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.