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Hardin’s Creek Kentucky Series: Boston Review

Hardin’s Creek Kentucky Series: Boston Review

It’s not hard to see that all of the major Kentucky distillers have been locked in a bourbon arms race for the last couple of decades. With the bourbon boom in full swing, they’ve been pumping out distillate as fast as they can and building dozens of new warehouses to age it all in. But the thing about increasing production like this is that consumers aren’t just going to magically start buying more of the same bottles – but they could be enticed to buy something new.

This is why we’ve seen producers rolling out with more new releases than any other time in history. This review is going to focus on one of those new releases: Jim Beam’s newest label: Hardin’s Creek.

Hardin’s Creek Limited Edition Series

I feel like Jim Beam didn’t do the best job of explaining what Hardin’s Creek was when it first came out in 2022. Their press release said that it was going to feature unique mash bills and different themes relating to the brand’s history. I was somewhat confused because I figured that Booker’s lineup already checked these boxes. Each new batch of Booker’s had a name that conveyed a history and story with it and “Little Book” gave enthusiasts a taste of the new and unique mash bills. So what was Hardin’s Creek for?

The first release of Hardin’s Creek was a 15+ year old bourbon that seemed somewhat overpriced (~$140) to the many enthusiasts who remembered buying 15 year old Knob Creek picks for $50 a pop just two years prior. And honestly, it was not talked about much at all in my circle of whiskey groups. But the price was under $10 per year aged, so it still should have been considered a good “value.”

Beam may have recognized the lack of fanfare for the 2022 release, so they made sure to give more effort to the theme of the 2023 release.

Beam allows us to explore the rich history of their three campuses

The Hardin’s Creek “Kentucky Series” aims to explore the three different campuses of Jim Beam: Clermont, Boston and Frankfort. Of the three, Clermont and Boston operate distilleries on site. The Frankfort location is the former home of the Old Grand Dad brand back when it was owned by National Distillers. It does not have an active still, but the warehouses are still being used to age barrels (plus there is a large bottling and shipping warehouse on the premises).

Beam was tapping into a genre that was already starting to gain popularity among enthusiasts: exploring how different warehouses and locations can affect how a barrel matures over a period of time.

It’s been known for quite some time among producers that certain warehouse designs would mature a barrel differently than another. But to the general enthusiast population, their influence was relatively unknown. Blanton’s “Warehouse H” and Parker Beam’s preference for Heaven Hill’s Deatsville warehouses were the earliest clues to enthusiasts that a Warehouse or geographical location may produce a superior or distinct style of whiskey.

Later on, personalities like Rarebird101 began to speculate on barrel profile differences among Wild Turkey warehouses. Concepts like this have been covered by multiple people like Aaron Chepenik (who prefers MGP’s Warehouse G) to Four Roses fanboys (who prefer Warehouse M) to yours truly (who studied the differences in Brown-Forman’s warehouses). This is all because people are realizing it’s maturation, instead of distillation, that has the most impact on what the whiskey inside of a barrel will taste like and they want to understand the differences.

Now it’s Jim Beam’s turn to give us a small peak into their warehouses.

Hardin’s Creek: Boston

The Jim Beam Boston Campus – also known as the Booker Noe Distillery – is located about 12 miles south from the James B. Beam Distillery in Clermont, Kentucky. This distillery is primarily used to create the bourbon that will go into Jim Beam White Label. The Clermont campus makes distillate for all other Beam products.

Unlike the other two Kentucky Series releases, “Boston” is not associated with a specific warehouse on the campus. Freddie hinted they were “up and off to the side” of the campus, but that’s not much help. I entered in the longitude and latitude that is listed on the bottle’s label and this is what Google Maps showed (see below):

What we know about Boston that makes it different from the other two is that there are less trees and more wind exposure. It’s also a drier wind because there are no water sources around. Usually more air movement is good for whiskey maturation which is why a lot of people prefer a distillery’s old, drafty warehouse compared to the more sealed-up ones.

The barrels for this release were all distilled on the same still on the same day but matured in different locations. Each release comprised of around 55 to 60 barrels. They’re all 17 years old and have all been proofed identically to 110 proof.

So how does the Boston release taste? Let’s find out. I sampled this neat in a glencairn.

Tasting Notes

Nose: I typically say that Jim Beam smells and tastes like a melted candy bar. Well, I get that similar feeling for this bottle (vanilla, chocolate, nuts, nougat) but it’s also packed to the brim with tannins like well-seasoned oak and unlit cigar tobacco. There is a scent much like whiskey soaked wood chunks used for smoking meats. The whole nose is incredibly rich as well. Perhaps one of the most decadent smelling whiskies I’ve ever had from Jim Beam.

Palate: The oak is stupendous upon first sip. It leaves its rich and complex footprint on my tongue the whole time I’m drinking it. The oak is just so warm and inviting while also having a noticeable amount of antique effect on it. The proof is perfect. The spice level is just right with cinnamon and nutmeg. The sweetness is dialed down, but far from lacking. I find nougat and vanilla the most.

Hardin’s Creek Boston comes off like it has a little bit more rye content in its mash bill than I’d normally find in a Beam product. There isn’t much fruit to speak of, maybe a hint of citrus rind here and there or some cherries. But the flavors that are here are more than enough to make up for it.

Finish: The finish comes right to the edge of being too dry but never goes over it. Caramel and toffee sweetness aren’t as prevalent, but still remain as the flavors slowly fade away. Cinnamon and nougat combine with Flan and crushed macadamia nuts to keep the finish in that perfect “dessert zone.” Old leather and tobacco join the oak to keep the finish delightfully mature. I’m loving it.

Score: 8.8/10

For 17 years in a barrel, I would have suspected the experience of drinking this bourbon would’ve been similar to licking an tree branch. But that’s not the case. This bottle has an almost perfect balance of oak, sweetness and spice. If standard Booker’s bourbon is a Jack Reacher, then this Boston release of the Kentucky Series is James Bond. It’s still strong, but it is extremely well-polished and manneredly.

Nothing tastes out of place and each sip carries such a beautiful array of tannins that it almost comes off like drinking a dusty bourbon from the glut-era. It’s impossible to find a flaw. Now the question remains: can the other two Kentucky Series bottles match what Boston has shown me? Stay tuned.

Final Thoughts

What more can be said about this bottle that I haven’t already said? It’s downright amazing and should be near the top of your list for bottles to get a hold of right now. If money is a concern, it should be noted that the value even on secondary isn’t really that bad (at the time of writing, a 750ml bottle is $220). At 17 years old, it’s still one of the better deals in bourbon.

It might be a long time before Jim Beam gives us another old release at these prices in the future. The 2024 Hardin’s Creek release looks like it’s going to be an 11 year old Corn Whiskey (yawn) so that means that we’ll have to wait another whole year to find out what kind of direction this label goes. So if you like old bourbon done the right way, make sure to track down your own bottle. It’s worth every drop.

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