KORKORUS: Okay, let’s start off with a basic question. Can you tell us your name and, um, your–your–your job title or function here at–at the distillery?
NOE: I’m Fred Noe. I’m the master distiller here at Jim Beam.
KORKORUS: And we’re sitting in a beautiful setting here. Can you describe that here on the distillery grounds?
NOE: We are in the Knob Creek Guest House on the distillery grounds here in Clermont. Uh, we acquired this house, uh, when we bought this property; and we use it for letting customers stay here if they come visit and uh, meetings and lunches and interviews like we’re doing right now.
KORKORUS: And we’re only a few miles from Bardstown, Kentucky. Um, can you tell us, um, a little bit about the town, and is that where you were born?
NOE: Yeah. I was born and raised in Bardstown, Kentucky, the bourbon capital of the world. Bardstown’s about fifteen miles from where we’re sitting right now. Uh, it’s, uh–was the home for many, many distilleries before Prohibition. Uh, several came back after Prohibition. Now there’s just a couple that are still up and running there, but that was the main industry in Bardstown back in the old days. The main street, North Third Street, uh, was known as “Distiller’s Row” because of the master distillers that lived along the main street of Bardstown. Now–I guess I’m the only master distiller that’s still living on Third Street in Bardstown, but–
KORKORUS: What was it like growing up in Bardstown, in that environment–in that bourbon environment? Do–wha–did the bourbon families intermingle? Did they associate with each other? Were they friends? Were they competitors?
NOE: Oh! You know, growing up in Bardstown when I was a kid, there was many, many families involved in the bourbon industry; and we were all friends. I mean, Charlie DeSpain, who was–at the time, was the plant manager at Heaven Hill. He lived about a half a block from our house; and every year at the bourbon opening golf tournament, Charlie hosted a–a huge cocktail party in his back yard. And I can remember being, as a kid, watching the people come and go from his house that–that night. And everybody was friendly. I mean, you know, it was a–you know, a lot of families were touching bourbon, and it wasn’t–you know, that was a big industry, so everybody’s families worked in different distilleries–
NOE: –and that was just what your–your, uh, folks did was–that’s what–like my dad was at Jim Beam. Uh, friend of mine down the street, his mom worked at Heaven Hill, and there was Barton and Schenley and Double Springs and all these other distilleries right there in Nelson County so–yeah, it was very common.
KORKORUS: You are, um–tell us your relationship to, uh, Jim Beam.
NOE: Jim Beam was my great grandfather. Uh, I’m the seventh generation of Beams to be involved in the bourbon industry here in Kentucky.
KORKORUS: Um-hm. And growing up, were you aware that you were part of this, um, um, established and–albe–um, famous distilling family? Were you aware of that?
NOE: Well, you know, growing up, you know, in the family, my dad was the boss at Jim Beam. That was all I knew as a boy, and I went with him to the distillery. You know, and that’s where I learned to hunt and where I learned to fish. You know, I rode on the trucks, the train that came in that delivered goods, grain and other, uh, products they used. I would ride on the train. I mean, it was just a place where my dad worked. Then a lot of my friends’ fathers worked there, too, so that’s just where our parents worked; and you didn’t really think about it–what it was all about until later in life when–
NOE: –you know, I was away at military school, and my father would bring bottles to the–all the teachers.