I was digitizing some clips from my documentary, "Made and Bottled in Kentucky," and this one brought up a whole bunch of different memories, thoughts and feelings.
Sam Cecil talks about the Beam family.
The documentary was shot 20 years ago and making it was really the beginning of my bourbon education. I mean, I thought I knew a lot about bourbon and bourbon history at that point, but I really didn't. I know a lot more now.
This interview was only the second time I had ever talked to Sam. It was shot at his house. The first meeting also took place there. The first meeting was sometime in the second half of 1991. This was shot in late 1991 or early 1992. Sam had one of the bedrooms in his home entirely devoted to his collection of bourbon industry documents and memorabilia. There may have been a desk in there somewhere, but I remember it as mostly full of boxes and filing cabinets.
I'm the person he is talking to in this short clip, in which he extemporaneously lays out the Beam family tree, and it was the first I heard of it. I knew about Jim Beam, and that Booker was his grandson, and I had known since the late 70s that there were Beams at Heaven Hill too, but it was in this moment, caught on tape, that I got my first glimpse of the full scope of it.
Sam was a very nice guy, very humble and easy going, and he loved to talk about bourbon and its history, which had been part of his life from birth, as he was born and reared in Nelson County, Kentucky, and took his first distillery job in 1937. I talked to him many times after that 1992 interview and by the time of his death in 2005 my bourbon education had made significant progress, but I would have much better questions if I could talk to him now. I wish I could.