Review: Little Book Blended Whiskey / by Jason Hambrey

Little Book Chapter three 1.jpg
~60% (varies by release)
4-40 Years
Varies by Release
Distiller Jim Beam (Clermont, Kentucky)

This is quite the endeavor - to produce a premium whisky from a major bourbon producer which is a blend of different whiskey styles (so, not a bourbon). It certainly is premium stuff, and it certainly is good stuff. It is made in the style of the respectable Booker’s whisky - big, cask strength whisky - and is spearheaded by Booker Noe’s grandson (hence, “Little Book”).

The releases are varied. The first release was based around a 4 year old straight bourbon, a 6 year old rye, a 13 year old corn whiskey, and a 6 year old straight malt whiskey. The second release was a blend of Kentucky Straight Rye (8 years old) with a Canadian straight rye (13 years old) and a Canadian corn whisky (40 years old). One can assume the Canadian portion came from Alberta, since Beam owns that remarkable distillery - but it may have been sourced elsewhere. Talk about unique.

The third release came in as a blend of American straight whiskeys, now in a style which is growing in popularity. It’s a blend of (generally) older Jim Beam small batch bourbons -  a blend of a 9 year old Basil Hayden’s, a 9 year old Knob Creek, an 11 year old Bookers, and a 12 year old Bakers. Thus, this is a straight bourbon.

Review (2019)

  • Batch: Chapter 2: Noe Small Task (59.4%)

  • Bottling Code: 1689597L5 13:53 17199

  • Bottling Date: 2018

Sharp, diverse, and complex nose. Mint, lemon peel, pickled lemons, arugula, oak – loaded with oak, so it’s not very much like a Canadian blended whisky despite the Canadian components. It’s a bit sweet – and it’s quite deep. Sweet tarts, dried chanterelles, truffle oil, toasted macadamias, toasted hazlenuts, mixed sprouts, blueberry, canola oil

Deep, yet quite soft. The palate is full of a mix of all sorts of rye – fruity, spicy, herbal (radishes), and cinnamon. Still, there is a nice corn body to this, and a very nice mix of spicy and rich grain notes. What a nice, complex whisky. There is an incredibly rich nuttiness and herbaceousness present, and the balance is terrific – especially at cask strength. The finish is lightly sweet, with some nice spices in tow. The herbal characteristics are not lost at all, and the rich oakiness remains throughout. This is just about a perfect fall whisky.

It has less colour than most bookers, probably because the Canadian rye was refill casks. It is an entirely different animal than a booker’s which is much more focused on corn and a bit more focused on a big bourbon profile than Little Book, which is very much in its own category – but with deep American rye whiskey nods.

One of my favourite American-produced whiskies to date.

Very Highly Recommended (18% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher). This is at the higher end of this category, too.

Value: Average (based on $130).

Review (2020)

  • Batch: Chapter 3: The Road Home (61.3%)

  • Bottling Code: L9175CLA 293141053

  • Bottling Date: 2019

Another blend from Freddie Noe, for the first time all American whiskies (no Canadian). Last year I loved chapter 02 which included some old Canadian corn and rye whiskies. Now, we’re in straight bourbon territory.

The nose is oaky and spicy – it is to die for. There are some really nice floral notes to this one. Prunes, dried apricot, clove, lilac, black pepper, corn, oak, vanilla, hibiscus, and charred oak. The palate is rich and oaky with dark chocolate, apricot, vanilla, and loads of spice. Just the right level of bitterness. The finish is rich, oaky, and full of corn. It has a great Jim Beam character too. It takes water very well (I do really like it around 48%), but it’s also very enjoyable (and massive) at cask strength.

The best Beam bourbon I’ve had in a number of years.

Compared to last year’s release, very different. Last year’s is a lot lighter, less oaky, with far more finesse. Lots of rye influence, and an ethereal character – this one is just a massive bourbon. Last year’s was more complex, but this year’s might be a bit deeper. This tastes American through and through, last year’s tasted a bit more like a big Canadian whisky (not really a surprise). I rate them the same, at quite a high mark. Last year’s is a bit more intriguing, but this year’s is a bit more addictive.

Very Highly Recommended (19% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: Average. Really good whisky, also quite expensive – they balance out to put this at about average value for $140 (i.e., even at that price, not a bad buy against the market).