Booker’s 6yo (62.45%, OB, Batch C01-A-18, 750 ml)

In 1987, Booker Noe, grandson of James “Jim” Beauregard Beam (you might have heard of Jim Beam), introduced Booker’s. Booker’s is uncut (so no added water) and thus bottled straight from the barrel. Booker’s friends and to no lesser extent, Booker himself, really liked the cask strength Whiskey, so Booker introduced it to the grand public in 1992, making it the first of Jim Beam’s “small batch series”. Already in 1984 Elmer T. Lee (you might have heard of him as well), from the Buffalo Trace distillery, introduced the first widely available cask strength Bourbon by releasing Blanton’s, so the people at Jim Beam already knew there was a market for these high strength Bourbons.

Other additions to the original Jim Beam small batch collection were: Baker’s, which is 7yo and bottled at 53.5% ABV and Knob Creek, 9yo and reduced to 50% ABV. Essentially all Bourbons made by Jim Beam come from the same recipe, and variations are only made by different ages, different ageing (hotter or cooler parts of the warehouse) and dilution with water. There is one exception though. Basil Hayden’s is a Bourbon made with the original recipe used for Old Grand-Dad which is the final addition to the original small batch series.

Color: Copper orange.

Nose: A short whiff of acetone. Very fragrant and spicy wood. Sawdust and altogether quite floral. Honey, paper and cardboard. Smells of an old barber shop (shaving cream, perfume, old furniture). Fresh almonds and more dusty wood. Cigar box and a minute amount of pencil shavings. Tiny, tiny hint of lavas. Cookie dough and leather. Not very creamy nor sweet, but there is some vanilla to it, however less than expected. Sometimes hot, lots of alcohol and it has a lot of aroma, but still you can’t call this really “big”. Sometimes its even soapy and highly drinkable. A sort of feminine counterpart to Old Grand-Dad. Definitely Jim Beam (Jug) yeast this time, with a minor role for rye. Wood driven, but all kept well in check, very balanced wood. More dust later on, and meaty notes after that. This keeps on giving. Excellent.

Taste: Starts hot, with lots of wood and woody bitterness. Next some wonderful tobacco and even more wood. Waxy, soapy and woody. More honey as well. I gather this came from the hot part of the warehouse. Nutty, fresh almonds and cotton. Slightly perfumy in the taste as well. Funky sensation. Grassy, and sometimes a bit green. Spicy old wood, like in an old attic of a wooden house, thus more perfumy notes. Indistinct hard fruit candy. Yellow fruits, not the reds. Big entry and a big body. Warming, not hot. Remarkably short finish with matching aftertaste (short), nothing mentioned above really stays behind apart from the soapy elements, which takes away a bit from this Bourbon. I can imagine other batches of this bottling have the potential to perform better than this particular expression. This is in a way a bit simple, although the nose showed a lot of complexity. At times it’s a bit to floral, so pick your moment wisely with this batch. Still, this is a very good Bourbon which I can easily recommend.

If I had to pick only a few bottles made by Jim Beam it would be this one and Old Grand Dad 114, these two sum it up for me. This the best they can do, and these two, if you can handle the high ABV. makes all the others a tiny bit obsolete. With these two yeast strains you get all Jim Beam has to offer.

Points: 85

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Jim Beam “Black” 8yo (43%, OB, Circa 2004)

Jim Beam white was my first Bourbon ever, in fact is was my first Whiskey ever! Especially for the money I always considered the bulk produced White quite decent. Later in my “career” I bought this Black label, which looks more serious and brooding. Just like a bride stands out next to the Terminator. This used to be 8yo, and it said so on the label, but todays version became a NAS. I don’t think it got much younger, but this way, I guess, the company has the possibility to mix in some 6yo and 7yo Whiskies.

Jim Beam BlackColor: Light copper orange.

Nose: Honey, and lots of it. Nice creamy wood. Vanilla. Very friendly and appetizing. Whiffs of burning newspaper, and sometimes a tiny, tiny whiff of fireworks. Toasted cask, but again, not much. The honey never takes a step back, its omnipresent. The more time you are able to give this the more the wood comes to the front. At twice the age of the “White” that should hardly come as a surprise. Well balanced stuff. Still, after the wood, caramel and toffee show themselves more as well as some white pepper and some, wait for it… rural organics. This is pretty good, considering the price and the industrial amounts that are made of this.

Taste: Quite light. Floral. Honey again. After a short delay that warm honey runs down my throat, quickly turning into slightly burnt sugar and oak. Very friendly and not the big hitter the label seems to promise. Definitely family of the White label, with more of everything, just maintaining the friendliness of it all. Extremely easily drinkable. Creamy vanilla and honey again. Quite sweet and lovely, with nice woody characteristics. Oak stays behind after you swallow. Not very complex, but very well-balanced. Especially when given some air and time. Mellow stuff.

The profile of Jim Beam Black fits that of Evan Williams Single Barrel, but half the price. I have to say I don’t know how a more recent “Black” will perform, but this 2004 bottling performs just nicely. Compared to Binny’s Buffalo Trace, the “Black” has way more honey, and seems soapier, which is something I haven’t picked up on, trying it by itself. The Buffalo Trace is more strict and in a way more fruity and even better balanced. I guess now it becomes a comparison of yeast strains. Jim being more floral and the Buffalo being more fruity.

Points: 80

Jim Beam “Signature Craft” 12yo (43%, OB, Small Batch)

Marketed as the super premium “Top Shelf” Bourbon in the Jim Beam range of Bourbons. No don’t worry the Small Batch series isn’t discontinued, just they are seen as Bourbons for aficionado’s and less for the “people”. Second the Signature Craft’s will bear the Jim Beam name as opposed to the Whiskies released in the Small Batch series. Bearing the Beam name is also the reason this Signature Craft Bourbon doesn’t break the bank. It’s an easy access brand. For those who don’t know The Small Batch series, it comprises of: Bookers, Baker’s, Basil Haydens (Old Grand Dad recipe and yeast strain) and Knob Creek.

Jim Beam Signature Craft 12yoColor: Copper gold.

Nose: A lot of honey and the typical Jim Beam yeast strain. Wow, really very honeyed. It’s hard to get past that. This needs to breathe for a while. Quite mellow for a 12yo Bourbon that has spent all of its life in new wood. The wood starts to work here, and adds vanilla and a teensie bit of spiciness to the whole. Honey still, but becoming more dry. Hints of a Cognac-like fruitiness. Hints of dry powder and old leather. More hints can be found, but in the end it’s all creamy vanilla with loads of honey.

Taste: less sweet than expected. More (new) wood influence here and quite warming. Runny caramel with hints of burnt sugar. Added character by the honeyed, woody bitterness in the finish. Toffee. Also a hint of menthol seems to be here, chilling my lips. The finish itself isn’t very long, and that’s quite surprising for such an old Bourbon. Well balanced though.

Somewhat sweeter than the Four Roses Single Barrel and Buffalo Trace. Super Premium, well maybe. I have to say that this is a well-balanced and very easily drinkable Bourbon. Sometimes surprising to be 12yo, since the wood isn’t always there overpowering the whole by it prolonged maturation. Although not super premium by my book, I do still like it. It stands shoulder to shoulder with both Bourbons mentioned above. By the way The Signature Craft series do remind me a lot of Four Roses. The look and feel, not the taste that is…

Points: 83

Bourbon Week – Day 6: Old Grand-Dad 114 (57%, OB, Lot No.1, 750 ml)

As I mentioned yesterday, Jim Beam is famous, but they’re also famous for having bought some brands and making essentially the same whiskey under all those brand names. More or less all Jim Beam products come from one recipe, one mash bill. Just variations in age and proof.

In 1987 Jim Beam bought themselves National Distillers, and by doing that, they also acquired Old Grand-Dad. For all the Bourbons that were kept in production, all original recipes were changed to the ‘Jim Beam’ recipe. All but Old Grand-Dad. This recipe survived due to its uniqueness, and is the only other recipe that Jim Beam uses. This Old-Grand-Dad recipe uses a lot more of the, so-called, flavour or small grains i.e. rye and barley.

Old Grand-Dad came in two versions. One ‘normal’ version at 43% ABV and a “bottled in bond” version at 50%. What Jim Beam did is adding two more versions. First, Old Grand-Dad 114, aimed at a younger public who would ‘dig’ the high-proof, and Basil Hayden’s, which is aimed at the connoisseur and therefore put in their Small Batch Collection. So there you have it, for those who didn’t know it yet. Basil Hayden’s is Old Grand-Dad at 40% ABV. By trying any Jim Beam and Old Grand-Dad, you can get acquainted with both recipes Jim Beam uses.

Color: Copper Orange.

Nose: Clean and a bit light, lots of typical rye scents. Wet forest. Powdery and dusty. Again a Rye Whiskey that smells a bit like a Single Malt. Although it seems a bit closed (this is not from a freshly opened bottle), this smells really good, almost like a good men’s cologne.

Taste: Sweet and tick, spicy wood. Tarry and some coconut. Cloying texture. Full bodied and stunning balance. Not the ping-pong mentioned earlier, but this time the rounded out balance between sweet and the bite of the rye. Hints of red fruits, are they cherries? Its sweet and has hints of sourness and dryness from the wood, but that only adds to the balance. Wow, instant favorite of mine.

Excellent! No wonder that they couldn’t replace this recipe. This is very, very good. At least I like it a lot at this strength. Recommended. I haven’t tasted all of the “Small Batch Collection” yet, but I can’t imagine Jim Beam making anything better than this.  Yeah I’m ‘younger public’ now! Another example of the water of life, that preserves youth.

Points: 86

Bourbon Week – Day 5: Baker’s 7yo (53.5%, OB, Batch B-90-001, 750 ml)

Now for a whisky from the stables of Jim Beam in Clermont or Boston Kentucky. Yes Jim Beam have two distilleries and use them interchangeably. As you might have read, Jim Beam White is what it all started for me, but that days have gone. No Jim Beam White on my lectern anymore, or is it? Jim Beam is famous, and Jim Beam is famous for using only two recipes, two mash bills for everything, mostly only varying in ageing and proof.

Jim Beam has the “Small Batch Collection” A collection of four Whiskeys aimed at the true connoisseur: Knob Creek (9yo, 50%ABV), Bookers (6yo to 8yo, Cask Strength), Basil Hayden’s (8yo, 40% ABV) and finally Baker’s (7yo, 53.5%). All made in small batches obviously. If you’re interested in Basil Hayden’s, than you have to check tomorrows review.

Baker’s it is for today. I said there’s no more Jim Beam White on my lectern anymore, but it turns out that this Baker’s is essentially Jim Beam White at a higher proof and aged for 7yo. So a well matured, higher strength Jim Beam White. By the way, Booker’s and Knob Creek are also from this ‘Jim Beam’ recipe.

Color: Copper

Nose: Meaty and yeasty. Saké. Hints of sweat and cigarette smoke. Fresh ánd musty, wild?Citrussy (lemon) and also some orange skin. Sometimes it noses like a single malt. Completely different from other Bourbons. Mushrooms and clay. Multiplex in the end. Let it stand for a while and it somehow homogenizes into a clean high rye-content Bourbon. Very interesting trait that is.

Taste: Rounded spice, and sweet, but in a sort of dirty gravy like way. Quite different from the Four Roses offering reviewed yesterday. This has some opposites too, because you can call this dirty on your first impression, but as with the nose, this gets cleaner when you wait a minute or five. Its a good Bourbon, but for me the sweetness is a bit tiresome in comparison to the Buffalo Trace and the Four Roses reviewed earlier, but that is marginal. Therefore only a marginal lower score.

Again a very decent Bourbon Whiskey. This bottle is almost finished, and I thoroughly enjoyed this.

Points: 81