Jim Beam’s Freddie Noe went to the kitchen and grill for the sixth edition of his annual Little Book release. This time, the innovation of whiskey was to get the flavor from a range of woods more commonly found in a barbecue pit, rather than a distillery. The five-liquid blend also features a predominance of barley, a grain associated with Scotland, not classic American whisky.
The new Bourbon, Chapter 6: “To The Finish”, is eighth-generation Master Distiller Jim Beam’s nod to his family’s culinary tradition. He used the finishing technique whereby alternate barrels are used in secondary aging. Although the procedure is well known in the maturation of whiskey, it is normally carried out with oak barrels that have previously held wines or spirits. In this case, Noah tapped woods that are used for smoking food, not making barrels. Included are cherry, apple, hickory and maple woods.
Growing up around his grandfather Booker Noe (Jim Beam’s grandson) and father, Fred Noe (Beam’s great-grandson), the great-great-grandson developed an interest in smoking. food with hardwoods in Elder Noe’s garden. In addition to a huge grill, the property contained a stone smokehouse. The experience fueled Freddie’s recognition that the different woods used in barbecuing food impart different flavors. This was the inspiration for Chapter 6.
Like Booker’s Bourbon, the innovative whiskey made famous by his grandfather and now overseen by his father (all three served as Beam Master Distillers), Chapter 6 is bottled unfiltered and uncut, with a spirited proof of 117.45. The difference with the Little Book collection is that Freddie experimented with a range of different whiskeys to create new blends, while Booker’s is made from a collection of casks aged in particular sections of Jim Beam warehouses known for Bourbon quality. (and, in some cases, pure rye) they produce.
In all six mixed editions of Little Book, Freddie walked off campus, so to speak, using whiskeys of various grain formulas, including rye, corn whiskey, Canadian whiskey, and even a Bourbon containing rice. This latest case blends four separately processed malt whiskeys alongside Bourbon. Although bourbon typically contains malted barley, it is used sparingly, around 10%, alongside at least 51% corn and one other grain. Pure barley products have only recently gained traction in the United States, even though single malts from Scotland have been made this way for centuries. Malt whiskey is a relatively new addition to the Beam ply, as of 2017.
Chapter 6 uses four different four-year-old malt whiskeys, each with distinct finishes. One was treated with cherry staves added to the barrels. Another was finished in barrels that had been smoked with applewood. A third lay in walnut-smoked barrels. The last had maple wood staves added to the end. A five-year-old, untreated straight Bourbon from Kentucky was included in the blend.
Calling it a blend, however, is a bit of a disservice. Under the law, a whiskey qualifies as a blend when it contains as little as 51% whisky. A blended bourbon, for example, might be made from just over half pure bourbon, with the rest being unaged neutral spirits (think grain alcohol). It could also be flavored or colored, a no-no for straight bourbon.
What Noe has built here is a blend of different types of pure whiskeys. It became a blend because two separate mash bills were used as components, not because it was diluted with unaged or otherwise processed whiskeys. (In this case, because it’s barrel-proof bottled, not even water was added.) It can’t be Bourbon because it contains malt whisky. It is not malt whiskey because it contains Bourbon.
What it is, however, is a tasty dram that is likely to change your idea of what whiskey can be.
Little Book Chapter 6: To The End, proof $117.45, $124.99
Appearance: Burnt oranges, big legs.
Nose: Orange and cherry with a little cinnamon spice.
Palace: The smoke comes out in the mouth, but not like a peated scotch. More of a grilled meat, and you might find yourself dreaming up a sweet barbecue sauce from its vanilla and caramel. Its savory barley notes easily outweigh the corn quotient. Through it all, it retains the fruit of the nose (notably the orange peel). [I also find it has some zingy spiciness to it and some maple]
Finish: The finish is long, with notes of sweet candy, joined by roasted and toasted notes.
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