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Issue 69 - Young Guns

Whisky Magazine Issue 69
January 2008

 

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Young Guns

Charles K. Cowdery meets the next generation of America's master distillers.

In the modern era, on both sides of the Atlantic, a master distiller may have many roles. He may be a brand ambassador, a quality assurance officer, and probably will have something to do with making the whiskey too.

Today, several of America's best-known master distillers are semi or completely retired from day-to-day distilling, and also in their eighth or ninth decade of life.

Increasingly, it is the next generation's turn, both on the international stage and back home, presiding over the fermenters.

There are seven of them, considered young in this field, even though they are aged between 37 and 50.

Three are hereditary.

All are college educated.

Fred Noe, born in 1957, is the dean of this group and probably its best known member.

He started to travel on behalf of Jim Beam about a decade ago, when his father, Booker Noe, became too ill.

Fred Noe is the great-grandson of Jim Beam and the seventh generation of his family to make the whiskey now known as Jim Beam bourbon.

Though born in Bardstown, in the house his great grandfather built, Noe left town at a young age to attend military school in Tennessee. “I was a knothead,” he says.

Long stints in a couple of Kentucky colleges followed. “Finish college and I'll put you to work,” was his father's simple charge.

Noe joined the Jim Beam Company in 1983, doing and learning a variety of jobs.

“I never envisioned dad retiring and quitting doing it,” says Noe. “I was just looking for a job. I never thoug...

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