Kentucky may be famous for the iconic horse race that takes place at Churchill Downs every year but I would argue that this state should be renowned for something on a much larger scale – bourbon whiskey! What better place to start your experience that the world’s largest brand of bourbon – Jim Beam. A visit to Clermont, Kentucky, located about 20 minutes south of Louisville, will give you the opportunity to take a guided tour of the historic Jim Beam American Stillhouse.
Anyone visiting the state of Kentucky would be hard-pressed to avoid the sight and indeed smell of bourbon. But why would anyone want to avoid this? Instead, embrace this experience and consider taking an awesome tour around the various distilleries on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail. For those of you that would prefer to visit just one, after reading this post hopefully you will be inspired to choose the Jim Beam American Stillhouse as your chosen distillery.
Let’s take a look at why our experience in Clermont was the perfect introduction to the world of bourbon whiskey! We enjoyed an epic weekend in Louisville as we enjoyed the Kentucky Bourbon Trail, but we can well and truly attest that the Jim Beam American Stillhouse was the perfect way to start 48-hour hour experience.
Jim Beam American Stillhouse Tour Options
A visit to the Jim Beam American Stillhouse will offer you a variety of tour options. Depending on whether you book in advance may determine the limited options that are available to you. This is unfortunately what happened to us as we failed to book in advance and we were left with only one viable option as we still wanted to experience the distillery tour.
However, with a little more planning you can enjoy the full experience at Jim Beam but after reading this post, you may consider the tour we took to be sufficient to appreciate everything this American Stillhouse has to offer!
Jim Beam Distillery Tour (Including Tasting)
The most popular of all tours lasts 90 minutes and offers visitors the opportunity to explore the entire process of distilling bourbon whiskey at Jim Beam. The final part of the tour offers a tasting of iconic Jim Beam bourbons.
Adults – $14
Ages 7-20 – $7
If you are interested in experiencing the full Jim Beam Distillery Tour, be sure to make an advanced reservation here: Jim Beam Distillery Tour
Jim Beam Bourbon Bar/Taste of History
If you have already sampled the distillery tour and simply want to return to Clermont to enjoy a traditional bourbon beverage, why not participate in the new “Jim Beam Bourbon Bar” cocktail experience? For only $8, you can appreciate the versatility of bourbon with a perfectly concocted cocktail.
Whether it’s a traditional Old Fashioned or perhaps something with a little more flair, visitors can enjoy a unique cocktail in the bar next to the tasting room!
Tickets can be purchased at the main desk before heading over to enjoy your favorite whiskey inspired cocktail!
Jim Beam Bourbon 101
I think it’s fair to say that we were pretty fortunate to stumble across the Jim Beam Bourbon 101 tour.
We had every intention of taking the full distillery tour but unfortunately, all of the tours for that day were sold out. However, the Bourbon 101 tour is a condensed version that pretty much offers much of the same experience but lasts only 45 minutes.
Adults – $10
Ages 7-20 – $5
Be aware that the Bourbon 101 tour tickets are sold on a first come, first serve basis at the front desk of the American Stillhouse and unlike the full distillery tour, online reservations cannot be made in advance.
History of Jim Beam
Our tour started inside the American Stillhouse as our guide greeted us before leading us outside to board one of the shuttles that would take us into the heart of the distillery. The short journey from the Stillhouse gave our guide the opportunity to give us a quick history lesson and share the seven generations at Jim Beam.
Seven generations, more than 200 years, countless challenges and one goal: to make the best bourbon in the world.
It all started in the 18th-century when Jacob Beam sold his first barrel of Old Jake Beam in 1795. David Beam continued the growth of the distillery in the first part of the 19th-century followed by David M. Beam, but perhaps the iconic figure in the timeline was the fourth generation, Colonel James B. Beam.
Shortly after Prohibition ended, James Beam was inspired to rekindle the brand by rebuilding the distillery in Clermont that we see today. Following the completion of the distillery, the infamous “Jim Beam” was unveiled and ever since that historic day, it’s been the number one bourbon throughout the world.
T. Jeremiah Beam was the final “Beam” in the legacy as the Beam brand was forced to pass the reins to Fred Booker Noe II. Renowned as “The Innovator,” Noe revitalized the declining bourbon category with his legendary Small Batch Bourbon Collection.
Fred Noe became today’s master distiller and introduced many of the flavors that we see on the market such as Red Stag, Honey, Apple, and Maple.
Bourbon 101 Guided Tour
Do you know the five criteria that have to be met in order for a whiskey to be classified as a bourbon? You can learn all of this along with step by step details of the various processes that go into the distilling of bourbon whiskey on the Bourbon 101 tour at the Jim Beam American Stillhouse.
Here are the five rules that every aspiring bourbon maker has to satisfy:
- It must be made in the United States – Although 95% of the world’s bourbon is made in Kentucky, as long as it is made in the US, it can be classified as such!
- The mash must comprise of at least 51% corn.
- Aging has to take place in a new, charred, oak barrel.
- Whiskey cannot enter a barrel at higher than 125 proof and cannot be bottled at less than 80 proof.
- Only water can be added and only if it is being used to reduce the proof.
So how does it all start? Well, the perfect mash comprises of a secret mix of corn, rye, and barley malt. Our tour started in a cool room where our guide shared the history of Kentucky’s limestone filtered water and how it is used to create the perfect mash. But of course, the secret ingredient of yeast is a closely guarded family secret but adding this is what ensures Jim Beam’s iconic taste remains consistent.
Walking through the small distillery learning about the fermentation and distilling processes was an eye-opening experience and our guide even gave us the opportunity to sample the distilled bourbon before it heads into the oak barrels to age for several years.
Bourbon Tasting 101 Experience
Anyone visiting the Jim Beam American Stillhouse will likely have one thing in their mind, having the opportunity to sample some of this brand’s iconic bourbons.
If you enjoy the Bourbon 101 tour, another key benefit of the condensed experience is that you don’t have to wait as long before sampling three of your favorite bourbon drinks.
Before indulging in Jim Beam’s iconic flavors, our guide gave us a quick overview of the best practices to follow when sampling this drink. There are actually four distinctive stages that we should all experience in order to fully appreciate bourbon whiskey.
- Study the color – Each bourbon has a distinctive shade associated with the flavor. A lighter amber indicates a lighter flavor.
- Nose the bourbon – Before enjoying your first smell of bourbon, be sure to open your lips so that you can breathe through your mouth.
- Take a taste – Don’t forget the “Kentucky Chew” experience! Take a small sip of bourbon and let it swirl around the roof of your mouth before sucking in a little air to gargle it, allowing all of the flavors to hit the tip of your tongue.
- Enjoy the finish – Bourbon isn’t cheap so ensure that you enjoy every last sip!
Visitors are handed a credit card loaded with three credits so that you can wander around the tasting room and enjoy your very own personalized tasting experience!
Our guide gave us a brief overview of all 18 flavors available, ranging from the traditional Jim Beam bourbon to the new whiskey flavors that are becoming more and more popular in the market.
However, there is one piece of advice that was best said by Fred Noe when describing the best way to drink bourbon…
Drink it any damn way you please (fred Noe)
Whether you prefer a classic Jim Beam bourbon such as “Jim Beam Black” or one of the innovative flavors, a visit to the Jim Beam American Stillhouse is definitely the place to go to learn all about this iconic brand. For the bourbon connoisseurs out there that enjoy small batch collections, the Knob Creek flavors are also available, so it’s fair to say there is pretty much everything you need to enjoy bourbon whiskey.
After enjoying the Bourbon 101 tour, we would argue that this is the best way to enjoy the Jim Beam American Stillhouse. Although I cannot comment on the enjoyment level in the full distillery experience, for those of you that prefer condensed versions of tours, this is definitely an awesome alternative.
Regardless of whether you are a bourbon expert, the Jim Beam American Stillhouse experience is for everyone to enjoy. Undoubtedly the best part is at the end when you can enjoy your favorite bourbons but be sure to appreciate all of the history throughout this distillery in Clermont.
Are you a fan of Jim Beam bourbon whiskey or do you prefer other brands?