Whisky Magazine Issue 126
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The times are a changing at Heaven Hill
Bourbon's heart stopped when Parker Beam publicly announced his battle with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS). Such a gentle soul, Beam was never the loudest distiller and certainly not the most braggadocios. But the long-time Heaven Hill master distiller has always been one of the most – if not the most – beloved distiller of them all. When Parker walks into a room, no matter who's there, he flashes that smile – that endearing smile! – and people, especially the ladies, just flock toward him. They want a hug, to sign a bottle, or just to be in his presence.
The day the world learned of Beam's predicament, his fellow master distillers, longtime friends, young women with secret crushes on the cute 72-year-old teared up a little. He officially stepped down in 2013 as master distiller, the title his father, Earl, had before him. The great man handed the full-time duties over to his son, Craig, who later moved into a consultancy co-master distiller role to spend more time with his ailing father. (The Beam family has influenced more than 70 bourbon companies, including Heaven Hill).
Today, for the first time since Heaven Hill's 1934 founding, a Beam will not be leading the company's bourbon production. Rather, a baby-faced industry veteran named Denny Potter runs Heaven Hill's workhorse distillery – Bernheim Distillery in Louisville – and longtime Heaven Hill production employee Charlie Downs operates the illustrious Evan Williams Bourbon Experience downtown Loui...