Drink whiskey ‘any damn way you want’

By Nicholas Robinson

- Last updated on GMT

How you like: drinkers told not to worry about how they drink their whiskey
How you like: drinkers told not to worry about how they drink their whiskey

Related tags Whisky Public house Spirit Jim beam

That's the advice of Jim Beam’s straight-talking head distiller Fred Noe, speaking on a visit to the UK from JB's homeland of Kentucky where the spirit has been distilled since 1795.

Noe, the brand’s seventh-generation master distiller, is touring Europe to keep in touch with the on-trade, where he says much of his inspiration comes from.

A recent learning he’s keen to push further, Noe explains at the JW Steakhouse on Park Lane, London, comes from Japan and is called the Jim Beam Highball, a long whiskey drink. “We’re introducing it from Japan to keep Jim Beam at the front of people’s minds during the warmer months,” he explains in his distinctive Southern accent.

“When the weather is warmer, whiskey tends to move to the back of the cupboard and is then brought out again when it gets colder. We want to keep it at the front all year.”

The drink he is keen to tell more people about, which he agrees is unusual to have been coined in Japan, is made using Jim Beam White Label, citrus juice and soda water, and served in a highball glass with ice.

‘Jim Beam to a refreshing level’

“It’s to bring Jim Beam to a refreshing level, to make people know that it can be easy to drink and it [can be served] at a lower alcohol level [in a drink like this].”

The fact a whiskey distiller is promoting the dilution of his product may strike some as odd, while others may accuse Noe of committing whiskey treason. However, Noe isn't too concerned with the notion.

Diehard whiskey drinkers are notoriously particular with how they serve and drink the spirit, which isn’t limited to Scotch and Irish whiskey drinkers, and is also typical of bourbon drinkers, as Noe explains.

“It’s amazing that people are so sensitive to how whiskey should be drunk – you get your old diehard drinkers who are saying only drinking it neat with no ice, maybe a splash of water. But I think drink it any damn way you want – it’s up to you to drink it the way you want.”

Apart from the way whiskey should be drunk, Noe is keen to spread the word about new products set to come from the distillery. Though he falls short of giving away names and specific details, the connoisseur reveals his 31-year-old son and eighth-generation distiller has produced his first whiskey.

Little Book, a variation on the already popular Jim Beam Bookers, is made using a straight whiskey blend of corn, rye, malt and bourbon. Noe is excited about his son’s involvement in the business, saying it means the family legacy is continuing.

Other NPD, following the launch​ of Double Oak in 2016, will follow a thread of experimentation with the charring and ageing of barrels, he says.

New product development

Although new product development is a focus for Noe and the company, it is unlikely the UK will see much of it here, since most of the bottles produced tend to be snapped up by US consumers. Little Booker, for instance, was a small batch production and disappeared shortly after it was bottled.

That said, there are plans afoot to expand the production facility in Clermont, Kentucky, which will allow the company to keep up with demand and, potentially, Noe carefully says, see more specialist and premium Jim Beam products make it to the UK market.

Expansion plans are a positive sign for the future of Jim Beam and its subsidiary brands, such as Knob Creek. “We’re very optimistic going forward,” says Noe. “We’re expanding our facilities, doing more blending and more ageing and the stills are running pretty much 24/7. We’re really banking on the comings – which is a phrase used in the casinos in the US.”

His positive predictions for Jim Beam extend into the bourbon category as a whole, which he believes is set to continue its upward tick.

Jim Beam came 10th​ in the whiskey category​ of The Morning Advertiser’s ​Drinks List: Top Brands To Stock, selling 10,938 nine-litre cases based on CGA OPMS MAT data to 12 August 2017, and was worth £12m to the on-trade.

Related topics Spirits & Cocktails

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