Fred Noe is approaching 57 and he’s just had his first tattoo.
When I sit down with him in London, the Jim Beam master distiller rolls up his shirt sleeve to prove it.
As part of a Facebook campaign to get over a million ‘likes’ on the Jim Beam page, Fred agreed to undertake one of three ‘bold choices’ as voted for by Facebook fans.
“I thought they’d get me to learn guitar!” he says. (the other was to ride a motorcycle).
The grandson of Jim Beam is clearly amazed at the power of social media.
“My son who is 24 worked the social network magic.
“I’m not the most tech-savvy individual,” says Fred.
Though he will reply to Tweets, via “the girls in the office” and he has about 1300 Facebook friends of his own.
I ask Fred what his mother thinks of the tattoo. He says: “She said ‘Why did you do it?’ I said: ‘I guess I wasn’t too smart!”
But what amazes Fred is the amount of attention it attracted. There’s a Youtube video of him getting the tattoo and the imagery sparked a global flurry of fans sending in images of there own Jim Beam tattoos.
“I had no idea,” he says, referring to the amount of hardcore Jim Beam fans around the globe.
One fan has a bottle of Devil’s Cut tattooed on himself. The brand, which features whiskey extracted from the barrel’s wood, only launched in 2011.
“You’ll have to get that on your other arm,” I say.
“No ma’am,” is his reply.
Besides Devil’s Cut, Beam has been experimenting with flavours under its Red Stag brand. The distiller launched a Honey Tea and a Spice flavour just recently. Germany is also set to get a Jim Beam Honey whiskey.
“Products launched outside of the US have to be tweaked for different palates,” Fred adds.
So could he have predicted the trend for flavours, 20 years ago?
“I couldn’t have predicted it ten years ago,” he says.
“When we started playing with it [the idea], I wasn’t a big fan. I said: ‘y’all crazy’!”
But then it’s not for me, it’s for younger folks - legal drinking age.”
Fred admits he was pleasantly surprised by the outcome and says the new products have helped attract new drinkers to the category.
“Especially the ladies,” he adds.
Talking of younger folks, Fred’s son Frederick Booker Noe IV is set to finish college and join the firm next year.
“It’ll be interesting to see what innovations he comes up with!” says Fred.
Fred is off to Ireland to visit the newest member of Beam’s whiskey family – Cooley later this year. Then heading to Laphroaig in Islay, Scotland.
“Talking of innovation,” I ask. “Will there be a peated-finish Jim Beam?”
“Never say never,” he says.
“After all, I said I’d never get a tattoo…”