Monday, July 24, 2017

Beam Suntory Opens a New Book



Last week, we looked at one side of American blends. The other side, what used to be called 'Class A' blends, has largely been forgotten in the American whiskey world. The young scion of whiskey royalty is out to change that.

Frederick Booker Noe IV, better known as Freddie, was nicknamed 'Little Book' by his grandfather, Jim Beam Master Distiller Booker Noe. In the last few years, Freddie has joined his father, Fred Noe, in the family business. The next step in his ascension is a new whiskey brand called Little Book. It will be an annual, limited-release series, and it is not a bourbon. It is a blend.

But this is not a typical American blend. It is all straight whiskey, with no neutral spirit. Each year, Freddie will select a different blend. It will be packaged in the same bottle as Booker's Bourbon and, like Booker's, it will be uncut and unfiltered.

The first release, called 'The Easy,' will debut in October. It contains 13-year-old corn whiskey, rye whiskey and malt whiskey aged 5.5 years each, and 4-year-old bourbon. Suggested retail is $79.99 for a 750ml bottle. Although American blended whiskey may contain “harmless coloring, flavoring, or blending materials" as set forth in 27 CFR 5.23(a), Little Book does not.

Freddie says the goal is to "create something different, a one-of-a-kind taste profile that people haven't experienced before."

Mission accomplished!

The key to experiencing Little Book 'The Easy' is to not expect it to taste like bourbon. It doesn't. The long-aged corn whiskey dominates the profile, grainy and grassy like corn is supposed to be, but tempered by its long time in reused wood. (The other three whiskeys were all aged in new, charred oak.) Malt provides creamy nuttiness, rye a little background spice, and the bourbon provides body and richness. It is thick and viscous, almost syrupy, and surprisingly easy to drink even at its full 120.48° proof (60.24% ABV).

Some bourbon signifiers are there, caramel in particular. A little water brings it out.

This is a bit of a gamble for Beam. Little book is not the first 'Class A' blend of the modern era, but it arrives with a lot of fanfare and is a lot of weight to put on a young man's shoulders. But Freddie is a big man, like his father and grandfather. I think he can handle it.

3 comments:

Sam Komlenic said...

This seems like a very creative concept, coming from a major distillery, and it's nice to see the blending of straight whiskeys having a bit of a revival. The practice was once pretty commonplace, but after falling on hard times is due for a resurgence.

Joseph Finch and Schenley made Golden Wedding, a blend of straight whiskeys, for decades and it was their flagship product for a long time.

Best of luck to Beam, and I hope to taste this soon!

Steely said...

Chuck, do you have any information on the sources of the four whiskeys in the blend? I assume the bourbon and rye were distilled at Jim Beam, but I'm not aware of any corn whiskey or malt whiskey products they make there. It wouldn't surprise me if they have corn whiskey in the warehouse, but since the age of the malt whiskey is older than Freddie's tenure at the distillery, it makes me curious if Beam Suntory imported some malt whiskey from one of their single malt distilleries in Japan or Scotland, or if it's a remnant of some previous experiment by Jim Beam with malt whiskey.

I picked up a bottle at the distillery over the weekend and am eager to try it, just hoping to learn a bit more about what I'm drinking. Unfortunately I didn't think to ask while there.

Chuck Cowdery said...

All whiskey made at Beam, either for blends or experiments.