Jim Beam

Review: Old Tub Bottled-in-Bond Kentucky Striaght Bourbon Whiskey by Jason Hambrey

Old Tub 2.jpg
4 years; Charred Virgin Oak
~75% Corn, 13% Rye, 12% Malted Barley
Distiller Jim Beam (Clermont, Kentucky)

This whisky is bottled-in-bond, which means it was distilled in a single season and aged for at least four years. To boot, this one has not been carbon- or chill-filtered, which means that the whisky should have loads of texture. This is a relatively recent release, even though it borrows the same name as a much older jim beam brand.

Review (2021)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: ~2020

The nose is so classically Jim Beam - that nutty, savoury character complemented by rich and oily corn, a bit of spice, dried apricot, rich oak, cumin, and good grainy notes. It really does come on full force with that funky, foxy Jim Beam character - and it is obviously a bit young and untamed, but it makes up for this with ample richness. It is rich and thick in the mouth. The palate is sweet, oaky, and full of really nice corn notes. The finish is creamy, sweet, and deep. The proof really helps here.

It’s getting harder and harder to find decent bourbons for a reasonable price in Canada, and here is one that is for sure a worthwhile buy.

Recommended (81% of whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: High at $45.

Review: Baker's Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey by Jason Hambrey

Baker's 2.jpg
7 Years; Charred Virgin Oak
~75% Corn, 13% Rye, 12% Malted Barley
Distiller Jim Beam (Clermont, Kentucky)

For whatever reason, this bourbon is the one which I seem to hear about the least of the bourbons in the Jim Beam small batch collection. It’s odd, perhaps, because it is a solid bourbon, and the price is good. It comes in at 53.5%, is aged 7 years, and is fairly available. Each bottle has a batch number on it – this reviewed batch is B-90-001.

The bourbon itself is named after Baker Beam, the grand nephew of Jim Beam, and was his creation supposedly - though people working at Beam said that Booker just needed a name for a whisky he wanted to release. The mashbill has about 15% rye in it, with the rest being filled out mostly with corn. This mashbill is the same as for most Jim Beam bourbons – White Label, Black Label, Knob Creek, and Booker’s.

Review (2015)

  • Batch: B-90-001

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2014

Nose: Now there’s a nose! Rich, with caramel, spice, dried apricot, chocolate, and dried corn – and it develops nicely as the richness unfolds to custard, vanilla, and light pepper and smoke. It is well integrated all around and very enjoyable to unpack.

Taste: Sweet and very rich. Corn, oak, dried fruits, and vanilla – slowly evolving to some rich corn and earthiness with the thick body and tannins all working to create the body around those flavours. It is a “slow” palate as I would say – there is good movement, and the flavour keeps developing and changing as it is in your mouth. The thickness/body you can immediately recognize from the first pour, and you certainly feel it on the palate. I find the alcohol (53.5%) to be just about right to sip – I have experimented with water but I prefer this one at full strength.

Finish: A nice big finish, with spice, rich corn, caramel, chocolate and oak. The body, length, and even acidity are all well balanced. A wonderful blend of corn and oak on this finish.

This is a really nice bourbon. It doesn’t seem that hot, betraying the fact that it comes in at 53.5%. I like this one even more than Booker’s, generally! I quite like the richness, and it isn’t a spice bomb but it is well balanced and deep.

Very Highly Recommended (18% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: Very high. At 65$ CAD, when I got this, it was a very solid buy against other tastes in this price range.

Review (2020)

  • Batch: I suppose they are all B-90-001

  • Bottling Code:  N/A

  • Bottling Date: ~2019

I always liked Baker’s quite a bit – perhaps the best of the Jim Beam small batch collection, other than, perhaps, Booker’s (depending on the batch). But, it’s been some time and the price has (sadly) jumped up significantly enough that I don’t buy this one very often anymore. It is also getting somewhat difficult to find in my neck of the woods.

 Herbal, nutty, and rich on the nose with lots of spices and a good dose of dried fruit, caramel, and almond. The palate is rich and fruity, with a good dose of oak and a nice oiliness. The fruity character works so well with the nuts, the baking spice, and the oak. It has a really great depth to it, and isn’t as hot as a lot of other Beam’s (even the nicer ones) at 53.5%. The finish is full of spice and oak.

It's nice, but not as nice as the last batch. For whatever reason, I thought that was absolutely terrific. This is just very good.

Highly Recommended (49% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: Average, at $80.

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).

Knob Creek Cask Strength Rye Whiskey (Barreled 2009) by Jason Hambrey

Knob Creek 2009 2.jpg
Charred Virgin Oak
N/A (but at least 51% Rye)
Distiller Jim Beam (Clermont, Kentucky)

This was a special release in 2018, and it came with anticipation - a cask strength, 9 year old knob creek rye! Some people certainly liked it, given that Whisky Advocate named it their number 2 whisky of the year.

Review (2019)

  • Batch: Barreled in 2009, Warehouse A

  • Bottling Code: L3182CLH 13282005

  • Bottling Date: 2018

Very oaky, and quite intense. Some of that classic Jim Beam rye nuttiness and vegetal character (buckwheat, perhaps?), mint, sorrel, cacao, and oak. Very rich. There is more – hazelnut oil, roasted celeriac, baking spices, a hint of patchouli, freshly milled whole wheat, and a bit of mandarin.

The palate is sharp and spicy, with loads of oak (fairly tannic), mint, patchouli, bitter clove, black pepper, mint, wild rice, lilac, and tannic oak. Corn is not absent either, with some rich corn husk coming through at the end. Extremely flavourful. The finish is quite herbal, tannic, and oaky.

Highly Recommended (48% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: Average. A very nice whisky, but still a fairly high price (~100 CAD). If you like it more than I do, as some do, value would be higher, of course.

Review: Basil Hayden's Dark Rye by Jason Hambrey

Blend of Beam Rye, Alberta Rye, and Port
Distiller Jim Beam (Clermont, Kentucky) and Alberta (Calgary, Alberta)

The second bottle to be added to the Basil Hayden’s brand, one of Jim Beam’s core „small batch” brands. Beam Suntory started to leverage its Canadian distillery, the magnificent Alberta rye distillery, using it as a secondary component to blend in with Jim Beam’s rye whiskey. On top of this, port is added to the blend to round it out. In some respects, it’s similar to Alberta Dark Rye (Dark Horse in Canada) in that a fortified wine is added to a rye whiskey. The addition of wine to the whiskey is scientifically equivalent to a short (i.e. a few months) of a finish where wood impact doesn’t mature the whiskey but the wine is just dissolved into the spirit. So, it’s not much different than a port finish, depending on the amount of port actually added. The Alberta ryes taste nothing like Beam rye, so let’s test out the combo!

Review (2018)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2018

The nose starts off with sweet oak, rich and shallow caramel (think of that super sweet caramel donut or straight cheap caramel ice cream sauce), green apple candy,  oaky earthiness, mint, bright and rich grain, clove, pepper, butter...hmmm....

The palate is sweet throughout, starting with a sharp kick of rye but with lots of sweet oak and a strong touch of nutty port rancio. Slightly rough around the edges, too. The finish is perhaps the best part of the whisky, with a combination of spicy rye, oak, and port. Lots of rich dried fruit, like prune, on the finish too. It’s rough underneath, and I suppose you could imagine balance, but barely, and there isn’t good integration.

I don’t even like to nose this one, all candy, and not in a good way. Ice marginally improves this, but not enough. One of the worst whiskies from a major producer in some time. For some who like sweet and flavoured whiskies, they may not mind this. But, for most of us, there’s better places to find „uniqueness”.

Value: Low. Not a whisky up my alley, which means it’s a lot to pay for it.