Eighth-generation distiller Freddie Noe is working hard to change everything you think you know about the world’s number one selling bourbon brand. A big part of that shift comes down to how Noe — from Kentucky’s whiskey royal family — has leaned into smaller crafted whiskeys. Don’t get us wrong, he’s still putting out an incredible amount of rye and bourbon at rock bottom prices under the Jim Beam umbrella. But he’s also built an actual craft distillery (and whiskey education center) in the middle of the company campus at Clermont, specifically to make smaller whiskeys that feel a little more personal.
Each year, Noe puts together a whiskey that reflects his experience and life as the soon-to-be-head of Beam, his history with his dad, Fred Noe, and grandfather, Booker Noe (both legends), and his unique perspective as a distiller and blender. The “book” theme is not just marketing, the line itself tells quite a story. As mentioned above, the juice for these whiskeys is distilled in the new Fred B. Noe Distillery — a small craft distillery operating independently at Beam’s sprawling main campus.
You can literally sense that history and sense of craft among the industrial massiveness of Beam’s size in this bottle. It’s deeply familiar while still feeling new, small, and unique. It’s not a magic trick. There’s nowhere for Freddie Noe to hide in this whiskey. It’s a simple example of a well-built expression made by someone who cares deeply about his place in Kentucky whiskey. Check our full review of the expression below.
Little Book Chapter 5: “The Invitation”
Average Price: $125 MSRP ($175)
The juice is a blend of four whiskeys — three straight bourbons and one straight rye. The rye is a 100 percent malted rye that’s three years old. The bourbons are two, five, and 15 years old.
The nose opens with a Pecan Sandie vibe with a flake of salt, spiciness derived from fresh ginger juice, and dark chocolate laced with raw sugar and apple-soaked cinnamon sticks that have been ground to a fine powder. The palate builds on that cinnamon spice with a touch of nutmeg and clove that ties to a vanilla pudding-esque svelte body next to little pops of dried pecan shells, faux maple syrup, cinnamon toast with plenty of butter, more of that ginger, and a touch of subtle red fruit. The mid-palate leans creamy with light milk chocolate that leads back to the warmth with a dried red peppercorn pepperiness next to a rush of cedar boxes full of vanilla tobacco leaves with the slightest echo of menthol and dried reeds on the very deep back end.
The classic wine bottle look of these with thick black wax is always worth the price of admission. The wooden box with a plexiglass cover helps this look like something truly special on your shelf, though is a bit superfluous, especially if you’re buying this to drink it (instead of as an investment bottle).
While blending ryes and bourbons isn’t revolutionary, this mingling of whiskeys makes for one of the more interesting entries in the American whiskey scene in 2021. The bourbon-heavy vibe is super familiar while offering something a lot more nuanced and unique than your average premium whiskey.
As for the price, if you’re looking for a single premium bottle of American whiskey to buy this year, you can’t go wrong here. We get it, $125 (if you’re lucky) is a lot to ask for whiskey. You can get two bottles of perfectly great Knob Creek for that price. But this is special and feels like the mountaintop of Beam’s (and Noe’s) work.
100/100 — If there is a single notch in the armor of this whiskey, we can’t find it. It’s the perfect sipper and is in contention to be our favorite American whiskey pour of 2021.