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My Handcrafted Opinions on Whiskies, Distilleries and Other Related Stuff

Jim Beam, Kentucky, USA

My first major US distillery and the first stop I made on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail in May 2012.  To call this a distillery visit is a bit misleading... as the official name is the Jim Beam Heritage Tour and you don't get to see any of the actual working distillery (except for one warehouse).  Instead the focus is on the Beam family distilling history (which begins with Jacob Beam.... not Jim) and and also learn about their product range.  This is not the artisanal style of distillery I have been used to seeing in Scotland, this is a major whisky factory wth over 475 employees (thats about 450 more men than you find in Tain and 472 more than Benromach).  I learned that 95% of the world's bourbon is made in Kentucky and 50% of that is made by Jim Beam.   Their range is a bit of a mixed bag for me... I like Jim Beam Black (but not the standard White label), I like Booker's but not Baker's and I love Knob Creek but don't like Basil Hayden.  All of these Beam brands are made at this facility and interestingly all made with the usual suspects of corn, rye and malted barley... not a wheated bourbon in the range.  Highlight of tour was probably learning our guide was 8th generation Beam family and seeing the pride and passion in her for bourbon (and she was cute which also helped).  The tour was free and included a short video and samples of Jim Beam Black and Baker's small batch bourbon (and a sample of choclate to try with the Baker's... a recurring theme on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail).  The facility is currently undergoing an upgrade with a new store and a cafe and will in the future the tour will include the actual distillery.... so I will have to come back and revisit when that is complete and hopefully get the same guide.

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Glenfiddich, Speyside, Scotland

Glenfiddich, Speyside, Scotland I have visited this distillery in Dufftown (the self titled Malt Capital of the World) on number of occasions and as you would expect for Glenfiddich it is slick and well done.  Supposedly it was the first distillery to open a visitor's center as well as being one of the first distilleries to actively market their single malt whisky, which is now the world's largest selling single malt brand.   The facilities are as good as any distillery I have been too with a large visitor's center, shop and a nice restaurant.  The tastings perhaps are not as generous and free flowing as some of the less commercial tours, however that is not really a complaint but more of an observation.   I also like the fact they are big enough to stay open all year, including Sundays compared to many distilleries, even major ones, that have quite limited seasons and hours for their visitors centers.

I love their entire range and the 21 year old which is finished in a rum cask, is one of my favorites of all time.  I also got a bottle of the limited release Snow Phoenix as Christmas present in 2010 which was devoured rather too quickly (thanks Dad) and before I started taking detailed tasting notes.   Tammy enjoys the Glenfiddich liqueur over ice as well.

So what's not too like?  Well for some apparently there is plenty.  Glenfiddich often manages to raise the ire of the scotch whisky anorak community, and at the very least it's popularity and ubiquity seems to turn off those who thrive on recommending obscure distilleries whose total annual liquid output appears to amount to slightly less than most people use to make their morning coffee.    

That's their loss and leaves more for the rest of us, not that there is much danger of the world running out of Glenfiddich, which in itself makes the world a better place.

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