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Hardin’s Creek Kentucky Series: Frankfort Review

Hardin’s Creek Kentucky Series: Frankfort Review

Wrapping up my series on Hardin’s Creek Kentucky Series is the batch of bourbon that was aged exclusively on the Frankfort campus. Unfamiliar with this location? It’s the Old Grand Dad distillery from back in the day when National Distillers owned them. Nowadays the Still House is silent but the warehouses are still being used to age barrels. There is also a giant processing facility where many Beam products are blended, bottled and packaged before being shipped out to distributors.

Before I was fully familiar with the Kentucky Series, I assumed that the Frankfort release contained barrels aged in one of the brick warehouses on the Frankfort campus. But after some research, I found out that this Kentucky Series was actually aged in Warehouse A which is a wooden frame, metal-clad building. If you’re looking on a map, it’s located on the eastern-most edge of the property (see above). It also has the distinction of being the oldest warehouse out of the dozens that Jim Beam owns.

Frankfort Campus and Warehouse A

Warehouse A was constructed in 1915 and is six stories tall (although the 6th story is very narrow and smaller than the other floors). This warehouse actually predates all of the other buildings on the Frankfort Campus. Here’s a picture shortly after it was constructed – notice the absence of other buildings around it.

One other interesting bit of information that I came across was that all of the barrels used in the 2019 Knob Creek Cask Strength Rye Whiskey were also aged in this same Warehouse. It makes me wonder if Beam treats it like a special project warehouse or something.

The warehouse’s metal clad structure ensures that it heats up plenty fast in the summer months. But that’s not the only thing significant about the Frankfort Campus. Its geography has a large water source – the Elkhorn Creek – running right next to it. Why does that matter? The humidity from that water source will have a larger impact on the barrels. MGP (formerly Seagram’s and LDI) has found that out with their warehouses that are closest to Tanner Creek usually produce barrels that are lower in proof by time maturation is complete. Beam has never provided information about the impact of Elkhorn Creek to Warehouse A, but I suspect the same thing also occurs.

What we do know is that the barrels for this release were all matured on Floors 2 and 3 of Warehouse A and that this batch is made up of between 55 and 60 barrels. The final batch was proofed to 110 proof just like the other two releases in the series. I’d like to speculate that Frankfort’s barrels were lower in proof than Clermont’s or Boston’s, but once again, that information was never provided.

Hardin’s Creek Kentucky Series Wrap Up

This is the third and final bottle I’ll be reviewing from this experiment. I started tasting these bottles with zero expectations but immediately changed my mind after the first sip. What I’ve had so far have been undercover sleepers that I completely looked past when they initially went on sale. Now I’m scrambling to buy my own bottles because I realized what I missed out on.

The real question is how good will this Frankfort release be? At this point I have rated Boston slightly lower than Clermont, but both of them border on incredible. I think it’s going to come down to personal preference, but I need to taste Frankfort to determine which is my favorite. So without further ado, let’s get down to tasting. I sampled this neat in a glencairn.

Tasting Notes

Nose: Just like the previous two releases, you’d think that a 17-year-old bourbon would be buried under oak and tannins. That’s still not the case with Frankfort. There’s rich notes of buttercream frosting and Crème brûlée. Even the oak itself comes off as sweet (and antiqued). There are soft baking spices and a little bit of over-ripe orchard fruits… hmm, maybe like apple butter? Regardless, it can’t hide its age forever. On top of the oak notes I find a decent amount of tobacco leaf, dark chocolate and coffee beans. What a treat. 

Palate: Compared to the other two releases, I’m finding this to be much more focused on the oak along with being slightly sweeter. The oak, leather and tobacco has a softness and maturity that makes it seem like its a few years older than the other two releases. But don’t take that as me saying it’s over-oaked or bitter, it’s far from that. Sweetness comes from butterscotch, chocolate mousse and spiced mincemeat pie. Each sip has a full and well-rounded mouthfeel that sees a prickle of rye spice here and there. This is perhaps one of the top 10 best modern-day bourbons I’ve drank recently.

Finish: The spice notes are pleasant and well-rounded; never making this pour seem hotter than its proof says it is. The antiqued oak notes also pair up with some maple notes as the finish lingers on. Other flavors that hang around include vanilla, tobacco leaf and caramel. The finish lasts for a very long time.

Score: 9.1/10

There’s no doubt about it, Hardin’s Creek Kentucky Series Frankfort is the best release of the three. There is just something extra special about it when sipped next to the Clermont and Boston releases. It oozes maturity while coming remarkably close to the dusty Beam of the past. The balance is impeccable and at no time did I feel a particular profile trait was trying to steal the show. I could have 10 bottles of this in my collection and it still wouldn’t be enough.

Final Thoughts

What else is there to say? This is one of the most complete Beam’s I’ve had yet – but I hear I should to try Jacob’s Well before I make a claim like this. But even if I never do, I’m still confident in my assessment that this is a modern-day legend. Most people like to write Beam off as average, but this is the first time I feel like it could easily hang with the best of the best like Pappy Van Winkle 15, Four Roses Small Batch Limited Edition and William Heaven Hill 17 year. It’s an incredible achievement and one that I hope will pave the way for Beam to be listed in the same conversation as other great whiskies that have been released over the past few years. Bravo, Beam.

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