For more than fifty years, Parker Beam has been practicing his family’s craft of distilling, aging and selecting some of the world’s most critically-acclaimed Bourbons at Heaven Hill Distilleries. For the past 30 years, Parker has been joined by his son Craig, who works alongside his father in much the same way as Parker did years before with his father, Earl. Together, the two are responsible for making sure that the Bourbon that is produced at the historic Bernheim Distillery possesses the same high quality and consistent taste consumers have come to expect from such storied brands as Evan Williams and Elijah Craig.
Parker, the sixth generation Beam to be a Master Distiller, loves to share his lifetime knowledge of Kentucky Bourbon and its unique traditions. Parker constantly credits the management at Heaven Hill for giving him free rein to do the things he was taught to do. This sense of independence enabled him to create some of America’s most remarkable whiskeys. Now, that freedom is slowly being taken from him.
Parker was recently diagnosed with ALS at the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Florida. His doctors have told him there’s no way of predicting exactly what he may be facing in the years to come, because the disease affects everyone differently. He's having some difficulties with his balance and range of motion in his arms, but he walks regularly weather permitting and rides the exercise bike his kids gave him on other days. His wife Linda said Parker isn’t about to give up. “He’s been a fighter all his life and he’s not going to sit down and wait it out now.” Parker once told her that when his time came, he’d like it to be late in the day, because he always has so many things to do.
Parker is often asked about what it takes to become a Master Distiller, and he always says, "if you are born with a name like Beam, it opens a few doors. Then it’s up to you to produce a quality product that lives up to the tradition of the Beam family." Parker’s a genuinely humble guy, so you really can’t ask him about becoming a legend. It’s just the way things turned out. He’ll probably tell you that you can’t start out in life with the goal of becoming a legend. But if you’re good at what you do, if you have that unrelenting desire, and that passion to be the very best, and if you are persistent, then, over time, folks start calling you a legend. That pretty well sums up Parker’s long rise to the top of his profession and what has made him a winner of Whisky Advocate’s Lifetime Achievement Award and a charter member of the Bourbon Hall of Fame.
As a way to help the ALS Association raise funds to find a cure for the disease, Parker came up with a creative idea—one that had a little bit of himself built in. He wanted his Bourbon to become his fundraiser. After all, he’s put his whole life into making it. Parker’s Heritage Collection Bourbon is an annual release of rare American Whiskeys celebrating his career as Master Distiller. This fall, the seventh edition of this exceptional Bourbon will be released. The barrels were hand selected from prime locations in the rick house—each with the age and proof Parker feels are just right for such a rare offering. Heaven Hill Distilleries will donate $20 from the sale of every bottle to the ALS Promise Fund - a campaign that will raise a quarter million dollars.