beam has three son's, Troy, Bill and http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif John Ed http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif

I mentioned in another post about the Michter's Pot Still that Uncle Everett developed, and how it survived, (a replica) and is sitting right in Bardstown, Ky...Here is "The Rest of the Story".

This was published in the Kentucky Standard, Bardstown, Ky.
By Amy Taylor

David Beam has a yard just like other yards along West Stephen Foster--except for the spot with old-fashioned equipment that could make a barrel of whiskey a day (if it were legal to make booze in your yard).

I was by chance that Beam, the decendant of pioneer distiller Jacob Beam and the son of former Jim Beam master distiller Carl Beam, come upon his gleaming one-ton copper still.

David Beam was retiring after 37 years of service at the Jim Beam Clermont plant when a lawyer friend from Louisa, Ky asked for advice on an old Pennsylvania distillery property the layer had purchased at auction.

It was January of 1996. Beam traveled north with his friend to inspect the defunct Michter's Distillery in Schefferstown, just a stone's throw from the iron works where George Washington bought cannon balls during the Revolutionary War.

Wind blasted the 19th-century buildings of Michter's. There was a foot of snow on the ground. Outside a sign was posted that once advertised the distillery as the oldest operating in the nation.

Inside the decaying buildings Beam and his friend found hunks of whiskey history.

I was like a kid in a candy store. The retired supervisor of the Jim Beam Clermont distillery said. The equipment was remarkable, and it was all still there. I was amazed at what I saw.

The one-ton Pot Still that now sits in Beam's yard was on of the treasures the two men uncovered. Beam ended up buying the still from his friend, along with a smaller still, a fermenter, a mash tub and other equipment.

The big still, a replica of the single-batch pot stills that firms used before the advent of the continuous distilling process, had been made in 1976 and installed at Michter's as a show piece, Beam discovered. It was used to demonstrate distilling to the public.

Beam who grew up around whiskey-making equipment wrestled with ways to get his finds back to Kentucky. That summer he took a team of men from Kentucky to Pennsylvania that included his sons Bill, Troy and John Ed, along with Larry Walker of Heaven Hill and Donnie Ritchie of Jim Beam.

Larry was my crew chief Beam said. Donnie was in charge of transportation.

The men drove trucks with long trailers the 728 miles to Michter's where they used cherry picking equipment and the help of a group of brawny Mennonite farmers to lift the heavy pieces out of the buildings and load them up.

Bill Beam wasn't sure the crew could get everthing to fit, he said. We worked three 14 hour days to get it out of there.

His father remembers how on the way home the copper still attracted it's share of gawkers.

We'd come into a filling station to get gas and people would ask, What is that?

The men had notified federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms agents of the equipment move to be on the safe side, he said.

Back home in Kentucky, David built a special metal building to house his equipment. He spent days rubbing the tarnished copper pieces with polish, a process taht must be repeated every so often to keep them shinning.

Today the pieces are handsomely displayed, although in not a place that is public. All it would take to fire up the mini-distilling operation would be a boiler, Beam said.

Beam and his sons have spent hours discussing what to do with the historic equipment.

Bill can envision making whiskey with the still, pouring it into miniature oak barrels about the size of gallon jugs, then letting customers buy the little barrels and age their whiskey themselves.

Current law is a barrier to that plan, however, he said, since whiskey can't legally be sold in containers larger that 1.75 liters.

I think if enough people were behind it the law could be changed, Bill said.

The Beams can see firing up the still on distillery property or somewhere where it could be operated legally and where the public could observe it in operation.

If we were approached by the right people at the right time, we would do it, Bill said. We've had some interest, but nothing firm so far.

End of article
So there you have it. If I won the "lottery", I'd be right in there with em'. Helping to fund the starting of the next generation, of the "Real Beam's" making bourbon whiskey http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif

http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif Bettye Jo http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif

02-16-2004, 08:26
Excellent information (as always), Bettye Jo.

You earlier explained and showed documents how your Uncle had developed (early 1950's) the recipe for Michter's pot still whiskey. Michter's as far as I know started up again (post-Prohibition) in the early 1950's. It was bought when Prohibition ended by Louis Forman. However various events including his subsequent war service prevented full commercial start-up until about 1952 and the first whiskey was sold around 1958. Michter's sadly shut its doors in the early 1980's. (Today, various straight and other whiskeys have been sold under the Michter's name, so clearly a company, I believe Chatham Imports out of New York, has revived the name. This is good news but my comments in this post deal with Michter's as it was before it closed in the early 1980's).

What I find interesting is that the news story you quoted states that the one ton pot still, now owned by David Beam, was installed at Michter's in 1976.

Michael Jackson, in his 1977 World Guide To Whiskey, praises Michter's as the last surviving Pennsylvania distillery making rye-type whiskey. Rye-type, because Michael reported that the rye used in the mashbill did not achieve the legal definition to called a rye (or a Bourbon, since the corn was at 50%, but one can see it was essentially a very high rye bourbon whiskey). Michael Jackson stated that this whiskey was a specialty of Michter's, a proprietary (hence "original") straight whiskey. He noted that Michter's also sometime made true rye whiskey and indicates this was supplied at different times to National Distillers to be sold as Overholt rye and also possibly to Wild Turkey for its rye whiskey.

But the pot still "Original Sour Mash Whiskey" was clearly the specialty of the house (e.g., it was sold under its own name). From what you mentioned earlier your Uncle Everett developed this original recipe for Michter's in the 1950's.

Michael Jackson is a little unclear (probably because he didn't have all the facts) whether at all times from 1952 onwards Michter's original sour mash whiskey was made in a pot still. He seems to suggest for a time it wasn't. Yet the name "pot still whiskey" seems to have been used from the start-up until closure to describe the process of distillation (based on various sources I have read over the years).

So, my question, if Chuck Cowdery, Mike Veach, Bettye Jo or anyone else interested in the history of whiskey distillation knows, is, what kind of equipment did Michter's use from 1952-1976? Did it use a column still and a doubler and consider (as a number of distilleries have) that the doubling qualified as pot distillation? Or did the one ton still installed in 1976 replace an earlier pot still that was used? The news story refers to a smaller still also being acquired by David Beam, maybe that was the original pot still..

The news story seems to suggest the one ton still was based on the general design of pot stills used way back when (say in the 1800's by Michter's and other small companies before steam distillation took over), not that it was a copy of anything used specifically at Michter's in recent times.

Clearly all the whiskey made at Michter's until it closed (see again Michael Jackson's comments in his 1977 book) was very fine, but I am still curious what kind of distillation method (s) Michter's used between 1952 and 1976 - and after until closure - to make Michter's Original Sour Mash whiskey.


02-16-2004, 09:19
I know that Uncle Everett worked there 40+ years. I have a picture of him on his retirement day. There is a vast selection of Michters stone jugs in front of him. He's grinnin' from ear to ear.

To start, I have a letter hand written by him. In this letter he's vying for a job with Michters http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif He wrote his "basic" recipe for all of his whiskies, Bourbon, Corn and Rye. He drew pictures, and near the end he wrote....I wrote this letter to Mitcher Inc. the oldest distillery in the USA, established in 1752 and still in operation at the same site, recently to the new owner, who are unfamilar with the industry. They verified all that I have said and I am in the process of setting up a small operation for them. It's signed C.E. Beam (Charles Everett Beam)

The pot still that the David Beam family has is a replica of the original.

Aunt Jo, told me that Uncle Everett made the best "Rye" whiskey in the United States. I have a picture of him standing beside barrel # 5000 of "Rye" whiskey. He's shaking hands with this dude...probably the "Big Cheese" at Mitchers http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif The barrel states...Pennco Distillers, Inc. of Penna. DSP PA 17, Schaeferstown, Pa Serial # 5000 Filled OCT. 10 61 OPG 544 OP 109 OT 93.

I really don't know much about what went on during the 80's. All the stuff that I have relate directly to my family of Beams http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif

http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif Bettye Jo http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif

02-16-2004, 09:39
My understanding of it was the 1976 stills were miniatures and were made by Vendome( ?) for a hundred year anniversary . Otherwise they had larger Pot Stills for production. One is left to wonder if there might have been a column still there.

02-16-2004, 09:42
Thanks, Bettye Jo. I know (and I think you have said) that Michter's made Kirk's rye for a time, maybe that is the rye that was in that barrel. Certainly it may have ended up as Overholt's or Wild Turkey rye based on Jackson's report from the mid-70's. Jackson does not give praise easily and I don't doubt it was the best rye in America!

I wonder if the one-ton still is a replica of a pot still used at Michter's between 1952 and 1976? That is really what I am wondering about here. If so, maybe that original still is the small one that David Beam also bought as mentioned in that news story.

One would think the last Michter's whiskey to be sold in the 80's was made in that new pot still. But what about the Michter's made before 1976 (e.g. the Michter's in the Hirsch 16 and 20 year old bottles, which was made in 1974)?

All the Michter's products were classic, high-quality whiskeys so the issue of how they were distilled is secondary but it is something I've been wondering about as an historical matter.


02-16-2004, 09:47
Interesting, Bobby, thanks.


02-16-2004, 09:51
COPPERSTILL, is a member here. He is part owner (his daddy is David Beam, is grandfather is Carl Beam, Master Distiller of Jim Beam before Booker Noe) of this famous Pot Still http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif

Hey, John Ed, can you fill us in on this? Drill ya daddy too http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif All the information will be greatly appreciated http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif

http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif Bettye Jo http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif

02-16-2004, 09:55
Those of you attending the Festival this September should be able to take a peek at the Michter's replica still. It's stored on the grounds of the Old Kentucky Home Motel, which is directly across the street from StraightBourbon.com Central, aka, the Gazebo at the Gen. Nelson.

02-16-2004, 10:03
On further looking into it, The stills were made to coincide with the American Bicentennial. The Pot still whiskies from Michters had their 2nd distillation in a pot still. So that would make a column still a certainty there. Now I'm wondering if they they had another doubler as well as the pot still.
Several of us went over to see those stills last year during the Bourbon Festival. They are things of such beauty.

02-16-2004, 11:26
Bobby, thanks, and I wonder what happened to the original (post-'52) Michter's distillation equipment? It might have been broken apart and sold for scrap when the equipment and furnishings were (I presume) sold after closing. Or possibly the stills were sold intact and are being used somewhere to this day. Seems unlikely, but who knows..


02-16-2004, 11:36
We have two Pot-stills or one still and one doubler. They were both made at the same time in 1976 by Vendome. There was a column still at this site as well. I can not tell you what was used for a pot still prior to 1976.
John Ed
Anyone who would be interested in seeing the still just let me know.

02-16-2004, 17:17
This may answer some questions about the Michter's pot still. (http://www.winebow.com/spirits/bourbon.html)

02-16-2004, 17:28
I tell ya Chuck, you are the greatest http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif

Thanks, I really appreciate all the work you do http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif

http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif Bettye Jo http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif

02-16-2004, 17:32
Chuck , that all looked familiar. I thought at first some quotation marks were in order and a referrence to Gary and Mardee Regan. On a closer read however, it seems the old high school sophomore book report trick is in play. It's the Regans' material but a few words changed here and there. Gary and Mardee even credit the National Registry of Historic Places for the 1753 date of beginning the operation there.

02-16-2004, 17:44
[T]hat all looked familiar . . . it seems the old high school sophomore book report trick is in play.

I seem to recall more than a wee bit of that from a former board member a few months back, too. http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/wink.gif

02-16-2004, 17:49
http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/lol.gif I wonder if it is written by him..... http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/lol.gif

BTW if you click on the AH Hirsch at the end of the article they do include the " Dream of your Spectacular Future", which for me is the best line in the whole exercise and properly credit the source. http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif

02-16-2004, 18:27
Thanks for this, which I had seen (I got the Louis Forman information from that) but there is an apparent inconsistency: the statement is made that there was an intention to put in a pot still in the early 50's. But we are told (thanks Copperstill, and Bettye Jo who asked) that when the pot still newly installed in 1976 was later purchased there was a continuous still there. This suggests (and so does Michael Jackson) that continuous distillation was employed, in the 1970's at least, at Pennco. So, where did the claimed pot still method derive from? Possibly from the use of a doubler or thumper, but that is not (certainly) a real pot still method. To me, pot still means the use of two stills, a regular pot still and a similar smaller still (spirit still in the Scots terminology). In any case, if I understood Copperstill correctly, he saw no doubling equipment at Pennco apart from the '76-era kit he purchased..


02-16-2004, 22:43
Don't rule out the possibility that they were making a pot still whiskey as a special product and separately running a continuous still for the bulk of their production. I agree with you that while a doubler is, technically, an alembic, to call a whiskey 'pot still' it would have to have been made in alembics exclusively.

02-17-2004, 01:45
This is possible but I just checked again Michael Jackson's comments in his 1987 book to get a better bead on his view. Michael visited the plant not long before the book was published. He is shown on the dust cover sampling a whiskey from a Michter's shot glass. (A compliment to Michter's in that of the hundreds of whiskies discussed in the book from around the world, Michael is shown sampling a Michter's!). Knowing Michael (if I may say so) and his penchant for authenticity, I am sure Michter's Original Sour Mash was in that glass, i.e., even if the promo photo was shot in London where he lives. Michael writes in the section on Michter's, "although the company persisted with the pot still long after other companies had abandoned it, until the early 1950's, there was an interregnum of 25 years. Then, in 1976, without abandoning its column still, the company installed a tiny, one-barrel a day, pot still, as a means of restoring its tradition. In 1981 all production ceased, but in 1984 operation of the pot still was resumed".

All production stopped forever by 1988. Pennco went into Chapter 11 in 1978. The assets were bought by a company named simply Michter's. I think it operated the jug house, and the pot still from 1984 on probably just to demonstrate distilling. Everything ended probably not long after Michael's visit.

The quoted language seems clearly to state that until Prohibition Michter's/Bomberger used a pot still. From 1933 - 1951 same thing but in fact that is not correct. There was no resumption of operations until 1951. However the interregnum mentioned is clearly the period from 1951 until 1976, the year when the stills made by Vendome were installed as a Bicentennial project. Michter's Original Sour Mash was marketed as a pot still whiskey from about 1956 until the company closed forever. Michael's language ("interregnum") seems clearly to state there was no pot distillation at Michter's from 1951-1976. My guess however is there was use of a doubler or thumper attached to the column still. I think it likely all the company's whiskeys emanated from such a system. I further think the company's claim to making pot still whiskey during the 25 years in question - i.e., during most of the distillery's post-Prohibition operations - rested on the doubling aspect albeit it was and is a common technique of distilling straight whiskey. (I think we discussed earlier that Maker's Mark also spoke at one time, and still may, of pot distillation). Had there been no doubling, I doubt the claim would have been made of issuing pot still whiskey. But was there in the house a classic pot still set-up until the one from Vendome was commissioned and purchased? It seems not..


02-17-2004, 07:13

I looked it up, and found Uncle Everett's, "retirement" write up in the local paper, in PA.

It specifiaclly states in the capiton, (this is the picture that I mentioned him grinnin' from ear to ear). He looks over a collection of containers for the renowned Mithter's Pot Still Whiskey, which he helped develop for Pennco Disillers.----and one of the scions of that same family did a turn around about a quarter of a century ago by coming back to his ancestors old stomping ground to produce....the best rye whiskey in the world, in the nations oldest continuous operating distillery.---Pennco, produces the finest rye whiskey in the world. Our product, is bought by other companies for rebottling under thier brand names and you'd be surprised if I told you the name of some of those brands. I'm especailly proud of our famous Michter's Pot Still whiskey. I helped develop it, and we just can't make enough of it to satisfy the demand---
Beam and his wife, the former Alberta Spalding who also hails for Bardstown came to Schaefferstown in 1950 when he joined Pennco.---Now all you whiskey drinkers out there don't you start weeping and raising your galsses for a final toast yet.---Despite his retirement from the daily grind, C.E. Beam is not about to disassociate himself entirely from the whiskey business. He is continuing to serve as vice president and advisor to Pennco Distillers Inc. of Pennsylvania, Newmanstown RD 1.

I know that during his employment with Pennco, his mom became very ill, she asked that he come back to Kentucky. He did, uprooted his entire family and moved in with his mom and daddy. He cared for her till the last of her days. He then packed up the family and move back to PA. http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif That part, just chokes me, whenever I think about it.

I hope this helps with the puzzle.

http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif Bettye Jo http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif

02-17-2004, 10:47
Thanks, Bettye Jo, and I don't doubt it was great whiskey. Jackson (one of the world's great consumer whisky experts) was very complimentary in his World Guide To Whisky. And as I said, what better compliment than to be pictured on the book flap sipping from a Michter's shot glass? Michael Jackson discussed hundreds of fine whiskies in this book. He chose Michter's for the photo of him taking a sip. You should be proud; your uncle sounds like he was not just a fine distiller, but a good family man, too.


02-17-2004, 14:08
What was the date of his retirement?

10-22-2006, 05:21
I looked it up, and found Uncle Everett's, "retirement" write up in the local paper, in PA.

Bettye Jo,
Do you remember what year your uncle Everett retired from Pennco?
Joe :usflag: