The most frequent misconception about bourbon is that it has to come from Kentucky, or has to come from Bourbon County. Not the case; in fact there are currently no operating distilleries within the Bourbon County. (Consider that your trump card on the drunk guy at the bar, who thinks he knows more about spirits than you do.)
But Kentucky certainly produces the lion's share. 95% of the world's bourbon is made in the state—and more than half of Kentucky bourbon is made by Jim Beam.
The white-label bourbon is a fixture on bars the world over. But that's not all Beam makes; other recognizable names including Knob Creek, Booker's, and Basil Hayden are also made by the company. All told, they produce more than 90 million bottles annually from their operation in Clermont, Kentucky. That's a LOT of bourbon.
The tour takes you through the factory that produces the lesser known brands. The real Jim Beam label distillery is a few miles down the road.
The first stop along the tour is where they make one-barrel batches on a very small scale to try out recipes before taking those formulas to the larger areas.
|As you turn off the highway, this is your first indication you're near.|
|Tour guide is describing the ingredients.|
|This the distilled liquor coming out in two stages. Low Wine is the first distilling, the High Wine is what is after the second distillation.|
|Small batches of the mash.|
|Tops of the barrels from 1935 and 1949.|
|You can see they've gotten up to 12 million barrels by 2011.|
|...speaking of barrels, this is where they put them to be aged.|
|The large distillation facility (in addition to a smaller facility that's snazzed up for tours, but is still a productive operation). 60 feet tall, five stories, turning out 45 gallons of high wine per minute.|
...and here's the liquor gushing out behind the tour guide.
Bourbon must be aged in new charred barrels of American white oak. The "high wine" is diluted down to 125 proof (per regulations) before it's put into the barrels. Jim Beam's barrels come from the Independent Stave Company, at a char level of 4—meaning they're burnt for 35 to 45 seconds.
53 gallons go into each barrel, but due to evaporation, they will lose 6–8%—known as the "angel's share"—for every year they age
|We got to put our finger in this...yummmmm. Kim was the first in line!|
|It looks like I'm sneaking a sip, huh? Nope...that comes later...in the tasting room.|
|...and into the building it goes to be aged|
|Beam's White Label (by far their best seller) ages for four years; other, pricier bourbons in their line age for up to 12.|
|Ready to drink. More than 300 bottles a minute fly off the line.|
|We went into a large room that contained hundreds of decanters that have been used over the years. EVERY one of them still contain Jim Beam bourbon. Check out how unique some of them are.|
|A chain saw decanter !|
|The grounds are beautiful and the smell from the distillery, when you first drive up, is wonderful !|
|Me and Philip mimicking Jim Beam's pose.|
|We found it very interesting that this cemetery is right outside the facility ! No connection but kinda quirky.|
Nice, nice tour and we got to sample two of anything we wanted. DELICIOUS !
Glad you...hiccup, followed...hiccup...along with us on our journey to Jim Beam....hiccup!
Steve and Kim