What does it mean to create and dominate an entire category in an industry? Fred Noe may know a little about it; after all, his family – with the surname Beam – pretty much created one, and proceeded to build one of the largest and most iconic companies in the alcohol business. Still need a hint? It’s Beam Inc, makers of Jim Beam bourbon whiskey.

Fred Noe, or Frederick Booker Noe III, is a 7th-generation Beam – Jim Beam, of whom the famous whiskey is named after, is his great grandfather – and the company’s Master Distiller. His recently released book, “Beam, Straight Up“, is an inside look at the family that’s pretty much created the Kentucky bourbon whiskey category, and helped cement the drink as America’s “native spirit”.

The book looks at the history of how the company came about, the evolution of bourbon, and chronicles the impact the various generations of Beams that has inherited the reins of the company, right down to Fred Noe. He shares the Beam journey, complete with fortunes and hardships, including the difficulties faced during the Prohibition of 1920 to 1933. Much of “Beam, Straight Up” is autobiographical, but Noe also pays significant tribute to his father Booker, who helped bring the company into modern times.

Whiskey enthusiasts would love that the book includes special cocktail and food recipes, as well as primers on the different types of whiskies (or whiskys) and how to appreciate drinking bourbon. For those in the business there’s one entire chapter where Noe shares valuable insights on how to build, maintain and grow a brand.

What’s also really interesting is how Noe shares about the challenges of innovation to keep up with the times – realizing that the market for bourbon is shrinking and hence having to penetrate into other categories, amongst others.

It’s uncanny, but you’ll find you may just hear a Kentucky drawl as you go through the pages, but by and large “Beam, Straight Up” is a great read.

It may make you mighty thirsty, though.


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