The ancestors of brothers Steve and Paul Beam were distillers for five generations before Prohibition interrupted.
“I always felt like it was an unfinished chapter for my family,” says Steve, of the 200 years of family story that preceded him.
So he and brother Paul reopened the book, and started making history again…with Limestone Branch Distillery.
Using recipes – some of them plucked from their grandfather Guy’s notebook – and family knowledge gleaned from the previous generations of master distillers that came before them, Steve and Paul now distill their own first-class products.
And always, clues about who they are and where they came from are buried in the names and tastes of their products. And they are where they are – near Lebanon, KY – for a reason.
1795 – Jacob Beam begins the family’s distilling heritage
A legend is born. Their story begins. Born in 1770, Jacob Beam was a farmer who began producing whiskey in the style that became known as bourbon. Jacob Beam sold his first barrels of corn whiskey around 1795. His whiskey was called Old Jake Beam, and the distillery was located not too far from where Limestone Branch is located today.
Their T. J. Pottinger moonshine is named for Thomas Jefferson “Jeff” Pottinger, the grandson of Captain Samuel Pottinger Sr., who established the first pioneer outpost in 1781 in nearby southern Nelson County.
The small fort was called Pottinger’s Station, and Captain Sam built his home not far from Pottinger Station and called it Walnut Hill, where family lore says Captain Sam had a frontier distillery atop a nearby cave, says Steve.
The early Kentucky Pottinger family flourished, and it was T. J. who moved the Pottinger distillery operations to nearby Gethsemane Station, primarily to get closer to the Louisville & Nashville Railroad tracks for shipping purposes.
T. J. operated at Gethsemane as T. J. Pottinger and Company. In 1872 it was being operated by Francis Head and Orene Parker.
1900 – Minor Case Beam becomes sole proprietor of the distillery
In 1883, Minor Case (M.C.) Beam, Steve and Paul’s great-grandfather, bought Parker out, and the distillery operated as Head and Beam. Seventeen years later in 1900, Francis Head sold his interests to Minor Case Beam and the distillery name was changed to M.C. Beam and Company. It produced the T. J. Pottinger and Old Trump brands.
Early 1900s bottle from the M. C. Beam and Co. Distillery
So that’s why Limestone Branch Distillery’s moonshine bears the “T. J. Pottinger” wording, and Limestone Branch Distillery’s “Revenge” is made in the memory of Steve and Paul’s great-grandfather, Minor Case, known as M. C.
M. C. Beam (1857-1934) brought his son Guy S. Beam – Steve and Paul’s grandfather – into the business and trained him well.
Thus begins begins the 5th Generation of family distillers.
Guy Beam became a well-known master distiller and worked at several distilleries, including Old Trump, Yellowstone, Frankfort Distillery, Fairfield Distillery, and Schenely. But Prohibition had made a legal distilling living impossible – Guy went to Canada and distilled there for the Wathen family during the Prohibition years.
For Steve and Paul, even their father Jimmy, the son of Guy, kept colorful ties to the distilling business. Jimmy, known for his baseball talents, played in the then-well-known Bourbon League as well as worked for the Loretto and Athertonville distilleries.
Over on their mother’s side, Steve and Paul are descendants of John Baptiste Dant and his son, Joseph Washington (J.W.) Dant.
1836-1902 Joseph Washington Dant begins distilling in a hollowed out log
John Baptiste Dant had arrived in frontier Kentucky and had settled at Pottinger Station, old Sam’s frontier fort. By 1836, his son Joseph Washington Dant, Steve and Paul’s great-great grandfather on their mother’s side, had his own distillery in Marion County, KY. As the distillery prospered it, operations we taken over by J.W.’s son W.W. Dant.
J. W. Dant had located early operations in Dant’s Station because of the construction of the L & N tracks. Steve and Paul’s mother Dottie, descended from the J. W. Dant lineage, worked in the family distillery during high school.
But remember…Prohibition, in essence, disrupted everything.
1944 - 1947
Jimmy and Toddy Beam Play in Old Bourbon League for Athertonville Distillery
Paul, who had developed a number of business opportunities in Louisville, joined in and the dream was underway, with critical financial backing from other immediate family members.
Now…the distillery was truly a family affair.
They decided Lebanon would be the perfect location because it’s just a stone’s throw away from the now-long-gone distilleries of the family’s past. And, local grain and limestone water, both so essential for the unique and personal recipes, is readily available.
The groundbreaking with a silver shovel was on May 26, 2011, and the ribbon cutting on Feb. 17, 2012. Under the guidance of their father, the brothers reconstructed a small distillery reminiscent of an era gone by. Inside is a 150-gallon hand-hammered copper potstill that’s used to produce small one-barrel batches of the finest spirits possible.
Visiting the place offers an experience as unique as the products.
Limestone Branch Ribbon Cutting
- White Heirloom Corn 50%
- Cane Sugar 50%
Steve says it was the craft industry development in Kentucky that really made the development of Limestone Branch Distillery possible.
And up until 2014 almost all the Limestone Branch products were Sugar*Shine, a distilled spirit made from a mash of 50 percent white heirloom corn and 50 percent cane sugar. While their Bourbon matures almost all the Limestone Branch products used unaged Sugar*Shine, a distilled spirit made from a mash of 50 percent white heirloom corn and 50 percent cane sugar as their base.
But in September 2014 they came onboard with their first uniquely aged product, Precinct No. 6.
Introducing Precinct No. 6
The Beam family’s way of romancing the expression of oak
Precinct No. 6 – that’s the old Marion County, KY geographical designation that was given to the area where many of the old family-related distilleries were located. Check the label: That’s an enhanced copy of an actual, historic Marion County map in the background.
So…even though Limestone Branch Distillery is the latest chapter in Steve and Paul’s family story, it’s part of the yet-to-be completed book about the ongoing family dynamic.
And Steve and Paul and the Limestone Branch Distillery family are now making history with new chapters to that book with each and every new day.