Pop was a cofounder and the first Master Distiller of Old Heaven Hill, and we all know what became of cousin Jim.
I Dream of Beam
There’s a genie in the bottle…
By Sammy Beam
Ever wish you could own your own genie in a bottle? Or at least the bottle from I Dream of Jeannie? Now you can. Julien’s Auctions will be selling the bottle that Jeannie, played by Barbara Eden, called home during the five season-run of I Dream of Jeannie. The bottle is expected to sell for upwards of $100,000.
Since this story is about a Jim Beam decanter of note, and I am named Sammy Beam, I should probably provide a brief backstory. Jim Beam and my great grandfather, “Pop,” Joe L.Beam, were first cousins and business partners at their very first distillery, F.G. Walker. The Prohibition of 1920 put an end to that. After its repeal, Pop and his seven sons became crucial players in the resetting the distilling game in Kentucky. Pop was a cofounder and the first Master Distiller of Old Heaven Hill, and we all know what became of cousin Jim.
I was just four years old when “I Dream of Jeannie,” the TV sitcom starring Barbara Eden and Larry Hagman, premiered in September of 1965. The memories of that time are a little foggy now. I do recall, however, realizing that my parents had a dead ringer for the fancy bottle that was Jeannie’s TV home, and it was inside the liquor cabinet that Momma had made out of an old Victrola phonograph cabinet. It was among a few other decorative novelty liquor decanters that Daddy had probably received as gifts, and it contained the remains of a distilled product called “Beam’s Choice.” It was not polychromed and lined with gold, like Jeannie’s bottle, but its silhouette, in smoky green glass, was identical. I decided to keep an eye on it.
Momma was not one to hang onto things unless she loved them. And she did not love what are now called “Beam bottles.” In fact, she thought that the gaudy, flowery, gilt-trimmed collector decanters, (that came in their own velvet-lined coffins,) were just awful. I thought that they were dreamy. In a year or two, when time came to purge the cabinet of empties, Momma decided to keep the one Jim Beam bottle that she liked —one that was shaped like a cat —and the others, including the one I had my eye on, were set out to be tossed or given away.
“NOT MY GENIE BOTTLE!” I could not believe that my older sister, who had never shown interest in anything aesthetic, and who had neither spoken nor acknowledged a word of recognition of the bottle’s significance, and was now claiming it for her own.
“THAT’S MINE,” I protested, but I was too late. My sister was bigger and faster. She already had her mitts on it. But wait! The decanter that she clung to so earnestly was not my smoky green Beam’s Choice bottle. She had snatched an even fancier purple bottle of a completely different shape that had once held something called Jim Beam Bonded. I started to explain that she’d chosen one that was not a genie bottle at all, but I realized that it was best to remain quiet. I had made out like a bandit, without breaking a sweat. So I quietly took my bottle to my room, where it remained for many years, even after I had flown the nest.
In my parents’ last years, when each visit to my childhood home turned up long forgotten treasures, I had to decide whether they should be shipped west, to where I’ve landed, or forever bidden farewell. My smoky green Beam’s Choice decanter, my “as seen on TV” Genie bottle, made the cut. Today it stands high on a shelf in my kitchen, among other cherished objects that are neither rare nor showy, but mean the world to me. □
This article also appears on page 18 of the May 2021 print edition of ace magazine.
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