Jim Beam

Review: Little Book Blended Whiskey by Jason Hambrey

Little+Book+1.jpg
ABV
59.4%
Aging
8-40 Years; Charred Virgin Oak
Recipe
A blend of straight rye and corn whiskies
Distiller Jim Beam (Clermont, Kentucky)

This is quite the endeavor - 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.

This review is for the second release, which differed from the first release which 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 100% malt whiskey..


Review (2019)

  • Batch: Chapter 2: Noe Small Task

  • 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).


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

Knob Creek 2009 2.jpg
ABV
59.8%
Aging
Charred Virgin Oak
Recipe
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

ABV
40%
Aging
N/A
Recipe
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.


Review: Old Forester 1920 Prohibition Style Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey by Jason Hambrey

Old Forester Prohibition 1.jpg
ABV
57.5%
Aging
Charred Virgin Oak
Recipe
72% Corn, 18% Rye, 10% Malted Barley
Distiller Brown Forman (Louisville, Kentucky)

I’ve kept hearing so many good things about this one, I had to try it. Old Forester is distilled in a bourbon distillery in Louisville, and owned by Brown Forman who also own Jack Daniels (and Canadian Mist)....It is part of a series of special releases from Brown Forman which celebrate different periods of history in their „Whisky Row” series. This bottle commemorates prohibition, though it doesn’t appear there is much specific to prohibition about the bottle beyond being a typical proof which a bourbon might have come out of the barrel during prohibition (though it would have been required to be bottled at 50% rather than the 57.5% it came out of the bottle at). Brown Forman doesn’t usually bottle high proof bourbons, so it’s nice to see, too...


Review (2017)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: L055711251

  • Bottling Date: ~2016

Quite a vibrant bourbon on the nose. Loads of cherry, pineapple, and rich dark caramel – but also orange, and a nice set of spices – vanilla, oak, a bit of nutmeg, dried mixed mushrooms, macadamias, tea biscuits, and something qiute woody – gentian, perhaps. A light citric lift, too. The palate is spicy, driven by the oak and corn. Some nice light rye, supporting, with some slight vegetal and sharp spicy undertones. It does well with water, but is very nicely rich at full strength.Rich, sweet finish with brown sugar, oatmeal, and lots of earthy marshy notes and some brown sugar. The earthy, marshy, oaky notes are so nice combined with the dried horn cusk notes and the brown sugar.

It really doesn’t come across as 57.5%, which is a plus – it tastes very rich but not hot (granted, I’ve enjoyed 80% ABV whiskies without trouble...). It’s reminding me of Woodford Reserve Double Oaked, though this is not nearly as woody – but has a similar, extremely rich profile but the distillate and the oak are in much better balance here.

I can't believe I'm saying this, but this makes a great highball. I'm not really a bourbon highball sort of guy, but it works really well between the citrus notes, the fruit, and the creamy notes. Worth a try (or two....)!

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

Value: Average, based on $105.


Review: Knob Creek Single Barrel Reserve Aged 9 Years Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey by Jason Hambrey

Knob Creek Single Barrel.jpg
ABV
60%
Aging
9 Years; Charred Virgin Oak
Recipe
~75% Corn, 13% Rye, 12% Malted Barley
Distiller Jim Beam (Clermont, Kentucky)

If you ever get to visit Jim Beam (a distillery well worth a visit), one option that is offered to you is to bottle your own bottle of Knob Creek Single Barrel. When I first went, I opted to do this, and while it sounds exciting – really there isn’t much involved: you get to clean a new bottle before putting it on the assembly line to get a label put on it and to fill it by the machines. There are different ways that bottles are cleaned before they are filled – some use compressed air, some use vodka, some use distilled water -but at Jim Beam they just wash the bottles with bourbon. This whiskey, like the small batch, is soon losing its age statement – sad for a bourbon which already has some good age on it. As a single barrel, this bourbon will vary from barrel to barrel – but the general characteristics should hold. The whiskey comes in at a hefty 60%, which will be quite close to barrel proof.


Review (2015)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: L3276CLT13483074

  • Bottling Date: 2013

Nose: Slightly creamy, with oak, cherries, and orange evolving to include coconut, cinnamon, vanilla, apples – almost like spice cake dough. With time, spices really come out – white pepper, and, especially and notably, brown (not green) cardamom. The score on the nose has gone up with multiple reviews, as it takes the spirit a bit of time to really open up. Diluting this one down to about 50% ABV really does some good work to show the complexity underneath.

Taste: Very hot at first, with some anise and marshy oak before warming hay, honey, and oak come toward a big sweet finish. Cinnamon, apples, and more spices present too. A fair bit goes on, with 3-4 distinct movements in each sip which is quite wonderful – this one is packed with flavour.

Finish: Big oak, honey, corn husks, custard, apple, freshly charred oak, bananas, and brown cardamom. Spicy, with good body and length.

This is a nice, well put-together bourbon. The spiciness is quite remarkable, and the whiskey will grow on you if you’re anything like me – I have found myself liking it more with each successive tasting.

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

Value: Very High. A good barrel of this stuff is great value, especially at 60%.


Review (2017)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: L6098CLA 094260916

  • Bottling Date: 2016

Standard- oaky, nutty, and lightly spicy – with some nice firm dried corn and earthy marshy notes. Slightly sour, with some peach, black tea, rosehip, tobacco, coriander, and oak... The nose develops brilliantly, with time.  The palate continues from the nose, but with some strawberries and spices – almost bitter with all that oak and clove influence. Terrific hazlenut oil comes in at the end. Lightly tangy. I’m not sure if there is a better value for money cask strength level boutbon whisky out there than this one. Not as good as my previous barrel, but still very nice, and takes water well.

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

Value: High. A great value bourbon. The value is lower than above because this barrel wasn’t quite as good to push it to a higher value echelon.


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

ABV
~60% (varies)
Aging
6-8 Years; Charred Virgin Oak
Recipe
~75% Corn, 13% Rye, 12% Malted Barley
Distiller Jim Beam (Clermont, Kentucky)

This whiskey was introduced in 1992, and was originally released because Booker Noe (the master distiller of Jim Beam at the time) used to bottle his favorite bourbons straight from the barrel and gift them to his friends. After so much hype about these gifts, he started to bottle bourbon straight from the barrel – uncut (no water added – so at the alcohol percentage in the barrel) and unfiltered (most whiskies have oily compounds stripped from them to increase clarity). This is a bit of a landmark bourbon – when it was released, the category of unfiltered, cask strength bourbons essentially did not exist, and this bourbon did a lot to establish the category which is now the ultimate for bourbon enthusiasts.

As the story goes, Booker found that the barrels in a particular section of the warehouses were quite polished, and soon realized the bellies of warehouse workers had polished up the barrels from this particular area of the warehouse as they stole out little drams of the whiskies from this area! Originally, booker used old chablis to bottle this whisky for his friends, hence, it is still bottled in a wine style bottle.


Review (2015)

  • Batch: C04-J-19 (63.65%, 7 yrs 11 months old)

  • Bottling Code: L2266CLA 07322510

  • Bottling Date: 2013

Nose: Some floral rye comes out right off the bat, but this progresses to deeper and heavier notes as it sits. The nose is oily, creamy, and vibrant especially with a bit of water added. Banana custard, dried apricot, corn husks, butterscotch, nutmeg, almond milk, green bell pepper, oak, and black tea – and a bit of shy bitterness. There is a lot in there and you may well take the entire bottle to unpack it all. The nose, itself, is a bit shy, and you need to take your time with it.

Taste: Sour and tannic at first, before heavy corn, hay, tobacco, vanilla, black tea, almond and some cherries come in. It’s quite hot at its natural strength, and I prefer it with a bit of water added to bring it down to around 50%. Overall, it’s a bit nutty and oily too – with nice mouthfeel. There is so much going on with all of its brute force that it can be a bit hard to keep up at times. Really, this is quite fabulous – at full strength or with a bit of water added.

Finish: A bit tannic and somewhat empty, though oak, dried fruits, and vanilla make their presence known. It’s spicy, rather than juicy and fruity – and the oak is suprisingly subdued. However, at this proof, the finish is quite deep and lingers for a good long while.

Conclusion: This is good, but this batch doesn’t quite come together for me. If you’re adding water to this, a bottle can go quite a far way – and this is a bourbon that every whiskey lover needs to try – it is very highly regarded across the board and is reasonably priced and available.

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

Value: Average (before the price started shooting up).


Review (2017)

  • Batch: 2016-01E (63.85%, 6 yrs 1 month old)

  • Bottling Code: L2266CLA 07322510

  • Bottling Date: 2016-01E

Lots of caramel, plum, oak, and nice, nutty oiliness. Peaches, apricot, freeze dried strawberries, and rye that is almost a bit dusty (usually you see this in Canadian, not American, ryes!). Terrific body on the palate – that unfiltered business works really well. Corn, hazlenuts, marshy and earthy notes, cinnamon, nutmeg, clove – an amazing development of spices. There is a brilliant spicy flourish where sweetness and vanilla start to edge themselves in before oak takes over the show and dries out the finish. The finish is terrific – complex, long lasting, and developing – tobacco, dried corn, spice, oak, orange bitters, caramel, and a touch of poplar wood, I think. Not the best I’ve had, but a really nice bookers.

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

Value: High. A good batch of this for 85 CAD? Yes please.


Review: Jim Beam Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey by Jason Hambrey

Jim Beam White.jpg
ABV
40%
Aging
Charred Virgin Oak
Recipe
~75% Corn, 13% Rye, 12% Malted Barley
Distiller Jim Beam (Clermont, Kentucky)

Here we have the best selling bourbon in the world, from the largest bourbon producer in Kentucky. It is 4 years old, distilled to 135 proof (67.5%), put into the barrel at 125 proof (62.5%), with barrels scattered all over the many warehouses at Jim Beam.


Review (2013)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2013

Nose: Lightly fruity, with some apples, caramel, corn chips, dried apple crisps, oak, and a touch of maple – the aroma has many hints of corn and is slightly sour, at times with a bit of unhelpful bitterness also present. There is both a slight rye dustiness is also present, along with some buttery character, likely from the corn. The sour and bitter components are a bit off-key, which is too bad, and overall the nose is a bit lacking. A bit of vanilla comes out with time.

Taste: Corn is quite center-stage here, and is quite present throughout. Starts with some toffee, and then peaches, but shows some development in the finish where some oak emerges with some rye and spice. The rye flourish at the end is a nice effect. But, overall, a little flat at times…

Finish: Light oak, vanilla, cherries, green gooseberries, and lightly dry tannins. The other flavours leave fairly quickly, but the fresh oak is quite nice – much like the smell of a fresh oak barrel or oak stave that has been dried out.

Value: Average. One of my least-liked bourbons, but it’s not expensive and isn’t terrible.


Review: Jim Beam Black Kentucky Striaght Bourbon Whiskey by Jason Hambrey

Jim Beam Black.jpg
ABV
43%
Aging
6 years; Charred Virgin Oak
Recipe
~75% Corn, 13% Rye, 12% Malted Barley
Distiller Jim Beam (Clermont, Kentucky)

This whiskey is branded to be “triple aged”, as it is aged three times the minimum requirement for bourbon, carrying a 6 year old age statement (though it used to be 8 years here). Similar to Canadian Club Reserve, which also carries similar branding and bottling (owned, of course, by the same company).


Review (2014)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2013

Nose: Apple, apricot, peaches, corn husks, marmelade, with some spicy rye kick too. It has, as with the white label, the feel of buttery corn and dusty rye on the nose. Dried fruits, a bit of ash, and the heavy buttery, vanilla-like character of a barrel-aged chardonnay.

Taste: This has a nice, slightly silky mouthfeel. It has a fair bit of buttery corn presence, and quite buttery as well – with orange and lemon coming through (with accompanying acidity) mid palate, and a good kick of vanilla. Rye and a good bit of oak control the end, and for quite nice effect. Quite enjoyable.

Finish: A slightly acidic finish which makes me want to suck on all the flavour in my mouth, and reach for another sip. Very nice vanilla, mossy oak, buttery corn, dried cherries, and dried corn husks. The oak stays around for quite a while – it is very nice.

Much deeper, with nicer feel and more complexity than the white label. deeper, longer, more delicious than white label. It has come along with the extra years in the barrel – the oak is more mossy and less fresh, the fruits are a bit more intense – like the shift from fresh to dried fruits, and the tannins have slightly more grip.

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

Value: High. Especially with the 8 year year old version you used to be a able to get, this is a good bourbon at a great price.


Review: Jim Beam Devil's Cut Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey by Jason Hambrey

Jim Beam Devils.jpg
ABV
45%
Aging
Charred Virgin Oak
Recipe
~75% Corn, 13% Rye, 12% Malted Barley
Distiller Jim Beam (Clermont, Kentucky)

Once bourbon is emptied out of a barrel, quite a large amount (about 7 gallons) remains soaked into the wood of the barrels. Jim Beam created a proprietary process to extract this whisky out of the barrel staves, using heat, water, and agitation on the barrels from 6 year old bourbons. It is called the “devil’s cut” because it is typically product lost to the barrel, contrasted to the “angel’s share” which is whiskey lost to the atmosphere through evaporation out of the barrel. This whisky has been around for some years, but was one of the first bourbons pushing for the very oak-centered bourbons which are now quite popular.


Review (2014)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2013

Nose: Dried apricot, dry oak, dried corn husks, but also fresh peaches and fresh apricots – and the smell of corn is definitely there. A bit earthy and mossy from the oak, and a bit spicy. Vanilla as an integral part of the rest rather than its own thing. A little simple, but engaging and well done – and nicely creamy as well.

Taste: Nice viscous feel, with vanilla on the front, with good (perhaps a touch too much?) background sweetness and a lovely spicy bite on the end. There’s corn, candy corn, corn oil, caramel, before the finish takes over with the oak and the spices. Well balanced, and delicious, though a bit simple, perhaps.

Finish: Oak, for sure, on the finish, with lots of vanilla, coconut, oak earthiness, tapioca pudding, dried apricot, and a bit of nuttiness, and even a touch of acidity. Quite big, and still with nice body and a slight bit of tannic dryness. The oak, as might be expected, really comes out on this one.

It is probably my choice for a budget sipper bourbon, at least of the ones available in Ontario (though its calmer, more complex sibling Jim Beam Black is a very nice whisky too). I quite like the bold profile, the feel, and the integration of fruit, oak, and corn. It is, as I have said, fairly simple – but those things are done well and fit together well.

Highly Recommended (48% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher). As long as you like oak, I think this was fine stuff!

Value: High. 31$ for this stuff is a good deal.


Review: Basil Hayden's Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey by Jason Hambrey

Basil Haydens.jpg
ABV
40%
Aging
Charred Virgin Oak
Recipe
~63% Corn, 27% Rye, 10% Malted Barley
Distiller Jim Beam (Clermont, Kentucky)

This whiskey was introduced in 1992 as part of the Jim Beam Small Batch Collection – it was modeled after the whiskey and recipe made by Basil Hayden, a distiller in the late 1700s. The whiskey used to carry an age statement of 8 years, but is now “artfully aged”, i.e. not as old. Likewise, it used to be a “straight” bourbon - but no longer -  which means that it can be younger (unlikely to be too much younger) and coloring and flavoring can be added. This whiskey has the lowest alcohol content (40%) of any of the Jim Cream Small Batch Collection (which includes the Knob Creek line, Booker’s, and Baker’s), and is crafted to be a lighter bourbon. This bourbon is unique in that it has a higher rye content (the recipe uses about 30%), which is nearly double that of the other Jim Beam products.


Review (2015)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: 1321934A20134

  • Bottling Date: 2014

Nose: Light, citrusy and fruity aroma overall – there’s a lovely light rye influence in this one, but corn is quite present as well. The rye is quite dominant – it could perhaps fool some to be a light rye whiskey rather than a bourbon. Caramel, vanilla, custard, citrus, green apple skins, without a lot of oak for a bourbon that is close to 8 years old. It’s hot and peppery in the nose despite the low ABV and light profile. On my first tasting there was a lot of stale bitterness associated with the rye (resulting in a score of 78 initially), but that has faded to nothing as the bottle has been open a few days, and the nose, itself, is much better than that.

Taste: Light, corn and oak with a bit of a floral nature on top. A taste profile that is simple and quite easy to embrace – it is quite a bit different from the much bigger flavor profiles of the other small batch bourbons. Lightly smoky, with fruity notes in the apple and pear camp, with a soft oak integration. Fruit too – apple and pear. Ever so lightly bitter and tannic, and fairly sweet for the light body. There is a decent amount of oiliness, too, in the palate as with many of the other premium Jim Beam products- which some people quite like but isn’t quite my favorite.

Finish: A light body on the finish, with some oak, earthy corn – like what you would expect wet corn stalks to smell like after they’ve been pulled up. Slightly sour, and slightly spicy, as well. The oak wins out in the end.

This is a decent light bourbon, though at the price there are many others I’d recommend before this one at this price point. For someone just getting into bourbons, it’s perhaps good because of the very light profile which is fairly easy to embrace.

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

Value: Average.