By Richard Thomas
Rumors began circulating a couple of months ago that Jim Beam was making a new Booker’s style (i.e. uncut and unfiltered) expression, and the details have been coming out ever since. The new whiskey is Little Book, so named because it is the first product to come from Freddie Noe, son of current Beam Master Distiller Fred Noe and grandson of the famed Booker Noe. Freddie’s started working at Beam in 2013, and his official title is Fermentation Manager, but all things considered it’s best to view him as the Master’s apprentice. “Little Book” is Freddie’s childhood nickname.
Bottled at 120.68 proof, Little Book is not a bourbon, but instead a blended whiskey, drawing on the larger palette of American whiskeys: bourbon, rye, malt and corn whiskey. It’s slated to be released in distinctive batches at the rate of two per year, with the first batch reported to draw on 13 year old corn whiskey, four year bourbon, and rye and American malt of undisclosed age (minimum two years, however, to retain the “straight” designation).
The look of the whiskey in the glass is a light amber, the kind of coloring that is just a little too brown and dull to be copper. The swish and coat left a curtain of tears on the glass.
A sniff gave me a sold core of toasted corn and caramel in the main, with some notes of wood and rye spices. The woody tinge was quite dry. The nose was also a bit too hot for my taste, so in went a splash of water. That moderated the alcohol, but without changing the scent in any noteworthy way.
That splash of water wasn’t enough to tame the heat on the palate, however, so I doubled up. If I had to guess, that second splash of water likely dialed down the alcohol content to 50% or less. Once there, the sweet side of brown sugar, candy corn and vanilla became more accessible and enjoyable, that balanced against a spoonful of orange syrup and wood spice. The finish rolled off from there, and was surprisingly light and faded away quickly.
I think as a cask strength sipper, Little Book is best enjoyed with a generous helping of ice. It’s too hot and a little too dry taken neat, but once you dial those back you have something that is pleasant and just a little bit interesting.
When it hits the shelves this October, the first batch of Little Book should got for $79.99.
Editor’s Note: An interesting observation about Little Book is that it is being met with none of the croaker scorn that Gifted Horse, also a blended whiskey, received a year and a half ago. This is despite Gifted Horse having been mostly bourbon and its second largest component (38.5%) being a 17 year old, Bernheim-made bourbon at that. The product was more transparent about its recipe too.
So why the scorn? Gifted Horse is from Diageo, and the folks doing the croaking have a personal vendetta with Diageo. Little Book is from Jim Beam, and no one seems to have an axe to grind with Beam. It’s that simple.
Correction: We’ve been informed that Little Book will be released once per year.