A fascinating flurry of aromas—red fruit punch, floral bouquet, honey, tropical guava and passion fruit, and assorted gummy candies. The dense palate balances sweet pineapple upside-down cake with tart ruby-red grapefruit, punctuated with lively allspice, dark cocoa powder, and ginger. The spectrum of bright flavors is underscored by deep spice and polished oak, while the impressive impact and skillful blending are spellbinding. Kentucky straight rye whiskey with two Canadian whiskies.
The sophomore effort from eighth-generation Beam distiller Freddie Noe cements his place as an innovator and a talent. For this release, Noe blended 8 year old Kentucky straight rye, 13 year old Canadian rye, and 40 year old 100% Canadian corn whisky. Uncut and unfiltered, it pours rich, floral, and fruit forward, with flavors of marmalade, grilled pineapple, guava, and gummy bears. The bright, fruity sweetness is balanced with ruby-red grapefruit and the elder whisky’s rich leather, drying oak, allspice, and dark cocoa. A fascinating and flavorful ride. Number 11 in the 2018 Top 20
By focusing exclusively on high-quality straight whiskeys, without neutral spirits, Little Book is a fine example of America’s new era of blends. It includes all straight whiskeys: 4 year old bourbon, 13 year old corn, 5 year old 100% malt, and 5 year old rye. Like Booker’s bourbon, Little Book is uncut and unfiltered, to preserve the full flavor. The dominant note, cornbread, still allows the malt’s sweetness and the rye’s spice to come through. This is the first release from Freddie Noe, son of Beam master distiller Fred Noe and grandson of the late Booker Noe himself. It’s an impressive and unconventional debut, as Freddie prepares to continue the Beam legacy. Number 11 in the 2017 Top 20
It opens with dark chocolate, coffee, hazelnut, leather, earth, cornbread, and maple syrup. Then it pops with brown-sugar butter melting over grits, but the iron skillet cornbread reappears with a dominating and pleasing malt note. Hints of dill, parsley, and roasted almonds come next. Toward the end, a burst of vanilla hits before a long finish with a hint of honey. As American blends go, this is a fantastic pour.
More oak, intensity, depth, maturity, and character than the standard Jim Beam white. Darker sugars too, showing more caramel and light toffee, less honeyed corn and vanilla (although those notes are certainly still present). Subtle mint and cinnamon spice, along with soft fruit and light tobacco on the finish round out the flavor profile. A bourbon comfortably positioned between Jim Beam white and the more premium Signature Series releases.
Can you say “11 year old Old Grand-Dad”? There’s a snap of hot, happy rye in the nose, sweet corn and cinnamon banging along, but there’s vanilla and oaky dryness. I had a bottle of OGD Bonded handy, and it’s close. It’s like my favorite young bonded strapped in oaky spice, with a more mature, drier finish. I’m told this has even more rye in the mashbill. If you like OGD, get this and see what more age does. Price is per 375 ml.
Jim Beam Distiller’s Masterpiece Sherry Cask Finished, 50%
Bourbon/Tennessee | $200
“Extra-aged” bourbon finished in Pedro Ximénezsherry casks. The third Distiller’s Masterpiece release, the previous two being over a decade ago. The PX sherry is certainly evident, with its lush, dark fruit (raisin, prune, ripe plum), marmalade, and
layered dark sugars (toffee, molasses, maple syrup). A peppering of spices (cinnamon, allspice, vanilla) and dry, resinous oak round out the palate. Certainly a mood whiskey. Perhaps with a cigar after dinner? (distillery only)
Nicely balanced, with interwoven soft vanilla, cinnamon, and citrus, all on a bed of light toffee and caramel. More subtle notes of marzipan, tropical fruit, and soft oak add complexity. Traditional in style, with a friendly demeanour. A good bourbon to have on hand, as it is very versatile. I would have preferred this bottled at 45-50%, but this will do just fine as it is. A new regular bottling.
Launched in 2015, this is a solid pick for the under-$30 club. Think butterscotch and caramel dripping over popcorn: the cooked sugars first, then corn kernels. Dulled spices, oak, vanilla, hints of saddle leather and earth. This isn’t complex or complicated, but the medium-to-long candy corn finish leaves me wondering about its status with two more years in the barrel. Of course, that would mean the price would go up, too.
Triticale is a rye-wheat hybrid, so I’m expecting a rye-wheater hybrid bourbon. What I get is a screamer: spicy slice of a nose, hot cinnamon and sawn dry oak. Surprisingly light in the mouth, which is putting a smile on my face. Oak races through this, a spine coated with sweet grain, spicy notes, a bit of creaminess, and as the oak wraps up, I realize: no real rye bitterness. Cool stuff, a very good one. Price is per 375 ml.
Caramel and vanilla notes, with a peppering of spice (primarily cinnamon, but also evergreen, cocoa, teaberry, and nutmeg) and subtle roasted walnut, finishing dry, gritty, and spicy (from the grains and also the oak). Spicier and not as sweet when compared to its sibling Jim Beam Black, an eight year old. There’s certainly a lot going on here. A very “busy” and intriguing whiskey for exploring and discussing. (Exclusive to Travel Retail.)€30
Confectionary goodies all around. Vanilla, caramel with milk and chocolates: dark, Mexican, sweet, and white. Lots of chocolate. It’s soft and gentle, with zero spice, only rich chocolate and caramel with hints of grain and fruit, but this richness cannot be overstated. If you love chocolate and caramel, this is your dream bourbon. It finishes long and strong with a hint of—you guessed it—chocolate. Price is per 375ml
Cornbread and toffee start this alluring whiskey, followed by hints of paprika, fruits, flowers, and caramel. Afterward, it opens up into a bakery with cinnamon rolls, caramel chews, vanilla cupcakes, and ginger. Baking spices and earth appear over a medium finish that offers black licorice. It’s well-suited for mixing.
A delicate nose of golden raisin, Cracker Jack peanuts, pleasing citrus, and hints of clove. The palate is fairly straightforward in its honeyed sweetness and warm cereal notes, with hints of tobacco leaf. Not exciting, but enjoyable in an understated way and a nice leisurely sipper.
Jim Beam Signature Craft Rare Spanish Brandy Finish, 43%
Bourbon/Tennessee | $40
Quite the antithesis of the Signature Craft 12 year old, released at the same time. This one is finished in Spanish brandy barrels, so I expect it to be a polarizing whiskey. The brandy influence shows, with sweet fruit (sultana, honeyed tangerine, pineapple, ripe apricot) and spice (vanilla, cinnamon, ginger) interwoven with caramel. No age statement. Youthful, but not immature. A limited edition release.
The old Beam rye never got a lot of respect from aficionados. It’s been pulled, reformulated, and repackaged. Let’s try it. Smell: sweet grass and pepper. Taste: hot, flashy, sweet on top, with rye oiliness underneath, a tickling bitterness that blends well with oak into the finish. The higher proof plays well, giving this a punch of flavor the old yellow label didn’t have, and at a good price. It’s Manhattan time! Value Pick
Moderately rich, with layered caramel, vanilla, fig cake, and subtle sweet corn. Date, raisin, and a dusting of spice (cinnamon, cocoa, hint of ginger) round out the palate, leading to a gently sweet, soothing finish. A very versatile bourbon — certainly enjoyable enough to drink neat, but you won’t feel guilty if you make a cocktail with it or drink it on the rocks.
A toasty nose with bright citrus, spice, and oaky vanilla; you can feel the heat. Clearly Beam, but just as clearly different; there’s a flat spread to this, and a dry pull on the tongue and in the finish. Six-row barley has more husk to it, which can add tannins to beer; is there enough here to make a difference? It’s an interesting character, but it’s not all good. Price is per 375 ml.
Jim Beam Signature Craft Quarter Cask Finished, 43%
Bourbon/Tennessee | $40
Gently sweet vanilla, corn, and honey on the nose, with background spice and dried citrus. The same sweet notes show on the first half of the palate, with resinous oak, polished leather, and dried spice on the back end; the quarter cask aging is evident. Unfortunately, the sweet flavors and dried oak influence don’t marry very well, with too much sweetness and youthfulness up front, and too much oak bringing up the rear.
More wood influence than the standard Jim Beam White Label. It’s a bit more robust, bolder, and with more wood spices (especially cinnamon and vanilla) and a curious botanical note. Throw in some corn, caramel, and honey, and this is what you get. Behind all that, I’m detecting a bit of youthfulness — I might like this bourbon with more age and less “devil.”
Nose of corn and subdued Beam spiciness. It’s hot, and sweet, and minty-spicy, but the main difference from mainline Beam is the feel. This is slicker, lighter, slippery, and the finish has a softness to it, almost plushy. The oak seems lost (for an 11 year old), and that lets the sweetness dominate. It’s like a toy breed; it yips, when it should bark and growl. I think oats are too soft for bourbon. Price per 375 ml.
Grain in several forms begin this experience. First it’s raw corn kernels, freshly buttered popcorn, boiled oats, rye toast, and cornbread. Then oak, raisins, and slight hints of vanilla develop, but the concentrated cornbread dominates after its appearance. However, though at a low proof, water is needed to cut the heat. Recommended with ice, water, and/or cola.
Wood. From the lumberyard to the charred barrels, wood powers over grain, caramel, vanilla, and earth. A nuttiness comes through, turning the wood into almond, pine nut, and pecan, but a resounding bitterness stays in the form of nut shells. It lacks balance and complementary flavors to the oak, but caramel finds itself on a short finish. Decent first release, but I wanted to find more nuance from the second barrel.
For rye whiskey drinkers, Jim Beam isn’t the name you’re usually looking for, but there’s a distinct rye nose: menthol, dill, herbs, and boiling oats. The palate is dull, lacking the up-front spice typically found in ryes, and only shows hints of vanilla, caramel, and eventually cinnamon. The extremely short finish leaves me wondering if it would fare better at a higher proof.