Touring Jim Beam, America’s Largest Bourbon Distillery

| July 27, 2016

Jim Beam, located in Clermont, Ky., is the single largest bourbon producer in the United States. Descendants of Jacob Beam, who founded the family business in 1760, lead the distillery today. They include Fred Noe, III, the master distiller and global brand ambassador, and his son, Freddy Noe, IV, his father’s understudy and heir apparent to his lofty perch.

There are many ways to soak up the Beam experience, including the exclusive Knob Creek Campout held yearly on the distillery grounds, and The Jim Beam Urban Stillhouse in Louisville’s 4th Street Live! entertainment district.

But to get the best understanding of where your Booker’s, Baker’s, Old Grand-Dad, Knob Creek, and Jim Beam are made, a trip to bucolic Clermont for touring Jim Beam is ideal.

touring Jim Beam

A Jim Beam aging warehouse (image copyright The Whiskey Wash)

It’s a short drive from Louisville, about 30 minutes from downtown, on I-65 headed south. Located across Hwy. 245 from Bernheim Forest (built from the whiskey fortune amassed by Isaac Wolfe Bernheim, creator of the I.W. Harper brand), the distillery lies 13 miles outside of Bardstown, home to Heaven Hill, Willett and two new distilleries under construction. Beam, however, stands out in the area as the bourbon giant. Its Booker Noe Distillery in nearby Boston, Ky., is the world’s largest bourbon distillery, but not open for public tours. 

As you drive up to the Jim Beam American Stillhouse visitors center, you’re greeted by a statue of the late Booker Noe, arguably the whiskey maker’s most colorful character. The Stillhouse’s front porch has rocking chairs where those awaiting tours relax amidst the relative quiet near the massive distillery. During the tour guests can see the entirety of bourbon production from grain to bottle.

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Designed to give guests a sense of both large and small scale production and bottling, part of the tour includes a look at a small-scale experimental still. Not far away is the towering column still doing the yeoman’s work of producing millions of cases of liquor each year. The Knob Creek dump room is another good stop in the tour, giving guests an up-close look–and a delicious sniff–of the whiskey being dumped from barrel to filtration tank. 

Tours, as of the time this post went live, last 90 minutes and are free for active duty military with ID and $12 for everyone else over 21. It’s wise to call ahead to ensure the distillery isn’t closed for winter weather, holidays, or special events. Tours are given Monday-Saturday, and start every 30 minutes. Tours run from 9:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m. EST, except for a 11:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. pause. Sunday tours run from 12:30 p.m.-3 p.m. EST. Gift shop hours are Monday-Saturday, 9 a.m.-5:30 p.m. EST, Sunday 12-4:30 p.m. EST.

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Maggie Kimberl

One night during Derby week, I was working in the liquor store while Four Roses Master Distiller Jim Rutledge was doing a tasting. I kept trying to make my way over to talk to him, but we were super busy (did I mention it was Derby week?) and I didn't...