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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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