SB Interviews… Fred Noe

6th August, 2012 by Richard Woodard

When you get a moment, take a look at the YouTube video, from October last year, of Beam CEO Matt Shattock ringing the closing bell at the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE).

Fred Noe, master distiller for Jim Beam

Fred Noe, master distiller for Jim Beam

Shattock is surrounded by gleeful company employees, but one bearded, balding man behind him seems to be enjoying the scene more than most, clenching his fist and clapping his boss on the shoulder.

He’s Frederick Booker Noe III, and if he seems a little over-excited about events at NYSE, it might have something to do with seeing the Beam name back on the stock market following its spin-off from Fortune Brands last year. And something to do with being the great-grandson of Jim Beam himself.

Master distiller and brand ambassador at Jim Beam, Fred Noe represents the seventh generation of the Beam bourbon dynasty, inheriting the role from his father, Frederick “Booker” Noe Jr. But if Noe was almost literally born to do his job, it doesn’t appear to have dampened his almost childlike enthusiasm. Just ask him what it was like growing up around the distillery in Clermont, Kentucky.

How times change…

“Oh, for a boy you can imagine with the trains delivering grain and the engineers there what it was like,” he recalls, eyes lighting up with the memory. “They would see me, stop and get me up in the engine with them, let me ride the railcars. Or it’d be trucks moving trailers, and they’d get me up with the drivers and ride around, dumping the ashes from the boiler. They’d let me pull the lever. I was like a kid in a candy store!

“I still see some of the folks from back then from time to time, and they still see me as a little kid running around with my dad, even though I’ve got a son of 24. But they’re pretty proud to see me doing what I do now.”

What Noe does now, however, differs hugely from the role played by his father and by the company’s earlier distillers, thanks to the never-ending demands of the modern marketing age.

“It’s changing dramatically,” Noe agrees. “With the master distiller’s role 30 or 40 years ago, you were there at the distillery 24/7, running the production. “When I was a kid, my dad was there all the time. He got up in the middle of the night to go and oversee maintenance issues, to get the plant up and running. Now 50% of my job is on the road, promoting the brands. Everybody else, like [Wild Turkey master distiller] Jimmy Russell for instance, is doing the same thing. It’s part of the nature of the job these days.”

Leave a Reply

Subscribe to our newsletter