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Contents:
Program 1311

1. the Jim Beam distillery
2. Promotional Wood Products
3. Kentucky Sassafras
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Nelson County

For more information:

Jim Beam Brands
• Outpost store: 526 Happy Hollow Rd., Clermont, KY 40110, (502) 543-9877

Producer: Joy Flynn
Videographers: Frank Simkonis, John Schroering
Audio: Noel Bramblett, Brent Abshear
Editors: Nathan Bauder, Joy Flynn


Turning Corn Into Gold

Jim Beam Distillery

In the 1790s, farmer and mill operator Jacob Beam began diverting some of the grain he was grinding into a new product: a distilled spirit he referred to as “sour mash.” He was not the first Kentuckian to experiment with the beverage that would come to be known as bourbon, but he did found one of the distilling industry’s longest-lived family businesses. Except for a brief hiatus during the dark days of Prohibition, the Beams have been at it ever since.

Today, bourbon is internationally recognized as a “native” national product, on a par with Scotch whiskey or French cognac. No spirit labeled “bourbon” may be imported into the United States—and Kentucky produces 70% of the national supply. In this episode of Kentucky Life, host Dave Shuffett visits the Jim Beam distillery in Nelson County to get a peek at how it’s made.

His guide is Master Distiller Jerry Dalton, who explains some—although of course not all—of the secrets behind achieving the smooth, mellow taste and golden color of fine bourbon. By law, the specifications include a grain mix that’s at least 51% corn and aging for at least two years (Beam’s standard is four years) in new charred-oak barrels. Abundance of the necessary ingredients was a big reason why Kentucky was a center for the development of bourbon, but our changeable weather played a part, too. Aging bourbon is stored where it is subject to seasonal temperature changes, which draw the liquid into and out of the wood as it expands and contracts.

The Jim Beam operation is run today by the seventh generation of Beams. The name comes from the fourth generation: James Beauregard Beam, great-grandson of Jacob, who took over in 1894. He saw the company through the turn of the 20th century, then survived Prohibition doing everything from coal mining to citrus farming. After repeal, he rebuilt the distillery by hand and got things started up again in just four months ... at the age of 70. From then on out, he also hedged against future disasters by sealing up a little sample of the yeast culture used in the crucial fermentation step and taking it home with him every week.




Nelson County

For more information:
Promotional Wood Products, 10051 Bellwood Rd., Boston, KY 40107, (502) 833-4233 or (877) 696-6346

Producer: Dave Shuffett
Videographer: Frank Simkonis
Audio: Brent Abshear


It’s All in the Presentation

Promotional Wood Products

Kentucky’s bourbon manufacturing industry supports a variety of businesses other than distillers, from corn farmers to barrel makers. While visiting Nelson County, we found another one in Promotional Wood Products, a maker of custom boxes, signs, and advertising displays that counts Jim Beam and other regional distillers among its biggest customers.

Brothers Patrick and Charles Hutchens started out in 1986 as cabinetmakers. But they soon found a unique niche of their own as crafters of liquor display stands and dispensers, custom cases for wine and spirits, and wooden promotional items. They use native Kentucky oak and ash for many products. Fittingly, some of their raw material is even reclaimed from old distilleries and warehouses.

Promotional Wood Products also continues a long-standing Kentucky tradition by making small, lockable keepsake chests.




Nelson County

Producer: Joy Flynn


Old Music in Young Hands

Kentucky Sassafras

If Charles and Patrick are hoping that PWP will become a multi-generational company like Jim Beam, there may be a snag: Their sons are well on their way to becoming professional musicians instead.

For our last stop on this all-Nelson County edition, we visit with the teenage members of Kentucky Sassafras, an up-and-coming bluegrass band that includes cousins Jory and Turner Hutchens on fiddle and mandolin, respectively. They accompany lead singer and group founder Chloe Blayne, bassist Amelia John (Chloe’s sister), and guitarist and banjo player Tyler Mullins.

Though the kids ranged in age from 12 to 17 when we met them, they were already seasoned musicians. Chloe has sung at Carnegie Hall with the Northern Kentucky University Children’s Chorus. Jory has studied with Art Stamper, Dirk Powell, and Jeff Guernsey. Amelia, the youngest band member, won second place in a piano contest and played jazz saxophone before taking up the bass. And Turner has jammed with Ricky Skaggs and Charlie Sizemore.

Kentucky Sassafras had released two CDs as of spring 2007. The band is also featured in an edition of KET’s Jubilee series taped at the 2006 Kentucky Bluegrass Music Festival in Louisville.




Nelson County

For more information:
My Old Kentucky Home State Park, 501 E. Stephen Foster Ave., Bardstown, KY 40004, (502) 348-3502

On Location

Dave hosts this edition from Federal Hill, the mansion better known as My Old Kentucky Home because it is said to have inspired a visiting Stephen Foster to write the song of the same name. In the summer, the surrounding state park is home to a long-running outdoor drama about the renowned composer. Another annual highlight is the Christmas candlelight tours, which Kentucky Life took in as part of Program 413—another all-Nelson County edition.



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