Parker Beam Receives KDA's First-Ever Lifetime Achievement Award

Sep 17, 2015

Kentucky's bourbon industry has chosen the longtime master distiller at Heaven Hill Distilleries as the first recipient of its Lifetime Achievement Award.

L to R: KDA President Eric Gregory, Wild Turkey Master Distiller Jimmy Russell, Heaven Hill Master Distiller Parker Beam.
Credit Kentucky Distillers' Association

Parker Beam is in his 55th year at Heaven Hill. Beam learned the distilling business from his father, Earl, to continue his family's storied whiskey-making history. Parker Beam became master distiller in 1975 and in 2013 was named master distiller emeritus after being diagnosed with Lou Gehrig's disease.  A couple of years ago he chronicled his experiences for a UK Nunn Center Oral History project on the bourbon industry.

"It's been a long journey, you wonder how it's transpired over the years.  It's been everything from sweeping the office floors, to scrubbing the mash cookers, helping roll some barrels at times, loading trailers..I've pretty well run the whole gamut," Beam said.

Eric Gregory, president of the Kentucky Distillers' Association, says the KDA's board of directors also voted to name the Lifetime Achievement Award after Beam. Beam was elected as a charter member of the Kentucky Bourbon Hall of Fame in 2001.

Beam was recognized on Wednesday as the bourbon industry honored its newest Hall of Fame members.

This year’s inductees are, in alphabetical order:

  • Parker Beam, Master Distiller Emeritus, Heaven Hill Brands
  • Owsley Brown II, former CEO and Chairman, Brown-Forman
  • Kathleen DiBenedetto, Senior Director of Commercial Marketing, Luxury, Beam Suntory
  • U.S. Senator Wendell Ford
  • Donna Nally, co-creator of the Kentucky Bourbon Festival