Here's a repost from my own site. I think it'd be of particular interest to many of the readers here, especially given the questions pertaining to food/cigar pairings. I've got a few more of these in the works, including interviews with Bill Samuel's Jr and Tom Bulleit.
SOURCEOriginally Posted by LifeEpicurean.comAppropriately enough, we begin our Bourbon Barons series with Frederick B. Noe III, seventh generation distiller of Jim Beam Brands Co. For many, Jim Beam was their introduction into the world of bourbon – from drinking it straight, to its mixibility in shots and cocktails. Many of us can recall in our young and formidable college years when Jim Beam served as a reliable standby to take our minds off the stresses of academia, and just the stresses of life in general. Simple, sweet, and palatable.
As we grow older and our tastes mature, Jim Beam Brands too grows with us offering a wide selection of bourbons. Going down their product line, the bourbon drinker can progress from Jim Beam, to Jim Beam Black, aged 8 years at 86 proof, to Jim Beam Choice, their only charcoal filtered Bourbon, to finally Jim Beam’s Small Batch Collection, boasting four of the finest and most sophisticated Bourbons on the market. I, for one, can say that Booker’s and Basil Hayden’s, both part of Jim Beam’s Small Batch Collection, are two of my absolute favorite Bourbons. If you are not yet privy, please, go out and do yourself the favor of partaking of either one of these fine, fine selections.
Currently at the reigns, and keeper of the family flame, sits Fred Noe, great grandson of the brand’s namesake. He was instrumental in the creation of the Small Batch Collection in the 1990s, largely helping with promotion and selecting the batches ready for bottling. Since the retirement of his father, Booker Noe, Fred has taken over the much-venerated title Ambassador of The Small Batch Bourbon Collection. He has also gone on to become master distiller and, most recently in late 2007, was honored with the placement of his photo on the Jim Beam label alongside the six family distillers who have preceded him. With his exceptional knowledge and inheritated legacy, Fred continues to expand and reshape the brand, as well as Bourbon as a whole, into a well respected spirit the world wide.
Mr. Noe was kind enough to answer some questions we had sent him, as well as a few other well-respected Bourbon distillers, in hopes of better understanding these great men who produce great Bourbon:
What brought you into the bourbon business?
I was born into the bourbon business. My great-grandfather was Jim Beam and my father was the former Master Distiller, Booker Noe. I was raised at the Jim Beam Distillery and grew up with the Distillery as my playground.
What is your goal in the bourbon business?
My goal is to continue to produce my family’s signature bourbon. I would like to bring Jim Beam into markets that do not have bourbon at this time and educate the world on bourbon so it can be discovered and appreciated all over the world.
Why do you make your bourbon the way you do?
We still make our bourbons the same way it was made by previous generations of Beam family members before me. The process is the same and we still use a yeast strain that my great-grandfather Jim Beam started after prohibition.
Why is your bourbon different in the market, and different among the other premium bourbons of the region?
Our bourbons are aged until we think they are at the peak of maturity. Aging in charred oak barrels give bourbon their color and a lot of the flavors, so aging is important to create great bourbon.
Our Small Batch Bourbons all have different tastes and finishes to appeal to all bourbon lovers. Basil Hayden’s is light with twice the amount of rye in the mash bill. Booker’s is bottled uncut, unfiltered straight from the barrel. My father, Booker Noe developed Booker’s bourbon to get back to the way bourbon used to be - the way it was meant to be.
What is/are your relationship(s) with other bourbon makers in the region and market? (e.g., Jim Beam is Bill Samuel Jr.’s godfather. Do other close-knit relationships such as this exist within the bourbon industry?)
I have a lot of friends and some family members that work at other distilleries. Parker and Craig Beam, my cousins, work at Heaven Hill. Jimmy and Eddie Russell at Wild Turkey are very good friends of the family. Most all the distillers are friends and we all enjoy the times we spend together.
In your opinion, does real bourbon only come from Bourbon County, Kentucky, or can it come from other locations? Why/why not?
There are no distilleries in Bourbon County, Kentucky. That means no bourbon is produced there. Bourbon County is also a “Dry” County so there are no package stores to purchase a bottle of bourbon. Most bourbon is produced in Central Kentucky due to the sweet limestone water that is a big demand for making bourbon. Bourbon can be made anywhere in the United States. People think bourbon has to be made in Kentucky since almost all of it comes from Kentucky.
While many imbibers simply enjoy their bourbon neat, a.) How do you take your own bourbon? b.) What do you pair it with food-wise? Cigar-wise?
I enjoy bourbon with a little ice and water. But, people should enjoy bourbon any way they see fit or however they enjoy it - as long as they drink bourbon. Bourbon goes well with chocolate, nice steaks or even pork. The cigar pairing should reflect the type of cigar to the bourbon it is paired with. Lighter cigars need to be paired with lighter bourbons like Basil Hayden’s or Jim Beam. The big heavy cigars need a big bold bourbon to stand up to the cigars like Baker’s or Booker’s Bourbon.
How do your family members, such as spouse or other female relatives, enjoy their bourbons?
My mother enjoys her bourbon mixed with ginger ale. My wife enjoys a bourbon whiskey sour made with lemonade, orange juice and Jim Beam Black.
What do you feel a drinker ought to taste in your bourbon?
Jim Beam drinkers enjoy the clean taste with a finish that is glowing, nice and pleasant to the palate. The mixability of Jim Beam makes it very popular with novice bourbon drinkers.
What flavors are unique to your own?
The barrel gives our bourbons their flavors. The vanilla, woody, oaky flavors come through in our bourbon.
Why did you choose the packaging you did for your bourbon?
The Jim Beam bottle has remained unchanged since prohibition. We have revised the label to add family members and honor their accomplishments and in fact I was just added last year! The square bottle has remained the same - just like the bourbon recipe inside for many years.
Where do you foresee the direction of the market going in the future? What are the changes you see, if any, coming to the market and to your product in particular?
The higher end premium bourbons will continue to grow. In the future, more are looking at bourbon today then in the past. More and more ladies are looking at bourbons as a beverage alcohol possibility. Cocktails made with bourbon are adding to increased consumption and popularity in on-premise accounts.
Who do you feel is “your drinker?” Why do you think this is the case?
I think “my customers” varies with each brand we produce. The 22 – 25 year old novice bourbon drinker may start on Jim Beam and cola. As this customer gets older and looks for more flavor, they may drop the cola and use water as their mixer and may move up to Jim Beam Black or the Small Batch Bourbon Collection. Our customers have different tastes and enjoy their bourbon with all kinds of mixers. They know we have a bourbon for whatever taste they enjoy.