Nothing is coveted more by Kentucky bourbon distilleries, or by all distilleries for that matter, than their individualized yeast strain used to make bourbon. It bubbles in fermenting vats when turning the sugar in the grains into alcohol. Generations pass it down as a family heirloom and preserve their unique strain under lock and key. Yeast is the DNA of bourbon making. Without it, the distillery has no identity and could be out of business.
At the Jim Beam Distillery in Clermont, Kentucky there's a long line of Beam family members who assume the role of Distiller, which dates back to Jacob Beam who founded the company in 1787. He'd moved to Kentucky from Germany and was given 200 acres where he grew corn and began to distill whiskey. His brand now is in approximately 125 countries and going strong.
Baker Beam, once a Jim Beam Distiller, is retired from the company. He, too, protected the Jim Beam yeast strain. Baker's Bourbon 107 Proof and aged seven years is named after him.