Parker Beam, Heaven Hill master distiller, dies after long battle with ALS

BARDSTOWN, Ky.—Heaven Hill Distillery announced today that master distiller emeritus, Parker Beam, died Sunday night after a long battle with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).

In a news release, Heaven Hill president Max Shapira wrote, “All of us within the company, and the general public, watched with awe and admiration as Parker and Linda waged a much-publicized war against this terrible disease, using their courage, his standing as one of the industry’s great Master Distillers and his wide sphere of influence to generate international awareness, and millions of dollars, for ALS research and treatment.

“Starting in 1960 when he joined his father Earl here, and continuing through his appointment as master distiller in 1975, succeeding his father, Parker’s leadership established the foundation for our company and our bourbon heritage.  It was Parker who saw us through bourbon’s first golden age in the 1960s, its subsequent decline in the 1970s and who led us to today’s new Golden Age, helping pioneer our first premium small batch and single barrel bourbons, and paving the way for Heaven Hill to be the category leader we are today.

“There are no awards Parker has not won—charter member of the Kentucky Bourbon Hall of Fame, Whiskey Advocate Lifetime Achievement Award winner, Whisky Magazine Hall of Fame, they go on and on—but what we will remember most about Parker was the leadership, the can-do attitude, and the kind and selfless mentoring he did to his son Craig and a whole new generation of bourbon distillers.

At this time, however, our thoughts and prayers first go out to his family.

“We will share more on Parker Beam’s immense legacy in a follow-up release tomorrow morning, Tuesday, Jan. 10.”

by steve coomes

Steve Coomes is a restaurant veteran turned award-winning food, spirits and travel writer. In his 25-year career, he has edited and written for multiple national trade and consumer publications including Nation's Restaurant News and Southern Living. He is a feature writer for Edible Louisville & The Bluegrass, Whisky Magazine, and The Bourbon Review. The author of two books, "Country Ham: A Southern Tradition of Hogs, Salt & Smoke," and the "Home Distiller's Guide to Spirits," he also serves as a ghostwriter for multiple clients.

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