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Last Week in Bourbon January 8 – 14, 2024

Last Week in Bourbon January 8 – 14, 2024

Jim Beam News

I’ve got a few Beam stories for you from this past week. I will admit, some are kind of old news if you’re the type who is super well-connected. But I assume there are a handful of you out there who aren’t, so I hope you can find these beneficial!

Up first is the rumor among retailers and distributors that Jim Beam Black Label is being discontinued. That’s partially true. But what’s really going on is that Jim Beam is discontinuing the current label and changing it up to a new black label with a 7 year age statement. Beam Black Label was previously thought to contain bourbon between 6 and 8 years old. But Beam went crazy on distilling as much whiskey as they could as well as building new warehouses so their inventory is allowing them to re-introduce age statements onto their products. This is why we’re seeing age statements return on all Knob Creek products as well (including a 10 year rye whiskey!)

In other Jim Beam news, there will be a new Hardin’s Creek label coming out in 2024 – this time it’s an 11 year old… Corn Whiskey? That’s weird. I do want to comment that I’m not thrilled that we’re seeing junk corn whiskey populating the Limited Edition section of the market. Corn whiskey is a type of whiskey that is made with a ton of cost-cutting measures like re-used barrels (it can even be left unaged!) and needing to have at least 80% of the mash bill be corn (the cheapest grain to make whiskey with).

But since this corn whiskey will wear the Hardin’s Creek label, I guarantee it’s going to start out at $100. A lot of people are going to want to compare it to Heaven Hill Heritage Collection 20 year Corn Whiskey, but I think a better comparison would be Heaven Hill’s Mellow Corn – which is 6 proof points less, around 1/3 of the age of Hardin’s Creek and is less than $20/bottle.

Is it just me or is everything turning into a freaking membership program with recurring payments these days?

Look, I shouldn’t be one to talk because The Bourbon Culture does admittedly have a membership program if you want to look at the website without ads. But the amount of money is small and I really appreciate all of my supporters who have purchased it. I feel it’s as low-priced as it could be, so really, thank you.

But when do the membership programs stop? This is becoming just like the Streaming Services War where we all collectively hated our cable company enough to ditch them while signing up for a couple streaming services. Now it’s become a deluge of specialty streaming services where you’re easily paying 1.5x to 2x more to watch the same amount of content.

The same thing is happening in the bourbon realm. These membership programs gained traction with certain online personalities (like Bourbon Enthusiast for example) and retail stores. Now producers are getting into the hang of it. I just talked about this in my Barrel King Bourbon review where their membership program wants $100-150 per month to get a free bottle of 6 year old MGP. Early last year, Beam/Suntory unveiled their version called Barreled and Boxed. And while I initially laughed at it, they started to put some really great bottles in there (including a B&B exclusive Little Book made specifically for members). I’m not going to lie, I’m kind of regretting not signing up.

But the most recent news is Smoke Wagon‘s new Gold Membership service. While they have put that membership will be capped at 300 members, we’ve all heard this story before (*ahem* Bourbon Enthusiast). Caps are meant to be broken and I’m sure it will increase in the future.

Aaron Chepenik (Smoke Wagon‘s founder) has said that being a Gold Member isn’t going to guarantee access to Rare & Limited releases (the kind that wear the medal around its neck), but there will be a certain percentage of R&L releases set aside for Gold Members to have a lottery for. The only issue will be that Smoke Wagon has started to run out of the aged barrels that brought fame to the brand and the R&L releases are few and far between. I imagine that we’ll see an uptick in 10+ year old barrels in the next 2 years though.

My Elijah Craig Barrel Proof doesn’t have a laser code on the back

I decided to jump into the world of conspiracy theories with my bottle of ECBP C923 this week and see if I could find which batch I have – the A23 or the A22. So I fished it out of my closet and gave it a close look and… literally couldn’t find anything. Here is a picture of the front and back and for reference, there was nothing on the sides or the bottom either.

Nothing to be found?

This bottle came from a Bottle King in New Jersey and was purchased on September 6 last year. Does this mean that there were maybe 3 batches? Or the laser code machine was temporarily broke? Either way, I swear I’m not blind. I picked up a bottle of A120 that was also on my shelf and found its laser code perfectly.

Easy to find on this bottle of A120

The mystery continues!

A single barrel Buffalo Trace pick doesn’t have what you think inside of it

In one of the groups I’m in, two pictures started to float around earlier last week that made me do a spit take (thankfully, I was drinking Traveller Whiskey, so I wasn’t really sad about it). What appears to be a single barrel pick of Buffalo Trace through a collaboration with US Liquor Store and Dramcode (I’m going to be honest, I don’t know if that’s a person or a social media account) in 2021 doesn’t have the typical Buffalo Trace Mash Bill #1 inside of it. Look closely at the specs of the barrel.

It’s filled with wheated bourbon which means… Weller! I’ve checked with a few people familiar with this release and they said that multiple enthusiasts have messaged Buffalo Trace with the barrel information and have been told the same stats. So what we have here is basically a single barrel of Weller for (supposedly) the price of Buffalo Trace. Strange!

Before you blow off this story as baloney, this is not the first time I’ve heard of something like this happening. In fact, the owner of Rural Inn told me a story that happened to him around 2016 (plus or minus a year) where he took a pick team down to Heaven Hill for a barrel pick of Evan Williams Single Barrel Bourbon. The story goes that his whole team couldn’t decide on a barrel, so he asked the rep if there were any more barrels to choose from. The Heaven Hill rep rolls out a wheated barrel of bourbon destined to become Larceny or Old Fitzgerald or something and let him taste it. Ray says as soon as he tasted it, he told the rep “I’ll take that one.” The rep told him they couldn’t do it, but Ray insisted that’s the one he wanted if he was going to be putting down all of this money. In the end, Ray got his Wheated Bourbon and for the select few customers that got their hands on a bottle, it became the ultimate “IYKYK” bottle.

Bourbon lore at its finest!

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