Booker’s Bourbon is one of the flagships of the Jim Beam brand. Ever since Booker Noe invented the concept many years ago, the recipe has remained the same: no water would be added after it comes off the still, when it gets added to the barrel or when it gets bottled.
This has enabled each batch to retain maximum flavor with every bottling. But as much as a Booker’s fanatic will hate this comment, there’s usually not much variation between each quarterly release. Enter Freddie Noe.
Freddie was tasked with (or maybe he asked for) creating unique whiskies worthy of the Booker’s bottle lineage. Each year, he gets a blank slate on what to produce and access to all of the warehouses in the Beam-Suntory portfolio (or at least the ones in North America).
This has led to the creation of some unique recipes that have used everything from old Canadian whisky to whiskies distilled from 1 primary grain even to barrels destined for the Basil Hayden’s line (which is a different mashbill and distilled a certain way).
I’ll say this up front, I have enjoyed all 3 releases of Little Book and had no reason to believe that Chapter 4 would be any different.
But many online reviewers trashed it early on and that influenced me not to seek out this bottle. Luckily a friend was kind enough to offer me his bottle for this review and I couldn’t resist.
Aside from blending a bourbon and a rye whiskey together, the most unique part about this blend is the four year old bourbon that was made with brown rice as the small grain.
Freddie said that he found these barrels aging at the Jim Beam Urban Stillhouse in Louisville, KY and found them interesting enough to experiment with.
But what effect would bourbon made with brown rice have on this batch? And is it worthy of being in a Booker’s bottle? Let’s find out. I sampled this neat in a glencairn.
Oak and cinnamon spice are instantly recognizable but the one thing I curiously find absent is the lack of the Beam (peanut) Funk that I find in so many of their products. This is definitely a sweet dessert nose though.
Palate: Thick and rich rice pudding hits first topped with loads of cinnamon and peppery spice. I love rice pudding as a dessert and finding this note makes me smile.
Keeping up with the sweet overload, flavors of thick caramel and small amounts of plums and figs cover my tongue in syrupy sweetness.
Oak tannins and peppery spice (likely from the rye whiskey) remind me that this whiskey has more influence than just the brown rice bourbon that I think is most dominate.
In fact, a layer of mint is found underneath all of the sweets which remind me that this older rye whiskey Freddie found is still very potent.
Finish: A nicely balanced finish that is equal parts spice and sweetness. Notes of vanilla, coffee cake, burnt caramel and sharp cinnamon all blend together seamlessly for a wonderful ending to a wonderful bourbon.
There is a hint of youthful heat on the tongue that reminds you of the proof, but overall it’s nothing that takes away from the experience.
Little Book Chapter 3 was my favorite Little Book to date. And if you pressed me about it, I’d say that it still is. But just because it is ranked slightly ahead of Chapter 4 doesn’t mean that I don’t think very highly of this newest release.
The Tres Leches Cake on the nose and rice pudding on the palate were some of my favorite notes that I found in a modern bourbon. I wish that this category would see more love in the future.
Most reviewers commented that this release was far too sweet. I can see their point with the extra sweetness that the brown rice bourbon surely provided here.
But I do not think that it is overwhelmingly sweet. In fact, I think most Beam products are sweeter than most other KY bourbon anyway, so this wasn’t unexpected to me.
What surprised me the most is just how little Beam Funk I encountered with this release.
Most people will describe it differently, but generally it’s the scent or taste of musty peanuts. In this release, I could barely find it was there, although I did sense its presence from time to time.
When I examine all of the unique things about this whiskey, I felt like I was tasting a bourbon from an entirely different bourbon distillery (which is always a fun thing).
I felt that the young-ish distillate that was used in the blend was not enough to detract from a really enjoyable experience. So far, Freddie Noe has been hitting it out of the park on these releases and I can’t wait to see what surprises the next release has in store.
1 | Disgusting | Drain pour (Example: Jeffers Creek)
2 | Poor | Forced myself to drink it
3 | Bad | Flawed (AD Laws 4 Grain BiB, Clyde Mays anything)
4 | Sub-par | Many things I’d rather have (Tincup 10 year)
5 | Good | Good, solid, ordinary (Larceny, Sazerac Rye)
6 | Very Good | Better than average (Buffalo Trace, OGD BiB)
7 | Great | Well above average (Old Ezra Barrel Proof, Old Weller Antique)
8 | Excellent | Exceptional (Michter’s Barrel Proof Rye, Four Roses Barrel Strength)
9 | Incredible | Extraordinary (GTS, 13 Year MGP or Canadian Rye)
10 | Insurpassable | Nothing Else Comes Close (William Larue Weller)
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